(CNN) — The prosecution rested its case against former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday and offered the defense its turn to call witnesses.
Minnesota prosecutors called 38 witnesses over 11 days as they sought to show that Chauvin used excessive and unreasonable force when he kneeled on the neck and back of George Floyd, who was handcuffed and lying prone in the street, for nine minutes and 29 seconds last May.
One of the final witnesses to take the stand on Monday was Floyd’s brother Philonise, who cried as he discussed what his older brother meant to their family in starkly personal terms.
“He was so much of a leader to us in the household, he would always make sure we had our clothes for school, make sure we would get to school on time,” Philonise Floyd said. “He just was like a person that everybody loved around the community. He just knew how to make people feel better.”
Altogether, the prosecution’s case against Chauvin came in three distinct phases. First, bystanders and extensive video of their interaction explained Chauvin’s actions toward Floyd last May. Afterward, police experts said Chauvin violated police use-of-force policies and medical experts then said that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death.
On the other side, defense attorney Eric Nelson has focused on three arguments he says will acquit Chauvin: Floyd died of drug and health problems, Chauvin’s use of force was ugly but appropriate, and a hostile crowd of bystanders distracted Chauvin from taking care of Floyd.
Witnesses called by the prosecution have contested each of those theories — but as in any criminal trial, it will be up to the jury of five men and nine women to ultimately decide.
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.
The defense’s case is expected to last only a few days, and closing arguments are expected for next Monday, Judge Peter Cahill said Monday.
While the trial has focused on Chauvin and Floyd, the societal stakes of the high-profile case were made vividly clear when police shot and killed a Black man Sunday in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, just 10 miles from the courthouse where Chauvin is standing trial.
On Monday night, police fired tear gas and stun guns to disperse demonstrators defying a curfew outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, while protesters threw “bottles, fireworks, bricks and other projectiles at public safety officials,” according to a tweet from Operation Safety Net.
In light of the unrest, Nelson asked the court Monday to question jurors further and sequester them for the rest of the trial. Judge Cahill rejected the request and said he plans to fully sequester the jury for deliberations next week. Jurors in the trial are currently partially sequestered, meaning they are released to go home each day.
The prosecution’s case in three parts
The first week of testimony largely focused on Floyd’s final moments and the distressed bystanders who watched Chauvin pin Floyd to 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.
Early last week, prosecutors called a series of police supervisors and use-of-force experts who criticized Chauvin’s actions. 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 on Thursday, Friday and Monday, particularly from Dr. Martin Tobin, laid out the mechanics of how Floyd died. The renowned pulmonary critical care doctor testified Thursday morning that Floyd died from a “low level of oxygen” when Chauvin pinned him to the street and restricted his ability to breathe.
Floyd’s preexisting health conditions and drug use were not relevant to his death, Tobin said.
“A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died,” he said.
Philonise Floyd’s heartfelt testimony put a final human touch on the case as he described how his brother was a big mama’s boy who was distraught by her death in 2018.
“It was so unique how they were with each other. He would lay up onto her in the fetus position like he was still in the womb,” he said. “Being around him, he showed us how to treat our mom and how to respect our mom. He just — he loved her so dearly.”
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