George Floyd: Derek Chauvin 'had to know' Floyd was dying as he knelt on neck, prosecutor says in murder trial

George Floyd's family heard the final arguments in Derek Chauvin's murder trial, ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports

Former police officer Derek Chauvin "had to know" he was squeezing the life out of George Floyd as he had his knee on Mr Floyd's neck, a prosecutor said before the jury were sent out to deliberate in the murder case against Chauvin.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher in his closing statement said the police officer showed indifference when the 46-year-old black man cried out over and over that he could not breathe as he was pinned down on the pavement.

He played a video of Chauvin replying, “Uh-huh” several times as Mr Floyd cries out.

But defence lawyer Eric Nelson said Chauvin did what any "reasonable" police officer would have done as he was in a "dynamic" and "fluid" situation where a large man was struggling with three officers.

The jury have been sent out to deliberate on whether or not Chauvin, 45, is guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old black man.

Jurors were sent out after closing arguments on Monday at Hennepin County Courthouse, Minneapolis.

Defence lawyer Eric Nelson, left, and defendant Derek Chauvin Credit: Court TV, via AP/Pool

Mr Schleicher said on Monday that Chauvin was “on top of him (Mr Floyd) for 9 minutes and 29 seconds and he had to know.”

“George Floyd’s final words on May 25, 2020 were ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ And he said those words to Mr. Officer. He said those words to the defendant.” Schleicher said, as he pointed to Chauvin. “He asked for help with his very last breath.”

“The defendant heard him say that over and over. He heard him, but he just didn’t listen. He continued to push him down, to grind into him, to shimmy, to twist his hand for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. He begged. George Floyd begged until he could speak no more, and the defendant continued this assault,” said Schleicher, who repeatedly used the word “assault.”

Prosecutors need to convince jurors that there was underlying assault for Chauvin to be convicted of the most serious charge of second-degree murder.

He said Chauvin knew the risks of positional asphyxia, had warnings from bystanders and even ignored a fellow officer's advice to roll Mr Floyd to the side in a recovery position.

He said: "He knew better, he just didn't do better. He knew that kneeling on somebody's neck is dangerous. Anyone can tell you that."

Concluding, Mr Schleicher said: “This wasn’t policing. This was murder.”

Mr Nelson, defending, argued Mr Floyd died of heart disease and illegal use of the drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine, not Chauvin’s actions.

The defence lawyer said Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr Andrew Baker, who performed the autopsy of Mr Floyd's body, listed the 46-year-old's drug use and underlying health problems as contributing factors to his death.

Although, the county medical examiner did rule Mr Floyd's death a homicide, saying his heart gave out because of the way police held him down.

Mr Nelson showed the jury pictures of pills found in Mr Floyd’s SUV and pill remnants discovered in the squad car.

Visitors at a memorial to George Floyd as a new addition commemorating Daunte Wright is displayed outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, Minnesota Credit: John Minchill/AP

But prosecutor Mr Schleicher said the level of drugs in Mr Floyd's body was "well below the level" to cause death.

And he said Mr Floyd's heart failed because of Chauvin's use of force, not because of a sudden cardiac arrhythmia. He repeated the statement by lung and critical care specialist Martin Tobin that Mr Floyd died due to lack of oxygen while being pinned down.

Mr Floyd also put himself at risk by resisting officers, defence lawyer Mr Nelson said.

Playing footage of Mr Floyd pinned down on the pavement, he said the 46-year-old was raising his legs to kick officers, evidence of resistance.

“A reasonable police officer understands the intensity of the struggle,” Mr Nelson said, saying that Chauvin’s body-worn camera and his police badge were knocked off his chest.

But prosecutor Mr Schleicher argued Mr Floyd being big and being on drugs was not a "threat", but a "risk", and those factors did not justify the police officer's use of force.

He said a reasonable officer with Chauvin’s training and 19 years of experience should've known a handcuffed Mr Floyd was not a threat. He said: "George Floyd was not a threat, he never was. He wasn't resisting. He just wasn't able to comply. They had him handcuffed, they had plenty of resources."

He also said: "Facing George Floyd that day did not require one ounce of courage. And none was shown on that day. No courage was required. All that was required was a little compassion and none was shown on that day.”

Defence lawyer Mr Nelson argued the standard for judging the officer is not what he should have done or could have done differently, but: “What were the facts that were known to this officer at the precise moment he used force and, considering all of the totality of circumstances and facts known to the officer... what would a reasonable police officer have done?”

Mr Schleicher said Chauvin's failure to administer CPR when Mr Floyd fell unconscious added to his guilt. He said he even rebuffed help from an off-duty paramedic.

But defence lawyer Mr Nelson said officers may have thought it was not safe to give medical aid to Mr Floyd in an environment where agitated onlookers were shouting at officers.

A picture of George Floyd on a fence outside the Hennepin County Government Center where the trial is taking place. Credit: AP

Explaining the rejection of an off-duty paramedic, Mr Nelson said Chavin reacted to the crowd by taking out his Mace spray. At that time, the off-duty paramedic appeared behind Chauvin, startling him.

Mr Nelson said: “All of these facts and circumstances simultaneously occur at a critical moment. And that changed Officer Chauvin’s perception of what was happening."

Judge Peter Cahill advised jurors to review different types of evidence and to consider each charge separately.

The anonymous jury are deliberating in a downtown courthouse surrounded by concrete barriers and razor wire - as racial tensions bubble in the city.

A few protesters gathered outside the courthouse Monday. And there has been fresh outrage over the police killing of 20-year-old black man Daunte Wright after authorities last Monday released body camera footage of the incident.

George Floyd's girlfriend Courteney Ross cried as she gave evidence in the Derek Chauvin murder trial Credit: Court TV via AP, Pool

All three charges require the jury to conclude that Chauvin’s actions were a “substantial causal factor” in Mr Floyd’s death, and that his use of force was unreasonable.

Second-degree murder requires proof that Chauvin intended to harm Mr Floyd, but not that he intended to kill him. The maximum sentence is 40 years in jail.

Third-degree murder requires proof that Chauvin’s actions were “eminently dangerous” and done with indifference to loss of life. The maximum sentence is 25 years.

However, sentencing guidelines on both murder charges call for far less time, including 12.5 years.

Second-degree manslaughter requires proof that Mr Floyd's death was caused by negligence and that Chauvin consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death. The maximum sentence is 10 years.