Derek Chauvin Trial Tests the Scales of Justice

The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of committing second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who repeatedly told Chauvin and other officers he was in distress and could not breathe.

On Monday, jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial deliberated for more than four hours following a full day of closing arguments from both the prosecution and defense attorney. The proscution rested the state’s case a little after noon on Monday after addressing jurors for a little more than an hour and a half imploring the panel to “believe their eyes” and what they saw in extended video of Floyd’s detention and his subsequent death after Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

The attorney who delivered closing arguments for the state told jurors that “being big is not a crime” and that Chauvin wasn’t using reasonable force to restrain Floyd, but that he was in fact inflicting pain, and that Floyd dies “looking into the eyes of strangers” rather than the face of a loved one as he called out for his mother.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed the prosecution in closing arguments in a clumsy and sometimes rambling attempt to educate the panel of 12 to follow the standards of proof under the law and convince them that Chauvin was a “reasonable police officer” who as a defendant does not have to prove his innocence. “Chauvin doesn’t have to catch up, he gets to come into the court proceedings as an innocent man and remains innocent until and if a preponderance of evidence convinces them otherwise. At one point in the lengthy more than three-hour-long argument, Nelson compared the case and the trial to “making chocolate chip cookies.”

What’s not up for argument though is that the world witnessed a killing of an unarmed American citizen at the hands of police, and if we apply the “reasonable man standard” (which Nelson is not asking the jury to consider)  – Floyd stopped breathing because Chauvin’s knee was on the man’s neck.

Nelson countered the “reasonable man” theory by twisting the wording, saying that Chauvin’s actions followed a “reasonable police officer” standard – a phrase he repeated more than 100 times during his lengthy and exhaustive address, implying that the police officer was compelled by considerations other than compassion and humanity. Judge Peter Cahill, the Hennepin County judge overseeing the case finally interrupted the defense’s closing arguments, saying that the jurors “needed a break.”

Defense attorney Eric Nelson returned after the break and continued arguments regarding police protocol and text book applications of the use of force.

Judge Cahill previously advised jurors to prepare for a lengthy deliberation process, telling them, “If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short.”


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