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4 p.m. Prosecution rebuttal ends

Prosecutors in the trial of Derek Chauvin have concluded their rebuttal of the defense's closing arguments.

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Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell this afternoon denounced defense claims that George Floyd died because of a combination of his heart condition and drug ingestion.

"You were told, for example, that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big. You heard that testimony. And now having seen all the evidence, having heard all the evidence, you know the truth. And the truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small," Blackwell said.

Blackwell reemphasized the testimony of Chicago-area pulmonary physician and textbook author Dr. Martin Tobin, who concluded that Floyd died of asphyxia while under the weight of Chauvin's knee and the other officers. He tried to portray Tobin's testimony as an answer to medical examiners who, during their own testimonies, said they would defer to a pulmonologist for comment on questions related to asphyxia.

The attorney also dismissed claims that the crowd of bystanders who witnessed Floyd's restraint at the hands of police was hostile. Blackwell called them a "bouquet of humanity" who had respect enough for "the badge" not to intervene despite being upset.

"They didn’t deserve to be called unruly because they weren't," he said.

Judge Peter Cahill instructed the jury on how to deliberate before sending them to their chamber. Chauvin's defense attorney then told the judge some of Blackwell's comments constituted "prosecutorial misconduct" that could be grounds for a mistrial, though Cahill disagreed.

Nelson did motion for a mistrial after airing concerns about the effect that media coverage of the trial could have on the jury, and asked whether "it can really be said to be that they are free from the taint of this." Jurors in the trial are only being sequestered for the duration of their deliberation period but have been told by Cahill to avoid news consumption.

He also alleged that U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., made "threats against the sanctity of the jury process" during her weekend appearance at a Brooklyn Center protest of Daunte Wright's killing by local police.

Cahill denied the motion and said he was aware of Waters' comments. He appeared to reject the idea that a congressional official's comments would be significant enough to derail the trial but rebuked Waters nonetheless.

"I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case," he said, raising his voice, "especially in a manner that is disrespectful of the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function."



Chauvin jury instructions 041921 by inforumdocs on Scribd

3 p.m. Three hours of defense remarks come to an end

In this still image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson mimics someone feigning a medical emergency as he makes closing arguments Monday, April 19, 2021, during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. (Pool via REUTERS)
In this still image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson mimics someone feigning a medical emergency as he makes closing arguments Monday, April 19, 2021, during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. (Pool via REUTERS)

The defense in the the trial of Derek Chauvin wrapped up its closing arguments this afternoon with an emphasis on the multiple factors at play in George Floyd's death.

Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson capped nearly three hours of remarks by criticizing expert witnesses who were dismissive of the idea that drug ingestion and underlying health issues were major factors in Floyd's death.

"When you take into consideration the presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, I would submit to you that it is nonsense to suggest none of these other factors had any role," he said.

Prosecuting attorneys will have the opportunity now to rebut the defense's closing arguments before turning the case over to the jury for deliberation.

2:10 p.m.: Defense stresses complicating factors in closing argument

Closing arguments for the defense in the trial of Derek Chauvin are continuing after more than two hours of remarks by attorney Eric Nelson.

Nelson throughout the day asked jurors to consider what information would have been available to Chauvin during his encounter with Floyd and how officers are trained to formulate responses in general.

"You have to look at it from the totality of the circumstances. You have to look at it from the reasonable police officer’s standpoint. You have to take into account that officers are human beings capable of making mistakes," he said. "This was an authorized use of force, as unattractive as it may be."

The options and actions are available to on officer in the course of a dispatch based on a number of factors, Nelson said, including where they are being dispatched to and what or who is present there. When Chauvin arrived at the Cup Foods convenience store on May 25, 2020, Nelson said for example, he was answering to a "Code 3" radio dispatch that called for a lights-and-siren response.

Chauvin would have immediately seen Floyd struggling with other Minneapolis police officers and resisting arrest upon his arrival, Nelson said, noting that the ex-officer hesitated before joining in the effort to force Floyd into a squad car. The attorney noted that previous witnesses said the officers acted appropriately toward Floyd before they brought him to the ground.

He also reiterated the dynamic nature of police work, and said it requires officers to actively assess and reassess whatever situation is at hand and how to respond to it. One consideration is whether a suspect is resisting arrest because of a desire to evade law enforcement or because of a medical or other emergency, Nelson said, and it has to be made bearing in mind that a suspect could be feigning an emergency and could put up resistance again.

In this still image from video, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listens to closing arguments Monday, April 19, 2021, during his trial for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Pool via REUTERS)
In this still image from video, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listens to closing arguments Monday, April 19, 2021, during his trial for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Pool via REUTERS)


Contradictions between a suspect's words and actions have to be taken into consideration as well, according to Nelson.

"A reasonable officer will hear the words that the suspect is saying, 'I'm a good guy ... I'm claustrophobic' and he's going to compare those words to the actions of the individual," Nelson said, quoting Floyd's own words.

As audio captured by the officers' body-worn cameras shows, Nelson said, Chauvin and the other officers discussed ceasing their restraint of Floyd but opted not to because an ambulance was en route.

Nelson also sought to discredit the prosecution's argument that Floyd died of asphyxia, saying jurors must weigh whether enough proof has been shown to rule out Floyd's underlying health conditions and drug ingestion as being factors in his death. He downplayed the significance of medical expert testimony compared to the findings of Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner for Hennepin County who performed Floyd's autopsy.

Baker labeled Floyd's cause of death as "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression" and the manner of death as homicide, which Nelson said the doctor views as a strictly medical term. He also listed in his autopsy report that Floyd's heart conditions and ingestion of fentanyl and methamphetamine were "significant factors."

Nelson was particularly critical of Dr. Martin Tobin's testimony. The Chicago-area pulmonary physician and author claimed to have calculated many of Floyds' vital signs as well as the pressure Chauvin placed on him based on a review of materials pertaining to his death, which he attributed to asphyxia.

"His entire testimony is filled with theory, speculation and assumption," Nelson said.

11:30 a.m.: Prosecution: Chauvin 'knew better, he just didn’t do better'

In this image from video, prosecutor Steve Schleicher addresses the court Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Screengrab via MPR News)
In this image from video, prosecutor Steve Schleicher addresses the court Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Screengrab via MPR News)

Prosecutors in the trial of Derek Chauvin presented their closing arguments this morning.

In a wide-ranging speech to the jury, attorney Steve Schleicher characterized the ex-officer's actions toward George Floyd the night he died as both purposefully harmful and negligent. He stressed that images depicted in widely seen phone footage of Floyd's arrest and death contained much of the information necessary for them to convict Chauvin.

"Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw," Schleicher said.

Citing the testimonies of expert witnesses, the prosecuting attorney again denounced Floyd's drug ingestion and heart conditions as being responsible for killing him. Schleicher told the jury that Floyd died because Chauvin and the other Minneapolis police officers who held him to the ground the night of May 25, 2020, compressed his neck and chest to the point where he would have essentially been "breathing through a straw."

Schleicher was critical of Chauvin for kneeling on Floyd's neck and back in way that previous expert witnesses said violated Minneapolis police protocols. Chauvin had to know he was causing Floyd harm by kneeling on top of him, Schleicher said, but continued to do so even after Floyd became unresponsive.

Chauvin, who was with the Minneapolis police for 19 years before he was fired following Floyd's death, "knew better, he just didn't do better," Schleicher said.

Following a brief break, Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson began his closing arguments.

In this still image from video, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill gives instructions to the jury before closing arguments commence Monday, April 19, 2021, during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. (Pool via REUTERS)
In this still image from video, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill gives instructions to the jury before closing arguments commence Monday, April 19, 2021, during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. (Pool via REUTERS)

9:40 a.m.: Closing arguments begin

After jurors heard instructions from Judge Peter Cahill, attorney Steve Schleicher began closing arguments for the prosecution in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

READ: Key moments in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd