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Prosecution Gives Closing Argument in Chauvin Murder Trial. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 19, 2021 - 10:30   ET



STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: May it please the court, Counsel, members of the jury.

His name was George Perry Floyd Jr. and he was born on October 14, 1973 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. His parents, George Floyd Sr. and Larcenia Jones Floyd. Cissy. The matriarch. You've met George Floyd's brother, Philonise. And you heard all about Cissy Floyd. She was George Floyd's mom. She was the mom of the house. She was the mom of the neighborhood. And you heard about the special bond that she and George Floyd shared during his life.

You heard about their relationship, how he would always take time, special attention to be with his mother. How he would still cuddle with her in the fetal position. You heard that. And from George Floyd's brother you learned all about George's childhood. And during his time growing up in that house, George Floyd was surrounded by people. By people he knew. People who knew him. People he recognized. A familiar face to pick out in the crowd. People need that.

George Floyd was surrounded by people he cared about and who cared about him throughout his life. Throughout his childhood in that house. Through his adolescence into his adulthood. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died. Face down on the pavement. Right on 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis.

Nine minutes and 29 seconds. Nine minutes and 29 seconds. During this time, George Floyd struggled. Desperate to breathe, to make enough room in his chest to breathe. But the force was too much. He was trapped. 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. The defendant's weight on him.

The lungs in his chest unable to expand because there wasn't enough room to breathe. George Floyd tried. He pushed his bare shoulder against the pavement to lift himself, to give his chest, to give his lungs enough room in his chest to breathe. But the pavement tearing into his bare skin. As he desperately pushed with his knuckles to make space so he'd have room to breathe, the pavement lacerated, lacerated his knuckles. The defendant stayed on top of him for nine minutes and 29. So

desperate to breathe, he pushed with his face, with his face. To lift himself. To open his chest. To give his lungs room to breathe. The pavement tearing into his skin. George Floyd losing strength. Not super human strength. There is no super human strength that day.


There is no super human strength because there is no such thing as a super human. Those exist in comic books. And 38th and Chicago is a very real place. Not super humans. Only humans. Just a human, just a man lying on the pavement being pressed upon desperately crying out, a grown man crying out for his mother. A human being. And in that time, in that place, while he was surrounded in life by people, he knew him, faces he could pick out, there was no one there he knew.

He was surrounded by strangers. Strangers, all of them. Nine minutes and 29 seconds. He's surrounded by strangers, not a familiar face to say his final words. But he did say them to someone. He said them to someone who he did not know by name, but he knew him on the uniform he wore and the badge he wore. And he called him Mr. Officer. That's what he called him. Mr. Officer.

Mr. Officer would help, would call the police when we need help. And he pleaded with Mr. Officer. George Floyd's final words on May 25, 2020, were, "Please. I can't breathe." And he said those words to Mr. Officer. He said those words to the defendant. He asked for help with his very last breath. But Mr. Officer did not help. The defendant did not help. He stayed on top of him.

Continued to push him down, to grind his knees, to twist his hand, to twist his fingers into the handcuff that's bound him, looking at him. Staring -- staring down at times the horrified bystanders who had gathered and watched this unfold.

The motto of the Minneapolis Police Department is to protect with courage and to serve with compassion. But George Floyd was not a threat to anyone. He wasn't trying to hurt anyone. He wasn't trying to do anything to anyone. Facing George Floyd that day, that did not require one ounce of courage and none was shown on that day. No courage was required. All that was required was a little compassion. And none was shown on that day.

George Floyd said, I'm not trying to win. This was a call about a counterfeit $20 bill. All that was required was some compassion. Humans need that. People need that. The more fundamental than that and more practical at that time in that place with George Floyd needed was some oxygen. That's what he needed. He needed to breath. Because people need that. Humans need that. To breathe. And he said that. And the defendant heard him say that over and over.

He heard him but he just didn't listen. He continued to push him down, to grind into him. To shimmy, to twist his hand for nine minutes and 29 seconds. He begged, George Floyd begged until he could speak no more, and the defendant continued this assault. When he was unable to speak the defendant continued. When he was unable to breathe, the defendant continued beyond the point that he had a pulse.

Beyond the point that he had a pulse, the defendant continued this assault. Nine minutes and 29 seconds. When the ambulance arrived, the ambulance was here, and the defendant continued.


He stayed on top of him. He would not get up. He would not let up. He stayed on him, grinding into him, continuing to twist his fingers, to hold him down. He had no pulse. He was not breathing. He was not responsive and defendant had to know what was right beneath him. Right beneath him. You saw the video. You saw the point when the ambulance arrived and finally after a paramedic got out, and the defendant still did not get up.

And the paramedic tapped him and finally the defendant got up and they lifted Mr. Floyd on to that gurney and you saw the way he was not -- there was nothing there. His head had to be held to prevent it from falling to the ground. He was completely limp. The defendant had to know that. He was there. He was on top of him. And he was on top of him. On top of him.

Sometimes you ask for the truth. Sometimes you insist on the truth. And the truth is the defendant was on top of him for nine minutes and 29 seconds. And he had to know. He had to know.

The medical examiner would find the cause of George Floyd's death to be cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement's subdual restraint and neck compression. But what you saw the defendant and the other officers doing to George Floyd caused his death. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. Death at the hands of another. What the defendant did to George Floyd killed him. It was ruled a homicide.

The defendant is charged with murder. He's charged with murder and he's charged with manslaughter. The defendant at the time was a police officer. It may be hard. It may be hard for any of you to imagine a police officer doing something like this. Remember, in jury selection, we talked about bias and we talked about setting biases and preconceived notions behind. Well, imagining a police officer committing a crime might be the most difficult thing you have to set aside because that's just not the way we think of police officers.

We trust the police. We trust the police to help us. We believe the police are going to respond to our call for help. We believe they're going to listen to us. And this is strong. This runs deep. I'd say it's difficult to set this aside. I want you to consider that even after with the bystanders, after they saw what they saw, after they saw this shocking display of abuse of police power, and a man murdered in front of them, Genevieve Hansen, she called the police.

Donald Williams, he saw this. You heard him. He testified. He called the police. A 9-year-old. Judea. What did she suggest? We need to call the police on the police. That's our expectation. Even after seeing this. Even after witnessing this. Our expectation is that the police are going to help. And with reason. And with good reason. Because policing is the most noble profession. It is. It is. And to be very clear, this case -- this case is called the "State of Minnesota versus Derek Chauvin."

This case is not called the "State of Minnesota versus the Police." It is not. Policing is a noble profession. And it is a profession. You met several Minneapolis police officers during this trial. You met them. They took the stand. They testified. Make no mistake. This is not a prosecution of the police. It is a prosecution of the defendant. And there is nothing worse for good police than a bad police who doesn't follow the rules.


Who doesn't follow procedures. Who doesn't follow training. Who ignores the policies of the department, the motto of the department to protect with courage, to serve with compassion. Chief Arradondo, the chief of police in Minneapolis Police Department, he took the stand and he testified and he told you what that badge that he wears over his heart means. It's a public service. It's a public trust. They're there to help us. It's a professional organization.

There are standards. There are rules. There is a code of conduct. There is a use of force policy. There is extensive training. The police are first responders. They're who we call for help. And they help us. They have CPR training. If there is more training than simply use of force. There is more to policing than putting handcuffs on people and hauling them away to be true. Right? There's other kinds of training. There's procedural justice.

There is crisis intervention training. There's medical training and there's defensive tactics and there's de-escalation. All of this training, hundreds, hundreds of hours of training. You met the people who staff the training center, and they told you. We don't train this. They told you that.

The sanctity of life and the protection of the public, those are the cornerstones of Minneapolis Police Department's use of force policy. The protection of the public. All of the public. All of the human beings that make up the public. The defendant, he didn't do that because that day his badge just wasn't in the right place. The defendant was a police officer. He was. And again, you need to set aside the notion that it's impossible for a police office to do something like this.

The defendant is on trial not for being a police officer. It's not the "State versus the Police." He's not on trial for who he was. He's on trial for what he did. That is what he did. That is what he did on that day. Nine minutes and 29 seconds. That is what he did. He didn't follow training. Those hundreds of hours in training that he had, he did not follow the department's use of force rules. He did not perform CPR. He knew better. He just didn't do better. He just didn't do better.

Remember during opening statement, during opening statement, counsel said that the defendant followed the rules and followed his training. Did you hear evidence of that? Did you hear evidence of that from the stand? Or did you hear something quite different? The chief of police testified. Violated their use of force policy. He violated their de- escalation policy. He violated the duty to render emergency aid. No. You heard the trainer, Lieutenant Mercil. We don't train this.

This is -- this is not who we are. No. That representation was simply wrong. That's just a story. What the defendant did was not policing. What the defendant did was an assault. I'm going to discuss the law with you in a bit here. And explain the court's already provided you some instructions on second-degree murder. And you know under the laws of this state, if you commit in a certain level of assault, a felony level assault and a person dies as a result of your assault, you're guilty of murder.

It's as simple as that. And what the defendant did here was a straight up felony assault. This was not policing. It was unnecessary. It was gratuitous. It was disproportionate, and he did it on purpose. No question. This was not an accident. He did not trip and fall and find himself upon George Floyd's knee and neck. He did what he did on purpose. And it killed George Floyd. That force for nine minutes and 29 seconds. That killed George Floyd. He betrayed the badge. And everything it stood for. It's not how they're trained.


It's not following the rules. This is not an anti-police prosecution. It's a pro-police prosecution. The defendant abandoned his values, abandoned the training, and killed a man. And why? Right out in the public. Right out in broad daylight. In front of several bystanders as they looked in shock, in horror. Why? Well, this all started over a call of an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. But George Floyd's life was taken for something worth far, far less. Far less.

You saw the photo. You saw the body language. You can learn a lot about someone by looking at their body language. The defendant facing down that crowd. They're pointing cameras at him. Recording him. Telling him what to do. Challenging his authority. His ego, his pride, not the kind of pride that makes you do better, be better. The kind of ego-based pride. The defendant was not going to be told what to do.

He was not going to let these bystanders tell him what to do. He was going to do what he wanted, how he wanted for as long as he wanted. And there was nothing, nothing they could do about it. Because he had the authority. He had the power of the badge, of the other officers. And the bystanders were powerless. They were powerless to do anything. The defendant, he chose pride over policing.

Charles McMillan, 61 years old, interesting man. Right? You remember when he testified. He had the glasses. If any of you in the front row when he walked by happened to notice his shoes. If you looked at his shoes, you probably saw your reflection in his shoes. He dressed for court like it was the most important day of his life. Interesting man. He was there. He's sort of narrating this horrific scene throughout. You hear him in the video.

And he called out to George Floyd. He said, you can't win. You can't win. And George Floyd replied, I'm not trying to win. I'm not trying to win. I'm scared. But the defendant, the defendant was trying to win. He wasn't going to be told what to do. He wasn't going to take a challenge to his authority. He was trying to win. And George Floyd paid for it with his life.

Now also need to be clear this is not the trial of George Floyd. George Floyd is not on trial here. You've heard some things about George Floyd, that he struggled with drug addiction. That he was being investigated for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill that there was never any evidence introduced that he knew it was fake in the first place. But he is not on trial. He didn't get a trial when he was alive. And he is not on trial here.

The defense claims that he was noncompliant. Noncompliant. Well, let's revisit what happened before the nine minutes and 29 seconds. Before that. It's Memorial Day, right, May 25, 2020. And George Floyd is sitting in a car, in the driver's seat, with two friends. Now previously he'd been in Cup Foods. He'd been in the store. He was walking. He was talking. He was breathing. As a live as any person, any human in this room.

Back to the car. He's with his friends. And there is a tap at the window. He looks to his left and is startled. This is what he sees. This is what he sees. Within seconds of the approach, Officer Lane tapped on the widow, within seconds he pulls his gun and holds it inches from George Floyd's face. And starts shouting profanities, show me your -- hands.


Show me your f'ing hands. Screaming at him. This is within seconds. You can tell a lot about someone by looking at their body language. How does Mr. Floyd look in this photo? Terrified? The officer on the driver's side, an officer on the passenger side, Lane orders Floyd to put his hands on the steering wheel. He does. That's not resistance. That's compliance. Lane orders Floyd to get out of the car. He does. That's not resistance. That's compliance.

They ordered him -- they want him handcuffed. He is handcuffed. That's not resistance. That's compliance. And on the handcuffs, you recall the testimony. They weren't properly double locked. And so they continued to ratchet. They're not on correctly. They're on too tight. Throughout, and you listen to the videos, throughout the videos, you can hear the sound of those handcuffs ratcheting, tighter and tighter.

Mr. Floyd was trying to explain to the police that his wrists hurt. Impervious in pain. Please. His wrist hurt. No one listens to him. But it continues. They tell him to go over to the Dragon Walk. He goes over to the Dragon Walk. That's not resistance. They asked him to sit down. He sist down. Not resistance. Compliance. Not trying to escape. Not trying to evade arrest, not trying to assault anybody, shoot anybody, stab anybody, punch anybody. No. Compliance.

Sits down on the ground. They ask him his name. He gives his name. He spells it. That's not resistance. That's compliance. They ask him to get up. He gets up. They ask him to go across the street, he goes across the street. Where is the resistance? Where is that? They take him over to the car. OK? They take him over to the car. George Floyd is a big guy. Right? You can see here. I mean he's almost as big as Officer Lane. He's a big guy.

He's a big person. The back of the squad car is not. That's what they wanted him to get into. And to George Floyd, that looked -- he looked at. What do you think that looked like? Like a little cage. He tried to explain himself to the officers. That he had anxiety. That he had claustrophobia. He explained this over and over. They wanted him to get in the back of this little car. And, you know, he just wasn't able to bring himself to do it. He wasn't able to bring himself to do it.


GEORGE FLOYD JR, VICTIM: (INAUDIBLE). The reasons don't go up on me, man. OK. OK. OK. Let me count to three. Let me count to three, I'm going in. Please.


SCHLEICHER: So he is trying to work out the ability to get in the car. He is explaining himself repeatedly. And you can see this is where the defendant and Officer Thao start coming into the scene. OK? We'll look at what they saw in a minute, but they start to come to the scene. 19- year veteran of the police force with all of the training that that involves, over 800 hours of training. 40-hour crisis intervention training course.

A scenario-based training where they're taught to recognize the signs of someone who is experiencing a crisis. A crisis. You know, he couldn't bring himself to get in. And sometimes people can't bring themselves to get in. And this is not new. This is not ground breaking. People have emotions. People have things happen to them. The police train for this. They recognize this. You don't get to meet the police on your best day very often.

You don't call the police and say everything's fine. Just wanted you to know. Right? That doesn't happen. You know, there's a whole range of humanity out there. The whole range of different issues. I mean, it could be anything. It could be a death in the family that can cause extreme emotional response. You know, recall when Officer Lane approached the car, George Floyd talked about losing his mother. He lost her in 2018.