Chauvin trial: Jury deliberation will have to focus on facts not weeks of emotional testimony

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a three-week trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged in the death of George Floyd, attorneys made their closing arguments Monday before handing it over to the jury for deliberation.

Pat McInerney, a former federal prosecutor, said the defense made the jurors question the cause of Floyd’s death and whether Chauvin’s actions were justified. 

“Their job is to convince just one person that there is a reasonable doubt or even a single reasonable doubt,” McInerney said. “So the hill to climb is much steeper for the state than it is for the defense, and we’ll see what the jury decides.”

In the video of Floyd’s death, played dozens of times in the courtroom, Chauvin can be seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes while Floyd was in handcuffs. Prosecutors said Chauvin used excessive force and introduced several witnesses with emotional testimonies. 

“There’s legal takeaways, and then there are cultural takeaways, and there are social takeaways,” McInerney said. “This trial really has the perfect storm of all of that. The jury’s job is to focus only on the evidence and the law.” 

McInerney said as jurors deliberate, this trial has already set a standard for accountability in policing. 

“That’s part of the conversation that comes out of this is, at what point are we going to start broadly holding accountable officers who violate the law, not just department policy, but break the law,” McInerney said.

The Chauvin trial has been streamed across the world and on almost every major news channel as people await the jury’s verdict. Taryn Hodison, a mental health counselor at Anchor Counseling and Consulting LLC, said you should take breaks from those traumatic images. 

“Really be mindful of how much media you’re taking in. You don’t have to sit and watch the entire trial. You don’t have to watch every video,” Hodison said. “It’s OK to opt out and to focus, you know, taking care of yourself and to do other things for the movement.” 

In the video of Floyd’s death, Floyd begged for his life. The 46-year-old screamed for his mother at one-point. 

“The mental toll of that, of the sadness, the fear, it is humiliating, too, because it sort of brings into light, the status that you have as a human being, being less than is a lot,” Hodison said. 

This three-week trial could bring up trauma for all races, but especially Black people who have seen this type of situation play out before.  

“There are issues of injustice that people are rightfully upset about and angry about,” Hodison said. “We need to talk about that, and we need to also give people space to feel that anger toward that injustice. So what I try to do is help people feel empowered.” 

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