Minneapolis, Minnesota – Closing arguments on Monday marked the final stage of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd as Minneapolis sits on edge ahead of a verdict.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher summarised the state’s succinct argument that Chauvin used excessive force when he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds last May, which was not part of his training.
Schleicher told the jury it was Floyd being pressed against the “unyielding pavement … as unyielding as the men who held him down”, that killed Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, who was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
Defence lawyer Eric Nelson will again try to plant seeds of doubt in the jury, pointing to the testimony of expert witnesses who said Chauvin, who is white, acted appropriately. Nelson will also cite Floyd’s pre-existing health issues and drug use as the real cause of death.
Jerry Blackwell, a prosecution lawyer lauded for his compassion during the trial, will offer a rebuttal.
The 45-year-old Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Once arguments close, the jury will be sequestered and decide the verdicts on these charges.
Tensions are high in Minneapolis. Government buildings and some storefronts have boarded up their windows in anticipation of unrest after the verdict and closed early the night before the trial.
National Guard troops are positioned along busy thoroughfares throughout the city.
Josh Soto, a 23-year-old car mechanic who said he wasn’t political, told Al Jazeera he wished the National Guard troops would leave as he purchased a coffee at a petrol station with troops stationed outside.
“They don’t help. They just make us feel like we did something wrong. But we didn’t.”
The April 11 police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb, increased these tensions, leading to raucous protests.
Law enforcement and the National Guard have been criticised for their reaction to protests in Brooklyn Center. They detained over 100 members of the media on Friday and have used tear gas and other less-lethal munitions on crowds.
Michelle Gross, head of the Minneapolis-based Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) told Al Jazeera they are “pressing the governor to get rid of the extra military presence that is harming the community”.
The jury has no time limit for deliberations, but Gross said many in the community fear for the worst.
A coalition of more than 20 local organisations, including CUAPB, has organised a protest for 5pm (17:00 CST, 22:00 GMT) that will begin near the Hennepin County Government Center that serves at the courthouse.
Gross pointed to government buildings like the courthouse that “have already boarded themselves up. Surrounded themselves with double layers of fencing. People are feeling like they already know what the verdict is going to be.”
She concluded: “People are nervous.”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA