In one final push to prove his innocence, Derek Chauvin’s defense team argued that the ex-Minneapolis cop acted as he was trained to when he arrested George Floyd.
“All of the evidence shows that Mr. Chauvin thought he was following his training...he was trained this way,” said defense attorney Eric Nelson, referring to how Chauvin kneeled on Floyd while he was face down in the street. “It all demonstrates a lack of intent. There is absolutely no evidence that Officer Chauvin intentionally, purposely applied unlawful force.”
Citing the Minneapolis Police Department’s Defense and Control Response Training Guide, Nelson added Chauvin was within his right to use a variety of techniques to handle the situation, including neck restraints.
(Several other Minneapolis police officers have previously testified that Chauvin’s actions were against training protocol.)
During closing statements in the Hennepin County Courthouse on Monday, Nelson made two major arguments: That the ex-cop’s actions were an authorized use of force, and that Floyd’s cause of death could have been due to circumstances outside Chauvin’s control.
“He walks onto a scene, he sees active resistance occurring, potentially active aggression occurring,” Nelson said, describing the moment the former officer arrived at Cup Foods, the South Minneapolis convenience store where Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill last May. “What were his options available to him at that time?”
Throughout closing arguments, the defense argued that jurors had to consider what a “reasonable police officer” would do in those circumstances. And Nelson added that the crowd of angry and distressed bystanders watching Floyd’s arrest distracted Chauvin during a critical moment.
“The standard is not what should the officer have done in these circumstances,” Nelson said. “The standard is: What were the facts that were known to this officer at the precise moment that he used force, and considering all of the totality of circumstances known to the officer, what would a reasonable police officer have done?”
Hours into his closing argument, Nelson then tried to sow doubt about why Floyd died, saying that heart conditions, hypertension, and Floyd’s use of fentanyl could have played a role in his death.
“No evidence of life-threatening injury to the neck or spinal column of Mr. Floyd,” he added. “An intervention occurred, and there was an untoward outcome on the heels of that intervention.”
Prosecutors have argued that although Floyd had 11 nanograms of fentanyl in his system at the time of his death, it wouldn’t be enough for a fatal overdose because of the tolerance he’d built up from prolonged drug use.
Nelson’s closing statements come less than a week after the defense called seven witnesses to testify and help build Chauvin’s case that he was not at fault when Floyd died in police custody.
Though some of those individuals actually helped bolster the prosecution’s case, the defense did bring two major witnesses to back up their version of events. Barry Brodd, a use of force expert, testified that Chauvin’s actions were justified and that Floyd’s death was accidental. Dr. David Fowler, a forensic pathologist who is currently being sued over the death of a Black teenager in police custody in Maryland, testified that Floyd’s death had nothing to do with Chauvin’s neck restraint.
The prosecution and defense wrapped arguments on Monday, and the decision in the Chauvin case is now in the hands of the jury. Chauvin faces second and third degree-murder charges, and second-degree manslaughter. If convicted, he faces up to 65 years in prison.
Arguments in the Chauvin trial wrapped up Monday after a relentless week that focused attention on police brutality in the U.S.
On April 11, Daunte Wright, 20, was shot and killed by police during a routine traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis. Protesters took to the streets after his death, which took place less than a year after that of Floyd. And on April 15, the Chicago Police Department released body camera footage that showed the police killing of Adam Toledo, a 13-year old who had his hands up when he was shot.