Derek Chauvin’s murder trial heard closing arguments Monday before the jury began considering a verdict in the death of George Floyd, eagerly awaited by millions of Americans.

Tensions are high in Minneapolis, with hundreds of National Guard soldiers deployed across the city, ready for the outcome of the three-week trial. Last year, a video of the alleged murder by the former cop of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, sparked days of protests, riots and looting, and protests across the United States and in the world.

Protests erupted again earlier this month, following the shooting of 20-year-old black Daunte Wright by officers during a traffic stop in a suburb of Minneapolis.

Many Americans have reached their own verdict in the Chauvin case and see the trial as part of a consideration in the larger fight for racial justice. Nonetheless, on Monday, prosecutors focused on persuading the jury in their closing statements.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher told jurors the key to the case lay in video footage of Chauvin pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck, even as he pleaded for his life, until his very last words of ” I can not breathe”.

“This case is exactly what you saw with your own eyes. It’s what you know in your heart, ”he said.

Schleicher said the video showed Chauvin to be utterly indifferent to Floyd’s life even as it took his breath away.

“For nine minutes and 29 seconds, George Floyd begged until he could no longer beg, and the accused continued this assault,” he said.

The prosecutor said that Chauvin’s “ego, his pride” had led him to keep his knee in place, even as passers-by begged him to stop, because “he would not be told what to do”.

“He was going to do what he wanted, the way he wanted, for as long as he wanted,” said Schleicher. “It wasn’t from the police, it was useless, it was free, and he did it on purpose.

If the jury agrees that Chauvin, 45, committed an assault by placing Floyd on the ground, it will pave the way for a conviction on the most serious charge of second degree murder, which requires the former officer to commit a crime. it led to death.

“What the accused did here was an outright criminal attack. It wasn’t from the police, ”Schleicher said. “It killed George Floyd.

If the jury disagrees that Chauvin’s use of force was criminal in itself, but showed “a reckless disregard for human life,” they could still convict him of third degree murder. . Chauvin also faces a charge of manslaughter.

In his instructions to the jury, Judge Peter Cahill said Chauvin was guilty if he took any action that caused Floyd’s death, even though other factors contributed to it.

This will help the prosecution because even though, as the defense claims, heart damage and drug use contributed to Floyd’s death, Chauvin will still be guilty if the jury finds his actions triggered heart failure.

Schleicher ridiculed the defense’s claims that Chauvin’s actions were not the cause of Floyd’s death and that he had succumbed to heart disease, drug use and even carbon monoxide poisoning caused by car exhaust fumes.

Schleicher asked if Floyd would have died that day if he hadn’t been pinned down by Chauvin and scorned the idea that he chose this time to die of heart disease.

“Use your common sense. Believe your eyes, ”he told jurors. “Unreasonable force that nailed him to the ground, that’s what killed him.”

People gather in George Floyd Square, Minneapolis, for an AAPI and Black Sunday solidarity rally.
People gather in George Floyd Square, Minneapolis, for an AAPI and Black Sunday solidarity rally. Photograph: Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times / REX / Shutterstock

Schleicher reminded the jury of the testimony of medical experts who said the way Chauvin and other officers kept Floyd pinned to the ground cut his breath and was the sole cause of his death.

“George Floyd struggled, desperate to breathe, to make enough room in his chest, to breathe. But the force was too strong, ”said Schleicher.

Schleicher told jurors they didn’t have to find the accused intended to cause harm or break the law to convict him of second degree murder.

“The only thing the state has to prove is that it intended to apply force to George Floyd on purpose,” he said.

Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison on the most serious charge, but would likely receive a shorter sentence under the guidelines.

The 12 jurors will be sequestered until they reach a unanimous verdict on each of the three counts. If they are unable to do so on all counts, a conviction on one will suffice. If they can’t agree on one of the charges, Chauvin will likely face a second trial.

Deliberations will continue until 7:00 p.m. each day. But the judge said if a verdict is delivered around this time, it won’t be revealed until the next day, as he wants to avoid an announcement after dark, fearing that civil unrest is no longer likely.

The courthouse has been cordoned off and is heavily guarded. Schools in the city are due to switch to online learning starting Wednesday in anticipation of the verdict.

Exhausted members of George Floyd’s family have said after the trauma of the trial they want it to be over.

“We are ready to end this trial,” Tera Brown, Floyd’s cousin, told CNN. “It was very difficult. There were times when we were literally broken into tears.