Crime EXPLAINER: Chauvin jurors must disregard defendant's silence
'Blue wall of silence' takes hit in Chauvin's murder trial
Police accused of wrongdoing can usually count on the blue wall of silence — protection from fellow officers that includes everything from shutting off body cameras to refusing to cooperate with investigators. But that's not the case with Derek Chauvin, with many colleagues quick to condemn his actions in George Floyd's death, some even taking the stand against him. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin’s kneeling on the handcuffed Floyd's neck was “in no way, shape or form” in line with department policy or training. Homicide detective Lt. Richard Zimmerman testified, “If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill him.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jurors at the murder trial of the former Minneapolis police officer accused in George Floyd’s death were told Monday that his choice to remain silent cannot affect their decision.
Derek Chauvin on Thursday said he would, invoking his right to remain silent and leave the burden of proof on the state.
EXPLAINER: Judge lets jury decide Floyd's remark about drugs
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd said Monday that he'll leave it up to the jury to sort out whether Floyd yelled “I ate too many drugs” or “I ain’t do no drugs” as three officers pinned him to the ground. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill made the ruling as attorneys argued over whether to allow the testimony of a use-of-force expert for the prosecution, Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina Law School. Prosecutors wanted him to testify from an academic perspective on whether Chauvin used reasonable force and about national policing standards.
It was a high-stakes decision. Taking the stand could have helped humanize Chauvin towho didn't heard from him directly at trial, but it could also have opened him up to a devastating cross-examination.
Legal experts widely agree that jurors often consider a defendant's silence as a sign of guilt, despite the type of instructions that Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill read aloud Monday before attorneys began their closing arguments.
Chauvin's right not to testify “is guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions,” he said. “You should not draw any inference from the fact that the defendant has not testified in this case."
Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. Here’s a look at some of the issues that likely went into Chauvin’s decision not to take the stand:
Defense set to take turn in ex-cop's trial in Floyd death
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The defense for a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd's death was set to start presenting its case Tuesday, following 11 days of a prosecution narrative that combined wrenching video with clinical analysis by medical and use-of-force experts to condemn Derek Chauvin's actions. Prosecutors called their final witnesses Monday, leaving only some administrative matters before they were expected to rest Tuesday. Once the defense takes over, Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson is expected to have his own experts testify that it was Floyd's drug use and bad heart, not Chauvin's actions, that killed him.
DID JURORS WANT TO HEAR FROM CHAUVIN?
Cahill questioned Chauvin on Thursday to ensure he understood the ramifications of not testifying, and that the final decision was his and not his attorney's. Chauvin affirmed his decision to remain silent was voluntary.
But legal experts widely agree that many jurors interpret a defendant’s silence as evidence of guilt.
Minnesota defense attorney Mike Brandt said during the trial that he thought jurors would be disappointed if Chauvin didn't take the stand, saying they needed to “hear his explanation of why he did what he did.”
WHY MIGHT CHAUVIN HAVE WANTED TO TESTIFY?
Images from bystander video of Chauvin pinning Floyd to the pavement, his face impassive, were played nearly every day at trial and are likely seared into the minds of many jurors.
The face mask Chauvinbecause of the pandemic hid any possible display of emotion during testimony. Taking the stand would have given him a chance to explain the video and show another side, maybe giving the jury a reason to convict him only of manslaughter.
EXPLAINER: Ex-officer on trial for Floyd death won't testify
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in George Floyd’s death said Thursday that he won't testify in his own defense, invoking his right to remain silent and leave the burden of proof on the state. It was a high-stakes decision. Taking the stand could have helped humanize Derek Chauvin to jurors who haven't heard from him directly at trial, but it could also have opened him up to a devastating cross-examination.
Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, said last week that Chauvin had nothing to lose by testifying, especially because “that video is so damaging.”
He said: “You’ve got to get up there and give an explanation. It’s a no-brainer.”
Multiple witnesses and video evidence showed Chauvin pinning Floyd for almost 9 1/2 minutes, well beyond the time Floyd stopped moving and a fellow officer said he could not find a pulse.
COULD TESTIFYING HAVE HURT CHAUVIN’S CASE?
Answering sympathetic questions from his own lawyer wouldn’t have been a problem. But cross-examination could have increased his odds of conviction. Prosecutors could have played bystander video of Chauvin, who is white, pinning Floyd — a Black man — and paused it every few seconds to ask why he stayed on top of Floyd.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson said Thursday that the decision for Chauvin to not take the stand had not been easy.
“‘We have gone back and forth on the matter’ would be kind of an understatement, right?” Nelson asked Chauvin.
“Yes it is,” Chauvin replied.
Attorneys at Chauvin trial in Floyd death make final pitch
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Attorneys in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd are set to make their closing arguments Monday, each side seeking to distill three weeks of testimony to persuade jurors to deliver their view of the right verdict. For prosecutors, Derek Chauvin recklessly squeezed the life from Floyd as he and two other officers pinned him to the street for 9 minutes, 29 seconds outside a corner market, despite Floyd's repeated cries that he couldn't breathe — actions they say warrant conviction not just for manslaughter but also on two murder counts.
As the defense developed its case — through cross-examination of the state’s witnesses and its own witness testimonies — the need for Chauvin to testify faded, Brandt said.
Chauvin surely would have been subjected to a “very thorough, probing and brutal” cross-examination from the prosecution, Brandt said.
WAS CHAUVIN LIKABLE ENOUGH TO TESTIFY?
Most lawyers want to be sure jurors will like their clients before putting them on the stand.
“Chauvin doesn’t come across as a warm and pleasant person. And jurors want to see a caring and empathetic person. That is the one big liability: If jurors don’t like Chauvin, his fate is sealed,” Brandt said.
Chicago-based attorney Steve Greenberg agreed. If Chauvin rubbed jurors the wrong way, it could have backfired, Greenberg said.
WHAT COULD CHAUVIN HAVE SAID IN HIS DEFENSE?
The U.S. Supreme Court hasif the officers believed their lives were at risk — even if, in hindsight, they were wrong. Only Chauvin could speak to what he was thinking that day, Turner said.
Chauvin could have told jurors he’s not a doctor and couldn’t have known Floyd was dying, said Turner. He could have said he kept his knee on Floyd because, from his experience, he knew larger suspects were capable of breaking free and posing a threat.
His lawyer could have had Chauvin testify that he was worried about Floyd’s well-being, and he might have said he wasn’t pressing hard on Floyd’s neck, despite expert testimony that calculated half his body weight plus gear was on Floyd at least part of the time.
WHAT WERE THE ODDS HE WOULD TESTIFY?
Not good. Greenberg said lawyers at murder trials typically don’t want their clients to testify. In more than 100 murder trials, he said fewer than 10 of his clients took the stand.
“When defendants do testify, it is usually a Hail Mary pass” by a desperate defense that believes it has slim chance of acquittal on any charges, Greenberg said.
Tarm reported from Chicago. Kathleen Foody contributed from Chicago.
Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at:
Anonymous jury in Derek Chauvin trial part of a growing trend that has some legal experts worried .
Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd by an anonymous jury, a trend that has some legal experts worried about transparency.They were a racially diverse group — six white Americans, four Black Americans and two mixed-race Americans — that include a dog lover, sports fan, single parent, insurance agent, nurse and retiree. But one thing remains a mystery: their names.