Closing arguments: Chauvin defense says prosecution has not met burden of proof

National News

Defense attorney Eric Nelson reminded the jurors that Chauvin is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and that prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt is a high standard, Nelson said, and must eliminate all doubt except for “capricious, fanciful” doubt. 

“Space aliens flew in and inhabited the body of Derek Chauvin and caused this death. That’s fanciful,” Nelson said.

Nelson suggested to jurors that the state has not met its high burden of eliminating reasonable doubt. He pointed to the testimony of a paramedic who inserted an airway breathing device for Floyd after the restraint. Nelson suggested that could account for why Floyd had 98% oxygen saturation in his blood, a measure that prosecutors have used to discount the defense suggestion that Floyd may have died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the squad car’s exhaust. 

Prosecutors must prove that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death as one of the elements of proving their case.

Defense urges jurors to look at “totality of the circumstances”

Defense attorney Eric Nelson said jurors must review what facts were known to the officer at the precise moment the force was used when determining whether the force was reasonable. He listed a series of elements officers must consider, including their immediate surroundings and whether the suspect was under the influence. A reasonable officer can also try to predict future behavior based on their past experience with a suspect, Nelson said.

Nelson said the prosecution has sought to focus the case on nine minutes and 29 seconds, but he urged jurors to put those minutes “into the context of the totality of the circumstances” surrounding what a reasonable officer would have known.

A reasonable officer would have known a business is requesting help, the suspect is still on the scene, is large in stature and may be under the influence, Nelson said. He cited the testimony of a dispatcher who told Chauvin to respond to the scene as a “Code 3,” meaning respond quickly with lights and sirens. The dispatcher said she heard “the sounds of a struggle.” All of that information would factor into the reasonableness of a use of force, Nelson argued.

When Chauvin responded to the scene, he saw officers struggling with Floyd attempting to put him in the squad car, Nelson said. Nelson played a brief portion of Chauvin’s body camera video to demonstrate his perspective before the restraint.

“What he sees at a minimum is active resistance,” Nelson said. 

Per his training, Nelson said, Chauvin had use-of-force options available to him at that point, including conscious neck restraints. A reasonable officer would take into consideration that the two officers on scene were rookies, and that foam around Floyd’s mouth might indicate he is under the influence, Nelson said. The reasonable officer would also assess Floyd’s size in relation to his own, Nelson said. The reasonable officer would need to determine whether Floyd’s resistance was intentional, or whether he was experiencing a crisis, Nelson said. 

Using those assessments, a reasonable officer would determine that the force being used by the other two officers was insufficient to gain Floyd’s compliance, Nelson said.

“The futility of their efforts became apparent — they weren’t able to get him into the car,” Nelson said. “Three Minneapolis police officers were unable to get Mr. Floyd into the car.”

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