Chauvin murder trial: UC law professor explains requirements to convict

The jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial heard closing arguments Monday and deliberated for four hours before adjourning for the night.

The jury is made up of seven women and five men. Six are white, six identify themselves as Black or multi-racial. They will be staying at a hotel every night until they reach a verdict or decide that they can't agree on the charges.

In court, the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin sat quietly through closing arguments.

He is charged with the death of George Floyd, an incident seen around the world due to cell phone videos that were taken when Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground during an arrest for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

Prosecutors told the jury to focus on the video and witness testimony including fellow police officers that Chauvin disregarded police use-of-force training.

"Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw," said Steve Schleicher one of the prosecuting attorneys.  

"Why the use of deadly a man who is defenseless, who is handcuffed, who is not resisting, who is not breathing?" asked Jerry Blackwell, another prosecutor. 

The defense argued that Floyd died from other causes including heart disease and the methamphetamine and fentanyl found in his system and that Chauvin was distracted by the crowd.

"The proper analysis is to take those 9 minutes and 29 seconds and put into the context of the totality of circumstances of what a reasonable police officer would know," said Eric Nelson, Chauvin's defense attorney.

The jury is deliberating on three separate charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

UC Berkeley criminal law professor Jonathan Simon says while all three charges are homicides, there are very different standards for conviction.

He said a conviction on the second-degree murder charge would require the jury to agree Chauvin had the intent to harm.

"They're going to have to find that Chauvin knew he was no longer using force for reasonable reasons and they're going to have to find that he intended to harm Floyd," said Simon.

Simon says a third-degree murder charge does not need to show intent.

"He doesn't have to have intended to kill Floyd or any particular person...He has to have exhibited indifference to human life," said Simon.

As for the second-degree manslaughter charge, Simon notes the jury will need to compare Chauvin's actions deviated from what other officers might do.

"And that basically is causing the death of another person through conduct that is unreasonable," said Simon.

One significant difference in this trial, Simon noted, was the number of Chauvin's former police colleagues who testified that he had violated police training.

"A whole series of police officers, including the chief of police in Minneapolis, in uniform, have all testified that Chauvin did depart in significant ways from the way Minneapolis police and police generally are trained in use force," said Simon.

The question of whether the jury reaches an acquittal also could depend on whether they believe the defense team's argument that Chauvin was distracted by the crowd.

"The idea that he's deliberately trying to harm Floyd may not be proven if the jury thinks well, it could be but it also could be he was distracted and simply lost track of how much time had passed," said Simon.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or