The murder trial of a former police officer charged with George Floyd’s death now rests with 12 jurors in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Steve Schleicher, a government lawyer asked the jurors to “believe your eyes” and to find former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the charges. He said, “This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video."
The government opened the trial showing video of Chauvin, a white man, with his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. In the video, Floyd, a Black man, could be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe...”
“He did what he did on purpose, and it killed George Floyd," Schleicher told the jurors. "And the state does not need to prove its case beyond all doubt. It does not need to prove its case beyond what I call an unreasonable doubt."
Eric Nelson was the defense lawyer for Chauvin. He reminded jurors that the former police officer should have a "presumption of innocence." That means jurors should not judge the case before they have heard all the evidence.
Nelson asked the jurors to consider the 17 minutes that came before the nine minutes and 29 seconds they saw on the video. He said the officer was answering an emergency call about a male suspect who used fake money and appeared to be “under the influence,” in other words, using drugs. He said Chauvin arrived when Floyd was “actively resisting” other officers.
He played the video from the body camera of an officer showing the struggle. He said, “Three Minneapolis police officers were not able to get Mr. Floyd into the car.” He asked the jurors to consider “what a reasonable officer would do.” As for the use of force, placing a knee on the neck of a suspect, Nelson said, “All of the evidence shows that Mr. Chauvin thought he was following his training…He was following Minneapolis police department policies. He was trained this way.”
The government lawyers asked the jurors to find Chauvin guilty of one of three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Second-degree murder carries up to 40 years in prison, third-degree murder 25 years, and second-degree manslaughter 10 years. But a person could receive 12 years and six months in prison if found guilty of the murder charges.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He chose not to give evidence at his trial.
Outside the courthouse, law enforcement officers and armed National Guard members stood watch on streets around Minneapolis. The soldiers were there because officials feared a repeat of last year’s riots leading to burned buildings and stealing from businesses.
Just last week, another police officer was charged with the shooting and killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot during a traffic stop. A police official said the officer mistakenly shot Wright and had meant to use a Taser against him. The incident led to several days of protests and riots in the area.
Across the U.S., people are closely watching the trial.
Speaking to reporters from the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration is talking with local officials, mayors and governors. She said the aim is “to ensure there is a space for peaceful protest” in Minneapolis and other communities after a verdict.
The social media website Facebook said it would “limit content that could lead to civil unrest or violence. This includes identifying and removing calls to bring arms to areas in Minneapolis, which we have temporarily deemed to be a high-risk location.”
I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.
Hai Do wrote this report for Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
fake –n. meant to look real but not real or genuine
Taser –n. a weapon designed to give non-deadly electroshock to make a person unable to fight or move
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