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Jury Prepares To Deliberate In Derek Chauvin Case


So many stories of police killings have intersected this week that it can be hard to keep them straight. The 13-year-old shot in Chicago after putting up his hands is different from the 20-year-old shot in Minnesota after struggling with police during a traffic stop. And he, in turn, is different from George Floyd, killed in an incident that's the subject of a trial this week. Former officer Derek Chauvin is accused of murder, and his defense rested its case yesterday. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now.

Leila, good morning.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: If that's even the word - where does the case go from here?

FADEL: Yeah. So on Monday, the prosecution and the defense will present their closing arguments to the jury before they are sequestered for deliberations to decide the fate of Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering George Floyd. Now, before they went home, Judge Peter Cahill told them to get ready.


PETER CAHILL: I think the one thing that you need to know today as you leave is, how much do I pack? If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short. Basically, it's up to the jury how long you deliberate, how long you need to come to a unanimous decision on any count.

FADEL: So today, there's no court. And on Monday, the jury will show up with their bags, hear closing statements, get jury instructions from the judge and go into deliberations. As for how long it might be, it could be an hour, could be weeks.

INSKEEP: You know, I'm thinking we haven't heard Derek Chauvin's voice, perhaps, since the video in which, during the time that George Floyd was dying, Chauvin kept saying to him, you're not in such bad shape, in effect. And then yesterday, we heard his voice for at least a few words. What did he say?

FADEL: Right. Yeah. I mean, for weeks now, like you said, we've been watching him take notes on a yellow legal pad next to his attorney, Eric Nelson. Behind the mask, it's been really hard to read Chauvin's face as videos of him pinning Floyd to the ground were repeatedly played in court for the jurors. Yesterday, he took off his mask to invoke his Fifth Amendment right. The judge, Peter Cahill, addressed him directly.


CAHILL: Is this your decision not to testify?

DEREK CHAUVIN: It is, Your Honor.

CAHILL: All right. Do you have any questions about your right to remain silent or to testify on your own behalf?

CHAUVIN: Not at this time, I don't.

CAHILL: All right. Has anyone promised anything or threatened you in any way to keep you from testifying?

CHAUVIN: No promises or threats, Your Honor.

FADEL: So, Steve, I should point out that Chauvin is the only police officer ever tried for the killing of a civilian in Minnesota who chose not to take the stand. And only four officers have ever stood trial in this state for killing a person while on duty. And of those, only one was convicted - a Black police officer who killed a white woman.

INSKEEP: OK. Now, as we know, it's just very rare for police officers to be convicted in these cases. That's kind of how the law goes. But what about this case?

FADEL: In this situation, we really don't know what the outcome will be. Chauvin is facing a second-degree unintentional murder charge, a third-degree murder charge and a third-degree manslaughter charge. The prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin is guilty. And a lot of legal experts say they've presented a strong case with some 38 witnesses and an incredible amount of haunting video from every angle of George Floyd's last breaths under Chauvin's knee.

Now, the defense called seven witnesses to raise doubt around the cause of death. Was it Chauvin's knee or, as the defense attorney, Eric Nelson, argued, could it have been something else - drugs, health problems, even carbon monoxide poisoning from the squad car? And so we'll see. The world is watching what will happen in this case, and many civil rights advocates see it as a referendum on race, policing and accountability for when police kill on the job.

INSKEEP: And it is intersecting in time with these other cases. It is this week that the Adam Toledo video is released. It is this week that Daunte Wright is killed during a traffic stop. How is the Wright case, which is not far from you, evolving now?

FADEL: Yeah, I mean, here outside Minneapolis, in Brooklyn Center, the white now-former police officer who killed Wright, a young Black man, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Wright's family says that's not enough. They want more severe charges. Daunte Wright's mother, Katie Wright, spoke at a press conference, and she said people have asked what they want. They've talked about justice.


KATIE WRIGHT: But unfortunately, there's never going to be justice for us. The justice would bring our son home to us, knocking on the door with his big smile, coming in the house, sitting down, eating dinner with us, going out to lunch, playing with his two - 1-year-old, almost 2-year-old, son, giving him a kiss before he walks out the door. So there - justice isn't even a word to me.

FADEL: So she said she wants accountability.

INSKEEP: It doesn't sound like the family is satisfied with the police explanation that this was an accidental shooting.

FADEL: Right. I mean, at the press conference where we heard Katie Wright speaking, civil rights attorney Ben Crump - he's representing the Wright family and the Floyd family - held up a picture of a yellow Taser and then a Glock 17, which is what killed Daunte Wright. He said it's very difficult for the family to believe that this was an accident. And every day and night, we've seen largely peaceful protests and some clashes over this killing.

INSKEEP: All right. Well, we'll keep listening for your coverage as the case in Minneapolis heads to the jury. Leila, thanks so much.

FADEL: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Leila Fadel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.

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