MINNEAPOLIS – The prosecution and defense have rested their respective cases in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
So, what happens now in the proceedings against the man accused in the death of George Floyd?
Judge Peter Cahill told the 14 members of the jury that they should return to court at 9 a.m. CDT on Monday and be prepared to hear closing arguments from attorneys on both sides. Following that, Cahill will instruct the jurors on the laws in the case before the panel members start verdict deliberations. Two members of the jury will be informed that they were alternates and will not be part of 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 last Memorial Day. If convicted of the most serious charge, he could face 10½ years to 15 years in prison under sentencing guidelines for first-time offenders. But he could receive a lesser term.
What happens next?
On Monday, a prosecutor and a defense attorney will summarize the respective evidence and witness testimony. During these closing statements, they will try to focus jurors on the most important elements, and what they argue those elements proved.
After the attorneys finish, Cahill will instruct jurors on the laws they must follow during their deliberations. This means he will explain each charge against Chauvin, and the legal elements that underlie those charges.
Jurors must decide whether or not the government proved all of the elements of a given charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense bears no burden of proof, and Chauvin is deemed innocent unless convicted at trial.
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What are jury deliberations?
Jurors typically retire to a secure courthouse room where a court marshal keeps watch outside. Although they have been together in court since the trial began in March, this is the first time they are supposed to talk together about the case, and discuss all the witness testimony and evidence.
They are allowed to review any of the exhibits that were entered into evidence. They also are allowed to re-hear specific testimony from any of the witnesses. The jurors may send written messages out to the judge with any questions that arise.
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What does it mean to sequester the jury?
During deliberations, the court will provide meals for the jurors and put them up for the night in a hotel, where security will be provided by marshals. The jurors are not allowed to discuss the case with anyone else, or even with each other when they’re outside the deliberation room.
Does the jury verdict have to be unanimous?
For guilty verdict, yes. If jurors feel they are unable to reach a verdict on any given charge, they will report this to Cahill. Judges typically instruct jurors to go back and keep trying while carefully listening to one another’s arguments and opinions.
What happens if the jury can’t reach a unanimous verdict?
If disagreements persist, the judge may declare a mistrial 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 retry Chauvin.
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How long will it take to reach a verdict?
Every trial is different, so accurately predicting the length of jury deliberations is difficult. However, experienced legal observers told USA TODAY that Minnesota juries typically have returned verdicts with a few days, particularly if they are sequestered.
On Thursday, Cahill told jurors: “If I were you, I would plan for long (deliberations) and hope for short.” Earlier this week, he told them to be prepared to “pack a bag” when they return to court next week.