What to expect in closings for ex-cop’s trial in Floyd death

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In this image from video, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell speaks as Hennepin County Judge PeterCahill discusses motions before the court Thursday, April 15, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS – For three weeks, prosecutors at the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd played and replayed video, supplementing the bystander video that shocked the world with multiple other angles of Floyd’s arrest. And over and over, Derek Chauvin’s attorney argued that the visual evidence is deceptive, and that Floyd was killed by his drug use and a bad heart.

On Monday, attorneys on both sides will seek to drive home their cases in closing arguments that cover much of the same ground, seeking to tie their evidence into neat packages for jurors.

Prosecutors will draw on expert testimony, videos and other evidence to explain how the white officer's actions on May 25, when he pinned the Black man's neck to the pavement with his knee for nearly 9 1/2 minutes, were “a substantial cause” of Floyd's death. And they'll highlight testimony from top Minneapolis police officials and outside use-of-force experts that an “objectively reasonable” officer would not have used that kind of force.

Meanwhile, defense attorney Eric Nelson will try to persuade jurors that elements of testimony he elicited from prosecution witnesses and his own witnesses add up to reasonable doubt over what caused Floyd's death, whether Chauvin is responsible, or whether Floyd deserves a substantial amount of the blame.

“If I was Nelson, I'd do a lot of things, because a lot of things need to be done,” Joe Friedberg, a local defense attorney not involved in the case, said. “He's in desperate trouble here.”

Both sides gave some insight this week after Nelson asked Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to acquit Chauvin. It was a routine motion that was quickly rejected, but both sides covered the main points they will probably make in closing arguments.

Nelson argued that the state's use-of-force witnesses gave contradictory evidence on the point at which Chauvin’s use of force became unreasonable. That could be a tough sell, and even Nelson acknowledged that they all agreed it was objectively unreasonable.

Nelson might have more success with another argument that he will surely make again Monday. That's to hammer at the difference between the four prosecution experts who concluded Floyd died of asphyxiation and the county medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, who did not.