Prosecutors told jurors to believe their own eyes during closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial on Monday, urging them to trust what they saw in video footage of the incident, and pushing back against alternate explanations for George Floyd’s death.
"Use your common sense,” state prosecutor Steve Schleicher said in Minnesota’s Hennepin County Courthouse. “Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw."
Over and over, the state emphasized that Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, despite pleas from onlookers and Floyd’s verbal cues that he couldn’t breathe. Prosecutors also repeatedly said that Chauvin restrained Floyd in a prone position face-down on the ground that even other Minneapolis police said was against training protocol.
“When [Floyd] was unable to speak, the defendant continued. When he was unable to breathe, the defendant continued. Beyond the point that he had a pulse, the defendant continued,” Schleicher said. “When the ambulance arrived, the ambulance was here, and the defendant continued. He stayed on top of him and would not get up.”
Floyd, a Black man, was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at Cup Foods in Minneapolis last year. His death on May 25 set off national and international protests about race and police brutality.
Prosecutors took special care to highlight Floyd’s humanity, fear, and physical agony throughout closing arguments, repeatedly circling back to the idea that he was not “superhuman.” The idea of “superhuman strength” was previously introduced by Chauvin’s defense team.
“There’s no superhuman strength. There are no superhumans. Impervious to pain? Nonsense. You heard him. You saw him. He was not impervious to pain,” Schleicher said.
The prosecution also described Floyd’s last moments in vivid, gut wrenching detail.
“He was trapped with the unyielding pavement underneath him, as unyielding as the men who held him down, pushing him, a knee to the neck, a knee to the back, twisting his fingers, holding his legs for nine minutes and 29 seconds, the defendant’s weight on him,” said Schleicher. “As he desperately pushed with his knuckles to make space so he’d have room to breathe, the pavement lacerated his knuckles.”
Schleicher argued that Floyd followed instructions from police, and that his refusal to get into the police vehicle had no malicious intent, but instead only showed how terrified he was. Floyd repeatedly told officers that he was claustrophobic.
Prosecutors were careful not to paint police with a broad brush on Monday, instead narrowing the scope of culpability in Floyd’s death to Chauvin in particular.
“This case is not called the State of Minnesota vs. The Police. Policing is a noble profession.” Schleicher said. “Make no mistake, this is not the prosecution of the police, it is a prosecution of the defendant. And there’s nothing worse for good police than a bad police [officer], who doesn’t follow the rules, who doesn’t follow procedure, who doesn’t follow training.”
The prosecution and defense both finished their closing arguments on Monday, and the jury has begun deliberations.
Chauvin has been charged with second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. He could face up to 65 years in prison if convicted.