Schleicher told jurors to reject defense theories and look at what they know happened.
“You need to focus on what did happen. George Floyd was not a threat, he never was. He was not resisting. He was just not able to comply. They should have recognized that,” he said. “The defendant was on top of him, stayed on top of him, grinding, his knees into him. Pressing down on him, continuing to twist his arm twisting. up against the handcuffs. A pain compliance technique without the opportunity to comply,” he added.
At the end, Schleicher simplified the case into a concise argument: “Believe your eyes.”
“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. It is exactly that. You can believe your eyes. It’s exactly what you believed. It’s exactly what you saw with your eyes. It’s exactly what you knew, what you felt in your gut. It’s what you now know in your heart,” he said. “This wasn’t policing. This was murder.”
Nelson’s case to acquit Chauvin has been to argue that his use of force was appropriate, that he was distracted by the crowd of hostile bystanders and that Floyd died due to fentanyl and methamphetamine use, his resistance of officers and his underlying health issues.
He said the prosecution’s focus on 9 minutes and 29 seconds
, rather than Floyd’s active resistance in the minutes earlier, was inappropriate.
“It’s not the proper analysis because the 9 minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds. It completely disregards it,” he said. “Human behavior is unpredictable, and nobody knows it better than a police officer.”
Nelson argued Chauvin had no intent to use unlawful force and that he followed his training.
“These are officers doing their job in a highly stressful situation, according to their training, according to the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department. It’s tragic. It’s tragic,” he said.
During the restraint, he said, the bystanders were in their own crisis and made the scene unsafe for Chauvin to render aid and care for Floyd. At the same time that Floyd took his last breath, Chauvin pulled out his mace to keep the crowd back and an off-duty firefighter walked up to the scene from behind, startling him, Nelson said.
“All of these facts and circumstances simultaneously occur at a critical moment. That changed officer Chauvin’s perception of what was happening,” he said.
Nelson highlighted Floyd’s use of fentanyl and methamphetamine and his heart issues, and he expressed incredulity that the prosecution’s doctors dismissed those as a cause in his death.
“I would submit to you that it is nonsense that none of these other factors had any role. That is not reasonable,” he said.
He spoke for about two and a half hours before Judge Cahill forced him to pause so that the jury could have lunch. A pool reporter inside the court noted that the jury appeared to be getting antsy, with several rubbing their eyes and fidgeting. After the break, Nelson spoke for about 15 minutes more.
In Blackwell’s rebuttal, he took issue with the defense saying there were two sides to every story.
“There really aren’t two sides to the story on whether this force is unreasonable,” he said.
He noted that, legally, prosecutors did not have to prove that Chauvin’s actions were the only cause of death — just that they were a substantial causal factor in Floyd’s death.
Further, he defended the crowd of bystanders, referring to them as a “bouquet of humanity” who came together to try to help a stranger who was suffering. They were in anguish, Blackwell said, torn between their respect for the police and their concern for Floyd’s life, but they did not physically intervene.
“They respect this badge, even if it tore them up inside,” he said.
45 witnesses over 3 weeks of testimony
The prosecution’s case fit into three distinct phases with 38 witnesses: what happened to Floyd last May, the Minneapolis Police use-of-force policy and the medical analysis of why Floyd died.
The first week of testimony largely focused on Floyd’s final moments and the distressed bystanders who watched Chauvin kneel on Floyd while he was handcuffed and prone on the street. Video from the bystanders and police body camera footage showed Floyd’s gasps for air and calls for his “mama” over those excruciating minutes, leaving several witnesses in tears.
Next, a series of police supervisors and use-of-force experts criticized Chauvin’s actions as excessive and unreasonable
. They said he violated policies around de-escalation, objectively reasonable use of force and the requirement to render aid. Foremost among the critics was Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
“That in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy. It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values,” Arradondo said.
The medical testimony, particularly from Dr. Martin Tobin, laid out the mechanics of how Floyd died. The renowned pulmonary critical care doctor testified
that Floyd died from a “low level of oxygen” when Chauvin pinned him to the street and restricted his ability to breathe — what’s known as positional asphyxia.
In contrast, the former Minneapolis police officer’s defense team called seven witnesses — but Chauvin was not among them.
A police use-of-force expert testified that Chauvin’s restraint of Floyd was “justified,” and a forensic pathologist testified that Floyd’s cause of death was “undetermined,” saying his underlying heart issues were the main causes.
Several other defense witnesses have testified about Floyd’s drug use, particularly during a prior arrest in May 2019 in which he ingested opioids as police approached him in a vehicle.
Together, the witnesses furthered the defense’s three main arguments in the case: that Floyd died due to drug and health problems, that Chauvin’s use of force was ugly but appropriate, and that a hostile crowd of bystanders distracted Chauvin.