‘Believe Your Eyes’: Prosecution Makes Final Arguments to Convict Derek Chauvin of Killing George Floyd as Case Goes to Deliberation

The fate of Derek Chauvin now hangs in the balance of the outcome of a Minneapolis jury’s verdict.

Closing arguments were made in the ex-police officer’s murder trial Monday, and the jury was sequestered to begin its deliberations. They will decide if Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, used excessive force and killed George Floyd Jr. during a May 25, 2020 arrest.

Chauvin and three other officers wrestled a handcuffed Floyd to the ground during an arrest outside a Cup Foods grocery store in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The trial revealed Chauvin was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, most of which was shown in a cellphone video that sent shock waves rippling worldwide and sparked a global outcry against police brutality last summer.

Special prosecutor Steven Schleicher stressed the amount of time that Chauvin languished atop Floyd with his knee pitted in the man’s neck as Floyd struggled to gasp for air against the unforgiving pavement. At least 20 times during his closing argument, Schleicher uttered the phrase “9 minutes and 29 seconds.”

Prosecutors spent three weeks trying to prove that Chauvin used unnecessary and unreasonable force while restraining Floyd by pinning him to the ground for such a prolonged period. Schleicher urged jurors to use common sense and trust the videos, expert medical testimony and other evidence that was presented throughout the trial.

“He didn’t die of a drug overdose. That’s not common sense, that’s nonsense,” Schleicher said. “Believe your eyes. What you saw happen happened. It happened. The defendant pressed down of George Floyd until his lungs did not have the room to breathe.”

An image prosecutors showed during closing arguments of the Derek Chauvin trial Monday. (Photo/Derek Chauvin trial)

Meanwhile, Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson told jurors to look past the nearly 10 minutes Chauvin knelt on Floyd and take into account the “totality of the circumstances.” He argued that a number of things factored into Floyd’s death, as well as Chauvin’s decision to react the way he did. From the methamphetamine and Fentanyl pills found in Floyd’s vehicle to the man’s size and power, to the alleged hostility of the crowd that gathered and badgered Chauvin for kneeling on Floyd even after he lost a pulse, Nelson sought to portray Chauvin as a “reasonable police officer” by focusing on the chain of events that led to Floyd being pinned on the pavement.

“The state has really focused on the 9 minutes and 29 seconds,” he argued. “Nine minutes and 29 seconds is not the proper analysis because 9:29 ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds. It completely disregards it and it says in that moment, at that point, nothing else that happened before should be taken into consideration by a reasonable police officer.”

Chauvin, 45, is being tried for second-degree manslaughter as well as second- and third-degree murder charges stemming from Floyd’s death. Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison if the jury convicts him of most serious of the three charges. The third-degree murder count carries a 25-year maximum while a manslaughter conviction is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, the three other then-officers involved, face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. They are scheduled to be tried in August.

Eight of the 14 selected jurors were white, according to CNN. Four are Black and two identified as multiracial. Two white women who were alternate jurors were dismissed after closing arguments Monday. That leaves a panel encompassing two white men, four white women, three Black men, a Black woman and two multiracial women to settle the verdict.

Chauvin sat and listened, taking intermittent notes. He wore a surgical mask through nearly all of the three weeks of testimony. He sat in the courtroom unmasked Monday allowing jurors to see his face for essentially the first time throughout the entire trial.

Schleicher told jurors Floyd was initially on his side when officers placed him on the pavement in what is known as the “side recovery position.” He said the excessive force began when officers rolled Floyd flat on his stomach in the “dangerous prone position,” where there was not enough room for his lungs to expand under the weight of Chauvin and three other officers. Prosecutors argued Floyd essentially died from lack of oxygen.

Schleicher indicated a distressed Floyd cried out “I can’t breathe” during his first 1:45 on the pavement and Chauvin mocked him, showing a “conscientious indifference” to what proved to be the deadly force he was applying. He suggested ego compelled Chauvin to continue grinding his knee in Floyd’s neck to show the crowd of bystanders he was in charge.

But Schleicher called policing “a most noble profession” and said the case was not an attack on that profession, seeking to characterize Chauvin as a rogue officer.

“George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small,” he told jurors. “This case is called the state of Minnesota versus Derek Chauvin. This case is not called the state of Minnesota versus the police.

“What the defendant did to George Floyd killed him,” he continued. “You need to set aside the notion that it’s impossible for a police officer to do something. The defendant is on trial not for being a police officer … He’s not on trial for who he was, he’s on trial for what he did.”

Meanwhile, Nelson suggested Floyd died from sudden cardiac arrhythmia, a heart condition that causes an irregular heartbeat. He suggested it was onset by the combination of methamphetamines and Fentanyl in Floyd’s system, inhaling exhaust fumes from the squad car’s tailpipe, and such pre-existing medical conditions as Floyd’s enlarged heart.

Nelson spent over two hours, 50 minutes walking jurors through his closing arguments. At one point he apologized the jury for being “long-winded.” A Washington Post pool reporter covering the trial said some jurors appeared drowsy by the 90-minute mark. At two hours, jurors were rubbing their eyes, fidgeting in their chairs and were described as “antsy.”


Judge Peter A. Cahill, who presided over the trial, stopped Nelson at the two-hour, 35-minute mark and excused jurors for a lunch break. When the trial reconvened, Nelson continued his arguments for another 15 minutes.

Nelson tried to convince the jury that Chauvin was following his training and felt he had to use the level of force after he assessed the situation based off the information available to him at the time. He pointed to Floyd’s size and power and the fact that officers’ first attempts to take him into custody proved futile. He said Chauvin also used prior experience with suspects in custody, who’ve feigned injury or illness to avoid going to jail.

But Nelson stressed that each of the officers were aware they were being filmed by multiple cameras and Chauvin had no intent to kill Floyd.

“You have to look at it from the reasonable police officer’s standpoint,” he argued. “You have to take into account that officers are human beings capable of making mistakes in highly stressful situations. In this case, the totality of the circumstances that were known to a reasonable police officer in the precise moment the force was used demonstrates that this was an authorized use of force.”

Special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell rebutted Nelson’s argument saying the state didn’t have to show that Chauvin intended to kill Floyd, prosecutors just had to prove his excessive use of force resulted in Floyd’s death.

“‘Reasonable officer’ is not magic words that you simply apply to Mr. Chauvin and then he becomes a reasonable officer,” Blackwell said. “Reasonable is as reasonable does, and here what you saw wasn’t reasonable.”

Like Schleicher, he scoffed at Nelson’s notion that Floyd was in a state of “excited delirium” and showed signs of “superhuman strength” during his struggle with officers. He also said the group of bystanders who clashed with officers was not unruly, but sought to preserve Floyd’s life.

“You were told that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big,” Blackwell said. “Now having seen all the evidence and having heard all the evidence, you know the truth. And the truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead IS because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.”

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