Vermont expert says US judicial system under ‘incredible pressure’ in Chauvin trial

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In Minneapolis, the jury in the Derek Chauvin case is now deliberating after a full day of closing arguments. Chauvin faces three charges in the death of George Floyd — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Prosecutors urged the jury to go with their gut and believe their eyes. Jurors have seen extensive video footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds as he said pinned to the ground in handcuffs. The defense, meanwhile, argued that Chauvin’s actions were reasonable given the totality of the circumstances, and asked the jury to look beyond the 9 minutes and 29 seconds that have been the center of this case.

The magnitude of this case and the incoming verdict can be felt in the months of nationwide protest that began in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death, in the crowds that gathered at the site of the incident on Monday, and in the heavy National Guard presence throughout Minneapolis.

Jared Carter, a professor at Vermont Law School, said that backdrop will be hard for the jury to ignore.

“The jury is under incredible pressure,” Carter said. “The whole judicial system is under incredible pressure because of the microscope this case will be under, and it’s a direct result of the history of this country.”

Philonise Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd, had an impassioned message for the jury ahead of Monday’s closing arguments: “Minnesota, they have to get this right,” he said. “The jury, they have to get this right. My brother — he was tortured to death over nine minutes.”

The eventual verdict will be a pivotal moment in America and the broader conversation on police reform and injustice, and Carter said it’s a reckoning that isn’t suited for the courtroom alone.

“Courts are ill-equipped to address broad social justice issues like this,” Carter said. “Really, if we’re going to deal with these issues, I think it’s going to have to happen community-by-community, state-by-state, in Congress and in state legislatures.”

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