Sunday, April 18, 2021

Closing arguments tomorrow in trial of Derek Chauvin charged in the death of George Floyd

Testimony in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin ended Thursday with Chauvin invoking his constitutional right not to testify and a prosecution expert briefly taking the witness stand. Jurors are likely to begin deliberating Monday, reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, moving the trial into its seventh week. Jurors will be immediately sequestered for deliberations as they consider the charges facing Chauvin in the May 25 death of George Floyd — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

"I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today," Chauvin told the court Thursday morning. The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination.

Chauvin's brief remarks in response to questions from his attorney, Eric Nelson, and Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill were the most he's spoken publicly since kneeling on Floyd's neck for about 9 ½ minutes last year when arresting him for using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

Chauvin took off a blue surgical face mask, mandated by the courts for COVID-19 protection, and spoke into a microphone in his hand. Jurors were not present for the discussion.

Nelson reminded Chauvin that "the state would have broad latitude" to cross-examine him as a witness if he testified. Nelson and Chauvin told the court they had "repeatedly" discussed whether to testify.

"We have gone back and forth on the matter would be kind of an understatement, right?" Nelson asked Chauvin.

"Yes, it is," Chauvin said with a small hint of a smile.

Nelson asked Chauvin if they had a "lengthy" meeting Wednesday night about testifying that led to "further discussion."

"Correct," Chauvin said, adding that he would not testify.

"The decision whether or not to testify is entirely yours," Cahill told Chauvin after his discussion with Nelson. "In other words, it's a personal right. … Is this your decision not to testify?"

"It is, your honor," Chauvin said.

The judge asked if he had any questions. He said no. The judge asked if anyone had made promises or threats to influence his decision.

"No promises or threats, your honor," Chauvin said.

Cahill asked Chauvin if he wanted jurors to receive a special instruction on the issue, which is offered by the courts when defendants choose not to testify. Chauvin said yes.

"The state must convince you by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged," according to the instruction Cahill recited Thursday. "The defendant has no obligation to prove innocence. The defendant has the right not to testify. This right is guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions. You should not draw any inference from the fact the defendant has not testified in this case."

The defense officially rested its case several minutes later with jurors in attendance. Nelson called seven witnesses between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Arthur Reed, one of Floyd's cousins, watched the proceeding from the lone seat in the courtroom designated for a Floyd family representative. COVID-19 safety protocols have severely limited the number of attendees. A woman sat in a seat Thursday reserved for Chauvin's supporters. She declined to identify herself to a reporter.

Asked outside the courtroom about Chauvin's decision not to testify, Reed said he believed the prosecution "would have chopped him down second by second" were he asked why he remained on Floyd for more than nine minutes.

"We didn't think they were going to put him on at all," Reed said. "We're just ready to get this over with, make sure [Floyd] gets the justice he deserves. We think the state has put on an excellent case."

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