MINNEAPOLIS – The prosecution and defense have put their respective arguments to rest in the trial of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin.
So what now happens in the proceedings against the man charged with the death of George Floyd?
Judge Peter Cahill told the 14 jury members they should return to court at 9 a.m. CDT on Monday and be ready to hear oral arguments from lawyers on both sides. Subsequently, Cahill will brief jurors on the laws of the case before panel members begin deliberations on the verdict. Two members of the jury will be informed that they were alternates and will not participate in the deliberations.
The jury will be sequestered during its deliberations.
Chauvin is charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death on the last Memorial Day. If convicted of the most serious charge, he could face 10 and a half to 15 years in prison under the sentencing guidelines for first-time offenders. But he could receive a lesser term.
What happens next?
On Monday, a prosecutor and defense attorney will summarize the respective evidence and testimony. During these closing statements, they will try to focus the jurors on the most important elements, and what they claim that those elements have proven.
Once the lawyers are finished, Cahill will brief jurors on the laws they must follow in their deliberations. This means that he will explain each charge against Chauvin and the legal elements behind those charges.
Jurors must decide whether or not the government has proven all the elements of a given charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense has no burden of proof and Chauvin is deemed innocent unless convicted at trial.
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What are jury deliberations?
Jurors usually retire to a secure courthouse room where a court marshal watches outside. Although they have been in court together since the trial began in March, this is the first time they are expected to speak together about the case and discuss all of the testimony and evidence.
They are authorized to examine all the exhibits that have been tendered into evidence. They are also permitted to rehear specific testimony from any of the witnesses. Jurors can send written messages to the judge with any questions that arise.
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What does sequestering the jury mean?
During the deliberations, the court will provide meals to the jurors and lodge them for the night in a hotel, where security will be ensured by marshals. Jurors are not allowed to discuss the case with anyone, or even among themselves when they are outside the deliberation room.
Must the jury’s verdict be unanimous?
For a guilty verdict, yes. If jurors feel unable to reach a verdict on a given charge, they will report it to Cahill. Judges usually ask jurors to go back and keep trying while carefully listening to the arguments and opinions of others.
What if the jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict?
If disagreements persist, the judge may declare the trial null and void on one or more of the charges. The prosecution, in this case the Minnesota attorney general’s office, would then regroup and decide whether to try Chauvin again.
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How long will it take to reach a verdict?
Every trial is different, so it’s difficult to accurately predict the length of jury deliberations. However, experienced legal observers told USA TODAY that juries in Minnesota usually render verdicts with a few days, especially if they are sequestered.
On Thursday, Cahill told jurors: “If I were you I would schedule long (deliberations) and I hope it’s short.” Earlier this week, he told them to prepare to “pack a bag” when they return to court next week.