Final arguments begin at Chauvin trial over George Floyd death

Final arguments begin at Chauvin trial over George Floyd death
Defendant Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis (Court TV via AP/Pool)

Closing arguments have begun at the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd.

The city of Minneapolis is on edge amid fears of a repeat of the violence that erupted last spring over the video of the black man with Chauvin’s knee on his neck.

Mr Floyd was “just a man, lying on the pavement, being pressed upon, desperately crying out. A grown man crying out for his mother. A human being”, prosecutor Steve Schleicher told the court.

He is seeking to convince the racially diverse jury that Chauvin squeezed the life out of Mr Floyd man by pinning him to the pavement for nine minutes and 29 seconds outside a corner shop last May.

Visitors at a memorial to George Floyd as a new addition commemorating Daunte Wright is displayed outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, Minnesota (John Minchill/AP)

Prosecutors say those actions, despite Mr Floyd’s repeated cries that he could not breathe, were reckless, unreasonable and warrant conviction not just for manslaughter but also on two murder counts.

The defence for the now-fired white officer contends Mr Floyd put himself at risk by using fentanyl and methamphetamine, then resisted officers trying to arrest him – factors that combined with his heart disease to lead to his death.

Judge Peter Cahill opened the day’s court session by instructing the jurors on reviewing different types of evidence and told them that they will consider each charge against Chauvin separately.

The anonymous jury will deliberate in a central courthouse surrounded by concrete barriers and razor wire, in an anxious city heavily fortified by National Guard members and just days after fresh outrage erupted over the police killing of a 20-year-old black man in a nearby suburb.

A few protesters gathered outside the courthouse on Monday as light snowflakes blew in the wind.

“No breaths. No pulse. 3 1/2 minutes. Chauvin didn’t let up/get up,” read one protester’s sign.

Chauvin, 45, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

All three charges require the jury to conclude that Chauvin’s actions were a “substantial causal factor” in Mr Floyd’s death – and that his use of force was unreasonable.

Defence lawyer Eric Nelson, left, and defendant Derek Chauvin (Court TV, via AP/Pool)

Second-degree murder requires prosecutors to prove Chauvin intended to harm Floyd, but not that he intended to kill him.

Third-degree murder requires proof that Chauvin’s actions were “eminently dangerous” and done with indifference to loss of life.

Second-degree manslaughter requires jurors to believe that he caused Mr Floyd’s death through negligence and consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death.

Each count carries a different maximum sentence: 40 years for second-degree unintentional murder, 25 years for third-degree murder, and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.

Sentencing guidelines call for far less time, including 12-and-a-half years on either murder count.

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