June 16. 2021. 9:06

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Chauvin trial jury told to ‘pack suitcases’ as closing arguments begin

Defence attorney Eric Nelson and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Chauvin is on trial over the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Screen grab: Court TV/Pool via AP


Closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial begin on Monday in Minneapolis, with a verdict on the culpability of the former police officer in the death of George Floyd expected as early as this week.

Lawyers for the prosecution and defence will begin wrapping up their arguments at 9am on Monday, before the jury retreats behind closed doors to consider the verdict.

The death of Mr Floyd sparked national and international protests last year. Video footage of his death showed that Mr Chauvin pressed his knee on the neck of Mr Floyd for almost nine minutes while he died.

The trial heard from 45 witnesses, including several medical experts, toxicologists and current law enforcement officials, most of whom testified that Mr Floyd’s death was due to asphyxiation while he was restrained face-down on the street by Mr Chauvin.

But the defence has argued that 46-year-old Mr Floyd died from pre-existing conditions or due to the presence of drugs in his system as they seek to prove their client’s innocence.

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Mr Chauvin is facing three charges – second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter – and denies the charges against him.

Unanimous verdict

A unanimous verdict is needed to convict the defendant on any or all three of the charges. He could face a maximum of up to 40 years in prison under Minnesota state law.

Judge Peter Cahill told the jury on Thursday that they should return to court on Monday with a packed suitcase, as they will be sequestered in a hotel as they weigh up the verdict.

“It’s up to the jury how long you deliberate, how long you need to come to a unanimous decision on any count,” he said. “Whether it’s an hour or a week – it’s entirely within your province.”

The closing days of the Chauvin trial takes place as Minnesota reels from the death of another African-American man at the hands of police. Police officer Kim Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter after she shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Mr Wright was pulled over by three police officers for driving with expired license plates. Police also said that an air freshener appeared to be hanging from his rearview mirror. After being handcuffed he re-entered the car and was then shot by Ms Potter. Her former police chief says he believes she mistakenly used a gun instead of a taser.

Pepper-spray

Protests continued over the weekend in the Brooklyn Center area of greater Minneapolis where Mr Wright died.

Minneapolis police said in a statement that they would not detain or pepper-spray journalists after reports that several reporters covering the protests had been restrained.

Meanwhile, the suspect who shot dead eight people at a FedEx centre in Indiana late last week was named as 19-year-old Brandon Scott Hole. Officials said he legally purchased the two assault rifles used in the attack despite so-called “red flag” laws in Indiana designed to prevent him purchasing a weapon. It emerged that the FBI questioned Hole last year after his mother called the police and seized his weapon. However, he then legally purchased two more dangerous guns a few months later.