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What To Expect In Chauvin Trial This Week


We are going to start today in Minneapolis, which is preparing for a possible verdict this week in the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with killing George Floyd during an arrest last May, setting off massive protests around the world. Tomorrow, jurors will hear closing statements. And we are going to hear now from Leila Fadel, who has been covering the trial from Minneapolis. Leila, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So just tell us more about what we might expect tomorrow.

FADEL: So as you said, the prosecution and the defense will present their closing arguments to the jury. And following the defense's closing argument, the prosecution will give a rebuttal, and then the jury will get instructions from the judge and be sequestered as they deliberate on the murder charges and manslaughter charge Chauvin is facing.

Now, this jury is very aware they're deliberating on a verdict under intense public scrutiny, and it's happening as another Black man was killed by police during a routine traffic stop in a suburb of Minneapolis. The verdict could come within hours or weeks. We really don't know how long it will take.

MARTIN: You know, I think it's fair to say that for a lot of people, this seems very clear. There is ample documentation of the fact that George Floyd was pinned to the ground for nine minutes and 29 seconds under former officer Derek Chauvin's knee. He took his last breaths under that knee. As I said, there's ample documentation of this. So what's at stake here?

FADEL: Well, I mean, it's pretty rare - like you said, so many people feel like the outcome should be clear, but it's pretty rare for a police officer to get convicted for the killing of an unarmed person. Here in Minnesota, only one police officer has ever been convicted for killing someone. And in that case, it was a Black police officer that shot and killed a white woman.

And - but this case has been unusual, in particular because we saw police officers testify against one of their own. From the witness stand, we heard police officers call Chauvin pinning Floyd's neck to the ground for so long totally unnecessary, excessive and a violation of police department policies. Among those who testified was the police chief, Medaria Arradondo, which, as far as we know, is unprecedented.


MEDARIA ARRADONDO: To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back - that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy. It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.

MARTIN: So, Leila, as near as you can tell, how would you describe the mood in the city right now as the city waits for this verdict?

FADEL: Well, downtown is a maze of boarded-up buildings. On city corners, there are military-style vehicles, armed National Guard - same thing at certain highway exits. And when I ask people how they're feeling, I hear the words nervous, scared, anxious, like Ashley Phelps. I met her outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, and that's the suburb where 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed by police last Sunday. Phelps was there because her son asked her if they could protest. As for what she expects from this trial...

ASHLEY PHELPS: If you watch the trial, it seems overwhelmingly evident that he murdered him. But what history will tell us is that for people of color, there is no guarantee in any kind of way that justice will actually be served, no matter how compelling the evidence is, no matter the fact that we all can see it point-blank with our own eyes. I'm nervous because clearly, we can see the people will not be silenced any longer.

FADEL: She says if Chauvin is convicted on all charges, it's a small step toward change, and she hopes it sets a precedent.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Leila Fadel. Leila, thank you so much for your reporting.

FADEL: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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