MINNEAPOLIS -- The jurors who sat quietly off-camera through three weeks of draining testimony in Derek Chauvin's murder trial in George Floyd's death moved into the spotlight Tuesday, still out of sight but now in control of verdicts awaited by a skittish city. The jury is sequestered, and the duration of deliberations depends on the jury.
The jury includes a chemist, a nurse, an auditor and a grandmother. It’s a racially mixed group – with six people who are white and six who identify as Black or multiracial. Almost all had seen the bystander video of Floyd before the trial, pinned on the street that fanned worldwide outrage. And some have ties to police. Those who listened through three weeks of testimony said before they were seated that they could set aside any prior views of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin’s conduct and decide the case based on evidence. One legal expert said waiting for a jury verdict can seem like “the longest hours of any day.”
Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25 death. The case comes down to two key questions: did Chauvin cause Floyd’s death and were his actions reasonable? Each charge requires a different element of proof as to Chauvin’s state of mind.
During closing arguments, prosecutors argued that Chauvin “had to know” he was squeezing the life out of George Floyd as Floyd cried over and over that he couldn’t breathe and finally fell silent. They said Chauvin pinned his knee against Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes last May, ignoring bystanders and common sense.
The defense argued that the now-fired white officer used force reasonably and that the 46-year-old Black man died of an underlying heart condition and illegal drug use. Chauvin on Thursday invoked his right to remain silent and leave the burden of proof on the state. Jurors have been instructed not to read anything into his choice to remain silent as they deliberate.
Video footage of the death prompted protests and calls for racial justice across the country. The Biden administration is privately weighing how to handle the upcoming verdict, including considering whether President Joe Biden should address the nation. Aides and officials also tell The Associated Press that the Justice Department is dispatching specially trained community facilitators.
More than 3,000 National Guard soldiers, along with police officers, sheriffs deputies and other law enforcement personnel have flooded Minneapolis with a verdict looming. But in the city that has come to epitomize America’s debate over police killings, there are places where Minneapolis can feel almost like a police state. Concrete barriers, chain-link fences and barbed wire now ring parts of downtown Minneapolis, so that authorities can quickly close off the courthouse where the trial is being held if trouble breaks out. It’s become normal to pass convoys of desert-tan armored vehicles on highways, or stumble across armed soldiers at intersections.
Law agencies across the nation are making plans to respond to reactions to the verdicts in their own communities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.