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Jury To Deliberate The Case Of Derek Chauvin; Defense Appeal For A Mistrial; Rep. Maxine Water's Comments Might Be Grounds For Appeal; Jury Gets Case In Derek Chauvin Murder Trial. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 19, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNKNOWN: so there will be no additional instruction in that regard.
ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE DEREK CHAUVIN'S LAWYER: I do believe that it constitutes prosecutorial misconduct and is potentially basis for grounds for a mistrial.
PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA DISTRICT COURT: That I think the use of the word nonsense is what you're talking about originally?
NELSON: Originally, your honor, but then in rebuttal there were repeated comments about how we were and implications that we were -- that we were shading was one example, that we were creating Halloween stories, was another example, that these were stories and that was a repeated comment, stated that we misrepresented facts and put words into Dr. Baker's mouth.
That we made several statements that they put forth as stories after the court instructed him to use the -- stop using the word stories. He clarified that it's just fabricated facts. And so there were multiple references to that, that we were shading the truth, right? I mean, and again, so multiple objections.
This is socially governed by state versus McDaniel, the final argument of the jury, a prosecutor is governed by a unique set of rules which differs significantly from those governing counsel in civil suit and even those governing defense counsel in a very same criminal trial.
These special rules follow directly from the prosecutor's inherently unique role in the criminal justice system which mandates that the prosecutor not act as a zealous advocate for criminal punishment, but as a representative of the people in an effort to seek justice.
For example, that when a prosecutor argues that a defense is meritless, you cannot belittle the defense even in the abstract or suggesting that the defense was raised because it was the only defense (inaudible). There's lots of law on this, your honor, and essentially these comments, the repeated comments constitute prosecutorial misconduct.
CAHILL: I'll note for the record that I overruled the first objection when Mr. Blackwell used the word story because it was isolated and in its context did not seem to me to be belittling. However, the continued use of it, I did sustain the ultimate objection that counsel made to the use of the word stories and instructed the jury to disregard it.
Also on shading the truth, that I sustained the objection and instructed the jury to disregard it. I'm not making any findings as to whether it was the type of prosecutorial misconduct that would result in a mistrial. I think it was adequately addressed by the court's instruction to disregard.
All right. Well with regard to other matters we have, I think there are some bench conferences that you want to -- that are fairly historical that you wanted to memorialize but also a new motion based on events this weekend. Mr. Nelson?
NELSON: Correct, your honor. Your honor, as the court is aware and as prior to coming into court this morning for closing arguments, we had an in-chambers discussion about events of this weekend, specifically referencing that an elected official, a United States Congress person was making what I interpreted to be and what I think are reasonably interpreted to be threats against the sanctity of the jury process, threatening and intimidating the jury demanding that if there's not a guilty verdict that there would be further -- further -- further problems, your honor.
And given the fact that this jury has not been sequestered, it has been my position all along throughout the course of this case that this jury should have been sequestered at the outset, the jury has not been continually -- has not been continually told to stay away from media, only media about this case.
There is a high probability that members of this jury have seen these comments, are familiar with these comments and things that have happened throughout the course of this trial. I mean, it's unfortunate that there was another situation that occurred during the course of this trial, but obviously, your honor, we also, as I mentioned, previously, too, one of them does live in the city, Brooklyn Center, as I recall.
CAHILL: Although I think that is the alternate we just dismissed.
NELSON: I do not believe so. I believe --
CAHILL: I thought it was, but go ahead.
NELSON: No, I'd have to go back and double check my notes. So your honor, I just think that the sum total of this trial happening in such a public context, number one, number two, while this -- all of this, I mean, the media attention is profound. I have admittedly stayed away from 99 percent of it, but that has required me to stay away from all media.
I mean, this case has made -- made -- found its way to even fictional television, your honor.
[17:04:57] There were two -- I was advised of two television shows in the course of the past few days that specifically involved references to this particular case, and the reactions of the characters in these stories to this particular case.
This jury has -- despite all best efforts, has been bombarded with information relevant to this case. It is impossible to stay away from it unless you literally shut off your phone or you shut off your TV, you shut off your computer, and no such instructions have been given during the course of this trial.
CAHILL: Well, to be fair, the last few times I've advised them, I told them don't watch the news, pure and simple.
NELSON: Right. But if you can't even watch your favorite Thursday night television program and it comes up, I mean, this is the problem, right. And why I have felt that this jury should have been sequestered from the very beginning.
NELSON: I want to make that clear. And so I had moved based on that, again, for a mistrial. The idea is that it's a public trial. I think the court has accomplished that, but the media attention is so profound, it is such -- I mean, it is such a modern comparison. I mean, it's such a modern problem to have where literally I walk from this courtroom into the courtroom where I have been permitted to stay.
During the course of this trial, I've received literally thousands and thousands and thousands of e-mails, so much so that I don't even look at that particular e-mail anymore. So -- but my phone gives me alerts on things that just happened. I mean, you can't avoid it, and it is so pervasive that it is -- I just don't know how this jury can really be said to be that they are free from the taint of this.
And now that we have U.S. representatives threatening acts of violence in relation to this specific case, it's mind-boggling to me, judge.
CAHILL: Well, I'll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned, but what's the state's position?
MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your honor, the state's position first and foremost, and this is a concern I raised at the beginning of the proceedings, you know, while it's a jury selection, is that we can't allow statements like this, vague statements to be considered a part of the record on appeal.
If there's a specific statement that a specific U.S. representative made, then there needs to be some sort of formal offer of proof with the exact quotes and the exact statement or some kind of a declaration, and I'm sure Mr. Nelson can do that if he thinks that that's something that's appropriate.
I don't know that this particular representative made a specified threat of violence. I don't know what the context of the statement is. I also don't know what television shows Mr. Nelson is referring to in terms of any of this. And so I just don't think that we can muddy the record with vague allegations as to things that have happened without very specific evidence that's being offered before the court.
As a practical matter, through the jury selection process, the court has provided instructions, has determined whether or not there are any outside influences. The law presumes that the jury follows the judge's instructions and the court has instructed the jury, instructed the jury today that they are not to let any outside influences or public opinion sway their deliberation, and the law presumes that they will be capable of doing that.
And so without any sort of specific offer of proof or information in the record, without any specific evidence that this particular juror -- jury was influenced in any particular way, I believe that the defendant's motion should be denied.
NELSON: And your honor, I make it -- I make my comments, I mean, in the context of this is all such an evolving situation. Obviously, I spend my weekend preparing for closing remarks and I certainly can supplement the record with news articles. I can supplement the record with, you know, the story lines of the particular shows that were brought to my attention so there's -- I'm making it to note the record at this particular point, and I can certainly supplement.
CAHILL: Yes, you can supplement the record with whatever media reports. I'm aware of the media reports. I'm aware that Congresswoman Waters was talking specifically about this trial and about the unacceptability of anything less than a murder conviction and talking about being confrontational, but you can submit the press articles about that.
This goes back to what I've been saying from the beginning. I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function. I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful and in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the constitution, to respect a co-equal branch of government.
Their failure to do so I think is abhorrent, but I don't think it's prejudiced us with additional material that would prejudice this jury. They have been told not to watch the news. I trust they are following those instructions and that there is not in any way a prejudice to defend (ph) beyond the articles that we're talking specifically about the facts of this case.
A congresswoman's opinion really doesn't matter a whole lot. Anyway, so, motion for mistrial is denied. With regard to -- there was a report that counsel were made aware of a few days ago that a juror may have been talking to a major media outlet. We checked with that media -- it appeared right from the beginning that it was third hand, hearsay, telephone game. That media outlet, in fact, took it very seriously. Did a nationwide
contact of all of its reporters and staff to check out any voracity and there apparently is none whatsoever. Nobody from this major media outlet made any contact, and I find that credible and so just for the record I pass that along. Now, think we still have the memorialization, but we also have to talk about a Blakely waiver.
NELSON: Yes, your honor. So, a couple of things. In terms of the memorialization of the sidebars and the objections, we had previously provided and we had suggested that we would -- that we provided our memorandum of the objections that the defense had made at sidebars. I am going to propose rather than just simply reading through and taking an hour's time that we submit those objections in writing now that happened.
NELSON: And in consultation with the state and they can include their objections that we did not include.
CAHILL: It would be nice to include just essentially a stipulated pleading that sets out what the objection was and what the court's ruling. There is no need to repeat what the arguments were. The only thing that you need to preserve for appeal is what the objection was and what the court's ruling was.
So, I would encourage both parties to get together and figure that out and file it reasonably quickly. I mean, it doesn't have to be today, tomorrow or even the next day, but just get at it while our memories are fresh.
FRANK: And if there's a discrepancy between the memories, your honor, I'm expecting that we're going to be able to come up with a stipulated document, but if there's anything that needs to be set out we can just indicate our contrary memories of that and it should be free speech (ph).
CAHILL: Absolutely. I think that would be the best way to memorialize this in any case. All right. Other than Blakely, do we have any other issues to make a record of?
NELSON: No, your honor. I think we just need to have some administrative discussions about questions, timing.
CAHILL: We can do that in a chambers discussion. All right. With regard to Blakely.
NELSON: Sure. I have not yet had Mr. Chauvin execute the written waiver. Again, I do have it. We can print it and get that taken care of, but I can do an oral waiver now with the court.
CAHILL: If you would.
NELSON: Mr. Chauvin, take your mask off. Mr. Chauvin, you are aware that during the course of these proceedings the state has filed what's called the Blakely Notice or a notice to seek an aggravated sentence, correct?
DEREK CHAUVIN, DEFENDANT: Yes.
NELSON: I have explained to you the basis on which the state is seeking to have an aggravated sentence imposed in the event of a conviction on any one of the counts here, correct?
NELSON: We have discussed those, and I have -- I have specifically advised you that you have a right to have a jury decide whether or not the state has proven those grounds for an aggravated sentence beyond a reasonable doubt. You have a right to have a jury decide if you violate them, right?
NELSON: And I've advised you that the state has to prove those grounds beyond a reasonable doubt?
NELSON: And we can waive that right and allow -- if you're convicted, we can waive your right to a trial and allow the judge to make those determinations. I've advised you about that, right?
CHAUVIN: Yes, you have.
NELSON: Now, do you want a jury to make a decision about the proof required for the aggravated factors if there's a conviction or are you willing to waive your right to a trial on those matters and allow Judge Cahill to make those decisions?
CHAUVIN: I'm allowed to waive it and have Judge Cahill decide on those issues.
CAHILL: Mr. Chauvin, again, I'm going to address you individually because this is another one of the decisions you have to make for yourself. This is a waiver of your jury trial, right, when it comes to aggravating factors. Normally, we would submit a verdict form with interrogatories with a question and yes or no options, and that's what generally the jury would consider.
In order to say yes, the jury would have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof does not change, it's only that I'm going to be one who's answering those yes or no questions. It was always true that based on whatever the answers are to those that I would be the one deciding if they constitute legally substantial and compelling circumstances and we would expect briefs from both sides on that. Do you understand that?
CHAUVIN: Yes, I do.
CAHILL: So basically I will be answering those verdict form questions instead of the jury, applying the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Is that what you want to have happen?
CHAUVIN: Yes, sir.
CAHILL: All right. I would ask that you file a written Blakely waiver in addition.
NELSON: We will, your honor.
CAHILL: All right.
NESLSON: If we -- yes, I just have a question on the form that was provided, and we can, again, it's an administrative --
CAHILL: Right. It's an administrative memorialization so you can do that off the record. All right. Counsel, I'm going to talk with the -- basically give instructions to the alternates. Give me 20 minutes, and then why don't you come on back. All right. Otherwise, we are in recess until we hear from the jury.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: What a day. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in the THE SITUATION ROOM. I want to immediately get to our reporters and our analysts to watch what has happened. The jury is now getting ready to begin deliberations.
Sara Sidner is with us. She's been watching this from day one. Sara, it's now in the hands of the jurors. Tell us first of all what is happening right now?
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We are told from the court that the jurors actually already had it in their hands when you were listening to those arguments made outside of the presence of the jury in court today. So the jury has been looking at this for a few minutes now.
The -- what we saw in court today in front of the judge but outside of the presence of the jury is a last-ditch effort by the defense to try and get the judge to order a mistrial and he made a couple of comments as to what that would mean. The mistrial would be because some of the words the prosecution used.
He said it was prosecutorial misconduct, but the judge said that he addressed that when it happened and he -- there was an objection and the judge sustained that objection and so we felt like he had taken care of that in court telling the jury to disregard some of the language used like the word story when they were talking about the defense's case.
And he also talked about what happened this weekend. Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, talked about there being a Congress person who was here, an elected official who basically in his -- in his mind threatened the process and in so doing threatened the jury, the jury trial, and basically he was speaking, although he didn't name her, about California's own Maxine Waters.
The judge actually named Maxine Waters, and here is what she said, by the way, over the weekend when she came down into Minneapolis. She was there in Brooklyn Center where people were protesting the death of another black man at the hands of police. She said, "I hope we're going to get a verdict that will say guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don't, we cannot go away."
And so the -- she also talked about just being out there and demonstrating. And so in Eric Nelson's view, Chauvin's defense attorney, he felt that that was a direct threat against the jury and what they are charged with doing, which is deliberating and making a decision. And he felt that that was inappropriate and was inappropriate enough for the judge to call a mistrial.
The judge disagreed because he had instructed the jury not to watch any news, not to read any news, not to discuss the case, and he said he trusted that the jury had done that. Wolf?
BLITZER: It's important because that whole statement that Representative Maxine Waters of California made has caused a lot of concern out there. Let me play the clip and then we'll discuss why the defense in this particular case thinks that statement may have tainted this entire trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): We got to stay on the street and we've got to get more active. We've got to get more confrontational. We've got make sure that they know that we mean business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So Sara, I want to move on and get our analysts to assess that, but her statement is obviously riveting within this -- within the trial.
SIDNER: Yes. It is, and the judge admonished her. He named her and he said I wish that elected officials that are here to, you know, go ahead and serve the constitution and abide by the constitution would not make comments on this case that could possibly be inflammatory or could be disrespectful to the process, to the judicial branch, and to the jury.
He was very strong in his statements and I am sure that this is not the last we've heard of Maxine Waters. She tends to speak her mind as well, but he was very, very serious about hearing from public officials and wanting them not to inflame tensions and he said so on the bench. Wolf?
BLITZER: Let me bring in Elliot Williams who is watching this, our legal analyst, former federal prosecutor. We got to stay on the streets, she said. We've got to get more active. We've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business. What did you make of how that came up at the very end after the jury already began deliberations?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, Wolf, come on. This story has been front page news for the greater part of the year. Movie stars, members of Congress, presidents of the United States have commented on this trial. The idea that one member of Congress's statement a few days before the jury starts deliberating is somehow going to prejudice the jury is nonsense.
The law presumes that jurors can take in and internalize the instructions from the court and the court has instructed the jurors, I guess twice at the beginning and at the end, number one, not to watch the news. And number two, anything they see to set aside and they were picked on account of their ability to agree to do so.
So, some of this I think, to be candid, is about Maxine Waters, but at the end of the day one famous person making a comment that's incompatible with the trial just doesn't throw the verdict at. Now, he has to -- the defense attorney has to make that objection now in order to be able to make it again on appeal if Chauvin is convicted. So, some of that is just basically lawyering, but this -- this is not grounds for a mistrial.
BLITZER: Elie, what did you make of the closing arguments we heard from the prosecution and the defense?
WILLIAMS: Yes. So, you know, it's -- I think they both did what they had to do. And you know, the prosecution's goal was to appeal to common sense. One of the things he started off with was I think you heard, I don't remember the number. I think its 45 witnesses. The 46th witness is your common sense.
And so yes, you've heard about carbon monoxide, but there's a nine- minute and 20 second video. Yes, you heard about an enlarged heart, but there's a nine-minute and 20 second video. Yes you heard about fentanyl, but there's a nine-minute -- nine plus minute video. And all of these things, you know, the defense did everything they could to throw up bits of doubt, but they just didn't address the nine-minute video.
Now, again, that's their obligation. They don't have to, but the common sense plea that the prosecution went to is that big piece of evidence. Now, jurors are weird when they get back in that room and who knows how they come down, but as a matter of straight presentation the prosecution just had just had -- just a more air tight case.
BLITZER: Shan Wu is with us as well. Shan, you're a legal analyst. The jurors, they got the instructions from the judge on the three specific charges facing Derek Chauvin. What are those deliberations look like at this point?
SHAN WU, LEGAL ANALYST: Well, usually, Wolf, the first thing they will do when they go back there is that they will choose a foreperson. I think of note will be, you know, we'll learn later who is it but, you know, there's a nurse I think on there and, you know, people with that type of medical opinion could exert a strong influence on it. And then typically they will start to go through the evidence. Hopefully they don't immediately take a vote.
Usually, the judge will tell them you don't do that right away. You want to kind of work through the evidence in a very organized manner. You know, I agree with Elliot. I think the defense has put on a strong case here. I certainly hope that they put out a strong enough case.
I think the defense did a good job today. I think this was him at his best, the defense counsel. Today, he picked the pieces from his record he needed to pick and there are some issues with regard to prosecutorial misconduct that could be, you know, fodder on appeal as well. So, I'm nervous about it, but certainly the weight of the evidence is in favor of the prosecution and hopefully the jury will take their time and work through it.
I mean, pretty soon we'll be wondering, you know, is a short amount of time to deliberate a good sign or a bad sign or a long time. And generally when you're the prosecutor, you want a longer deliberation. It takes a lot for people to decide that someone is guilty so you want them to take their time.
BLITZER: Did you think the defense in this particular case went on and on and on and threw everything at the jury?
WU: It was a little -- he opened really weak today with his closing argument, but it was a smart move for him to try to move the time focus away from that nine minutes. He could have done a better job with it.
He was trying to show that Chauvin didn't know everything that we know sitting here calmly looking at it. There was stress. He understood what he was arriving at on the scene. He kind of put those pieces in motion. It was the right idea but didn't really tie it together.
So, I also felt when the judge broke when he did probably the jurors had been listening for too long and needed that break and that was probably a help to the defense. The other thing he really could have done is to really point out the fact it's a tragedy. I think he mentioned that one time and he really needs say this is a tragedy, it's a horrible thing, but let's talk about if there's enough evidence to convict Chauvin. I don't really think he did a very good job with that.
BLITZER: Sara the prosecution told the jurors to, "Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, what you saw." Just how important was that nine and a half minute video of George Floyd on the ground there with Derek Chauvin's knee on his neck?
SIDNER: Yes. I mean, they saw a lot more than nine minutes and 29 seconds of Chauvin's knee on George Floyd's neck. They saw all of the video of all of the officers who were there and involved. And then on top of that they saw, of course, the bystander video. But the reason why the prosecution changed that number because at first it was eight minutes and 46 seconds is what they initially charged.
Later they reduce that to seven minutes and 46 seconds, but when they saw all of the police video which the jury saw, they upped that number. The long time to have your knee on someone's neck and they kept making that point over and over and over again. I got to tell you, seeing that video again over and over and over again today was hard to watch just like it always has been.
I think the jury is certainly going to have a hard time as they have to go back through it because they can -- they can certainly look at that video if they want to try as they are deliberating this case. But I want to say, you know, we also saw a rebuttal after the defense went who talked a lot about the medical condition that George Floyd was in, the drugs that George Floyd took.
The rebuttal and the words from Prosecutor Blackwell were pretty strong. He ended today with the jury saying the truth is George Floyd is dead because Derek Chauvin's heart was too small. And you'll remember that there was an argument about the slight enlargement of the heart of George Floyd as a potential reason. I think the prosecution very much jumped on that and left jury with something to really think about.
BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. You know, Elliot, the prosecution said and I'm quoting now, they said, "This wasn't policing. This was murder." How effective was that closing argument?
WILLIAMS: Yes, so I think that it was sort of the goldilocks closing, trying to find something that appealed to everybody. Because remember, this is Hennepin County, Minnesota. Once you get out of Minneapolis, you know, it's not the same demographics that you're going to find in Minneapolis.
And the jury pool is drawing from all of that. They had to speak to both people who might be inclined to think about the reform of policing and sort of, you know, the basis for the protest over the last year, but also people who might be inclined to buy some of the arguments that the defense is putting forward, more sort of traditionally "pro-police folks."
And if you -- Jerry Blackwell sort of -- and Steve Schleicher earlier in the day made clear, talked about policing, what the badge means. Policing is a noble profession, and I think that was incredibly deliberate language meant to tug at the strings at a certain type of juror just because you don't know what's going to resonate with the group of 12 that has to rule unanimously.
BLITZER: Let me play this clip. This is the prosecutor, Steve Schleicher, making his point. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Only you have the power to convict the defendant of these crimes and in so doing -- and in so doing declare that this use of force was unreasonable. It was excessive. It was grossly disproportionate. It is not an excuse for the shocking abuse that you saw with your own eyes. And you can believe your own eyes.
This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, what you saw that video. It is exactly that. You can believe your eyes. It's exactly what you believed it. It's exactly what you saw with your eyes. It's exactly what you knew.
It's what you felt in your gut. It's what you now know in your heart. This wasn't policing. This was murder. The defendant is guilty of all three counts, all of them. And there's no excuse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's how he summed it up.
All right, Shan, let me get your reaction.
WU: Well, Wolf, you know, my heart is with him completely on that. But I have to say, as a former prosecutor and defense attorney, he's walking right up to the line there illegally. He's got to be careful with that on appeal, that it's very strongly an appeal to a motion. I think that part is effective. But you got to be careful with that, when you're on the prosecution side, referencing your gut, dangerous. Common sense, OK. But gut and a motion that's a little bit dangerous. And I think it was powerful, but they're taking a little bit of a risk with that.
And I think they are trying, as Elliot said, trying to appeal to a broad base of people there. They're trying a little bit of common sense, a little bit of the law, a little bit of a motion. And I hope they got the mix, right.
BLITZER: Because Elliot, the -- you heard the defense attorney Eric Nelson make the point that he felt that there was evidence of a potential mistrial, that there was a prejudice there as a result of what the prosecutors were saying, what did you think?
WILLIAMS: Again, the law presumes that the jurors can listen to what a judge instructs them about in attorney's arguments. There was a lot of back and forth today over, you know, did the prosecutors go too far, did the defense misstate the law? And the judge's ruling was ultimately that number one, I'll give the prosecutors a chance to clean this up on their rebuttal. But more importantly, I can instruct the jurors that number one, what the law, you know, I, the judge state what the law is.
And number two, follow the instructions and go from there. And so again, the law and judges and courts don't want or presume that there ought not to be mistrials, and you can correct ways around them. The defense had to make these arguments, put them on the record. So that if in fact he's convicted, they can go back and have a basis for overturning a conviction.
BLITZER: Because, you know, Elliot, you did hear Eric Nelson, the defense attorney, make the point that the jury should have been sequestered the whole time, given the enormous publicity of this trial has generated? WILLIAMS: Right. Yes, you know, judges don't like sequestering jurors on account of the fact that it is incredibly disruptive. And I mean, you know, the law sort of urges against it because of how disruptive it is to the lives of jurors. It presumes that you can find jurors who can set all of what they know, aside. And you can protect them from the pre-trial publicity.
Now, look, this is as high profile as any trial has been, I think, frankly, in most of our lifetime, you know, going back to I don't know, perhaps O.J. or something like that. So it, you know, this is a special trial. But again, the law seems to have anticipated for that.
Now, who knows, this is what Shan was getting into as well. He has a bait -- Nelson and the defense have a basis for challenging this and they have a basis for raising it on appeal. As of today, we could have all predicted that the judge was not going to grant a mistrial based on what we saw.
BLITZER: Yes, that was obvious. You know, Sara, you're you've been there as I say, every single day you're watching this as closely as any journalist is right now. Give us a little sense of what's going on in the community, as we await now the jury's decision?
SIDNER: So on Sunday, in the daytime at George Floyd Square, which is the area in which storage Floyd died, where they have been keeping vigil for almost a year now, it was really a heartening sight. There were dozens of people out there from all different walks of life, who were talking about peace, talking about trying to find justice, talking about what they were going to do going forward, and there was absolutely no violence.
But you can also see around the city on a lot of street corners, you are seeing armed National Guard. They are in uniform. There are boards on more and more and more buildings and businesses. They have moved the perimeter. And it's clear that they can close the perimeter if they need to the way that they have built it with concrete blocks and fencing and, you know, razor wire and barbed wire around government buildings, especially around the court, you know, the court.
We know that over time, they have ratcheted up more and more law enforcement as well. And we understand there's going to be more law enforcement coming in from other states from Ohio, as we heard today in a press conference. And the police chief was also asked about what his concerns were and they're great.
They are extremely worried about what the reaction is going to be to whatever the verdict is. And so if you ask people who have been here, who have been demanding justice, who have been going out into the streets every day, many of them will tell you that if they don't get the decision that they want that, and I'm going to put it the way they did, this place is going to blow. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes. So Shan, let's talk about what's going on in the jury deliberation that has just begun. You're a former federal prosecutor. Typically the first thing they do is the first thing they do is pick a four person? [17:35:10]
WU: Yes, Wolf, that's usually what they'll do. And then the four person will hopefully kind of guide them a little bit through the process. And what you want them to do as a prosecutor and what the judge wants them to do is to kind of work their way through the evidence in an organized fashion.
I haven't seen if they gave them a verdict form. But ideally, the verdict form would present them with the most serious charge first, they're working their way through that, and then they will go down to the next one and then the next one.
I was a little bit concerned, because it's complicated the difference between those charges legally. I want to make sure if I was a prosecutor that I'm really spoon feeding how to do that to them. And I suspect we will expect some notes from the jury asking about that so, because it's a complicated issue.
BLITZER: To convict, Elliot, you need a unanimous decision, obviously, all 12 jurors to find Chauvin not guilty, you need a unanimous decision. But there is a possibility of a hung jury if one or two or three of the jurors have one view and if not unanimous, there's a hung jury, right?
WILLIAMS: Yes. I've been there. It's not a nice, you know, it's not a nice feeling as a prosecutor. You know, what will happen, I think you'll get a sense not to predict. But, you know, you would -- you'd start seeing notes coming back from the jurors, that we are unable to come to a verdict on, let's say, count two manslaughter, right? And the Judge will invariably instruct them to go back and use your best whatever, I don't remember what the precise wording is, but do your best to come to a conclusion -- no, to come to a unanimous verdict.
They'll come back a day later or two days later saying, we can't find or we can't come to a unanimous. That tends to be the sign that a mistrial may be coming on a charge because they keep trying to instruct the court that they can't come to a conclusion. And the court keeps instructing them that well, you got to try and try to be unanimous one way or the other. It's certainly a possible outcome.
Now, there are three different charges here and the facts of Chauvin having encountered or engaged with Floyd aren't in dispute. The question is, you know, what, you know, did he cause the end of his life? The jury could possibly negotiate amongst themselves as to well, we may not unanimously agree as to second degree murder, but we could get everybody on board with manslaughter. And that happens, and that certainly something.
Now, you know, you don't think there should be horse trading in the law. But what people do as a matter of, this is exactly what Shan was talking about, with they pick a leader, they pick -- and it's, you know, to some extent, "Lord of the Flies." You know, they, as a group, have to set some social order and come to an agreement, so, yes.
BLITZER: You know, Sara, and as I say, you've been watching this as closely as anyone. What do we know about how the jurors have been acting, how much attention they've been paying throughout what about three weeks of this trial?
SIDNER: Its three weeks. And I don't know that people know what that pressure feels like as a juror, as you are being watched by the media and by the attorneys. You are under a spotlight, even though the public is not allowed to view you. There are a lot of people in the court who are paying attention to the jury. And, you know, for the journalists in there, and I was in there for a day myself.
When you watch how they engage where they are writing notes. They are paying close attention. There was only a day where there was a little bit of fidgeting going on. But for the most part, they have really been engaging when one of the medical experts at the prosecution brought in.
Dr. Tobin started talking about, you know, feel your neck. Let me show you what happens when this is compressed. Let me show you where this is and that, and he was even saying, touch the back of your neck, touch it. Many of the jurors were doing so, so much so that the Judge told them that look, you can do this, but you are not required to do what this witness is telling you.
So it tells you something about how much they're paying attention how important this is to them to get it right. And we actually heard them say those very words, when they were in what dire. When they weren't questioned by the defense and the prosecution as they were picking jurors, many understood how important this case was.
Some of them saying they wanted to be on this case, because they knew it's important, so they knew it was important to get this right and to pay close attention. I think they have had a jury that has really paid close attention and been engaged the whole time. Wolf?
BLITZER: You know, Shan, if you're the prosecution or the defense for that matter, what do you do while the jury deliberates, it could go on for hours, it could go on for days?
WU: You sweat a lot. And if you're the defense, you're trying to keep your client calm. But you're also thinking and trying to anticipate, what questions to come out. Because when that note comes out and I'm predicting we'll at least have a few notes, you're going to have to explain to the Judge how you think the court should respond to that note.
Sometimes you want to say don't respond at all, to an improper question. Other times, you're going to make suggestions as to what further guidance should be given and the other side may disagree with you about that.
So a lot of that time has been anticipating what issues may come up. There may be some legal research you want to shore up about particular issues. That's what you are doing right now. BLITZER: Yes, I want everybody to stand by. Our senior national correspondent Miguel Marquez is joining us from Minneapolis right now. So what do you see Miguel? You're there on the scene. What kind of preparations are you seeing?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's enormous preparations. It feels a little like Minneapolis is in the path of a category five hurricane. They're just not sure if it's going to hit, where it's going to hit or it's going to be a glancing blow or direct. This is what a lot of the buildings -- these are private buildings down here that are sort of boarded up.
You'll see that all through the downtown area, but through the wider city as well, even into the suburbs, this particular one has become a bit of a memorial to George Floyd. And then right across the street from here is the Government Center. This is where the trial is going on. You can see it's a double fencing there. They put that green material up so that people can't see into the yard of the Government Center. And then Tucker, come down here.
You can see the National Guard is on alert here at the Government Center, thousands of National Guard members across the entire states, thousands of law enforcement from not only across Minnesota, but from other states as well. The schools on Wednesday here in Minneapolis will go to virtual learning at least for the foreseeable future after that. And then they will see where it goes.
A small crowd down here of Native Americans and supporters of George Floyd, the people I've spoken to so far say, look, if it is not guilty on all three, that sends a very strong message about what is going on. They expect and hope that they will see a guilty verdict and -- on all three of those charges. And if they don't see that it's going to be very difficult to see which way this goes. But the state seems very well prepared for whatever happens, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a tense situation right now in Minneapolis. Stand by the former Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson is joining us, also joining us CNN law enforcement analyst Terry Gainer, the former chief of the U.S. Capitol Police. Captain Johnson, you dealt with unrest in Ferguson after Michael Brown's killing. How challenging is it do you think right now for Minneapolis officials to prepare for the reaction to this verdict?
RON JOHNSON, CEO, LODESTONE SOLUTIONS GROUP: Well, I think they've had a long enough time to prepare. There are a lot of things to think about. But I think they've had a long time and hope they brought in all their stakeholders to make sure that the community is safe, and that the officers and the National Guard that are there are safe. But there's a lot of concern here on what to do following the verdict that comes out.
BLITZER: Chief Gainer, cities around the country, not just in Minneapolis, they're following suit, including right here in Washington D.C. where I am. The U.S. Army is weighing how many National Guard forces to deploy in its capital. What are these preparations look like behind the scenes and I know you've been involved over many years?
TERRY GAINER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, thank you. There is a lot of preparation going on across the United States. In the last hour, I was on a phone call with representatives from several cities, Kansas City, Chicago, Washington, D.C. And a lot of these places, they have canceled days off, gone to 12-hour shifts. In Washington, for instance, they've stood up some 26 CDU platoons, that's nearly 1,000 people trying to get in position to manage whatever outcome we have from this trial.
And there are concerns about words because they do matter. And I was -- as I watched the prosecution statement, saying, you know, this was not an antipolice prosecution. It was a pro police prosecution. And that made perfect sense in trying to settle the jury down to give them some room to think positively about police.
But if there's not a guilty, guilty, guilty, I think those kind of words could rub a lot of people the wrong way, saying, yes, it was pro police. And here again, police got a break if that's what happens.
BLITZER: You know, Captain Johnson, protesters obviously have a First Amendment Right to protest peacefully. But if police overreact to peaceful protests, is there a risk of potentially inflaming the situation?
JOHNSON: I think there is. And I think we need to separate protesters from rioters. Protesters have a right to get out and speak. And I think in our country, we've upheld that. You know, in doing Ferguson, I said that from the start, that the protesters that are out there, they had a right to be out there to speak for change. And so I think there is a balance.
My hope is that there's been some connection with the community with those leaders where they've talked through those issues that could come about.
BLITZER: Chief Gainer, what should the law enforcement be looking for right now in the coming days? What are they monitoring?
GAINER: I think they're going to be monitoring all the open source information they could get as they're all doing on a routine basis. But they're definitely going to be reaching out to the citizens as Captain Johnson just said. One of the key takeaways we've all learned is to work with community leaders so they understand what the police want to do, and how they can actually help these lawful protests, these demonstrations, and make them peaceful.
And there's been a lot of lessons learned on this. Just last week, the Police Executive Research Forum, hosted a meeting with some nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers from across the country to look at after action reports of what's going on in the past 14 months, and talk about how to do this better.
So I think many police departments are working very hard to reach to the community, understand what the situation, and try to keep things peaceful. And if it does get bad, not to lump all people in a protest is there the enemy.
BLITZER: Let me get your reaction, Captain Johnson, to what we heard from Congresswoman Maxine Waters, her name came up in the final hour or so of this trial today. She said the -- she said over the weekend, we've got to stay on the street, we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational, we've got to make sure that they know that we mean business. You heard the defense argue that potentially could prejudice the jury?
JOHNSON: Well, I think, you know, words do matter. And we have to be cautious on the words that we say. But I will say Congressman Waters has been a big proponent of change in our country for a long time. But our words really matter. And we have to make sure that we don't ignite something here to a greater extent than it may already be.
And I think as leaders, we just need to make sure that the voice that we have, the impact that we have, we have to be cautious on that. And so I think this here, I want everyone to be as cautious as they can in our words that we say.
BLITZER: Because this is really a sensitive moment, Chief Gainer right now. And you appreciate that as much as anyone.
GAINER: Right. I mean, the whole world is watching this, and certainly communities and communities of color, are watching this very closely as our police officers. Many officers feel beat down, low morale.
And so they're trying to figure out how do they balance their feelings in the needs, when they're so embarrassed about the misconduct of this particular officer, and then meet and satisfy the expectations of crowds that may be upset, or maybe very jubilant about the outcome, striking the balance is important. And the whole world is watching.
BLITZER: The whole world is indeed watching. Sara Sidner is still with us. So Sara, I know you're getting some new reporting. What else are you learning?
SIDNER: Look, you know, you guys were talking about one of the important components of the community when it comes to policing. And there are several groups, like We Push for Peace who have been brought in to try and help calm things down when things start to get really, really tense.
And they've been in the streets for many, many, many weeks, going in and out of, you know, 38th in Chicago where George Floyd died, George Floyd Square, going down to Brooklyn Center, and during the day they put on some music, they have barbecues, they bring food.
And, you know, that's -- it's a group of, of black men who have decided that, you know, they're from the community and they want to be out in the community, but they also want to try to calm down any kind of violent reaction to police or looting or burning. And during the day, they tend to have that effect. You also have groups like Agape (ph). They are providing security down at 38th and in Chicago. They've been down there for a while.
And it's sort of turned the street energy, as they say, into community energy. And that is also a group of black men who are rising up and saying, look, we'd like to see our communities thrive. We don't want to see them hurt. But I will tell you, I've talked to several black business owners who are in and around the area of 38th in Chicago, and they're having a really hard time some of them, they're frustrated. They feel like they've been left behind.
Every time something happens. It tends to happen in and around their area. It looks blighted. There are boards up. There are buildings that have been torn completely down. Some of them were burned in the last, you know, uprising here. And so there is a bit of frustration. There is a bit of hopefulness because there are these groups around.
But the police are going to be relying on some of these groups to try and help deal with what could be another mass protest. But you may see a mass protest that is peaceful depending on what happens with the jury. And it really does depend on how the jury decides this case, whether we like it or not, that is a huge factor and how the reaction will be from the folks here in Minneapolis and frankly, from around the country in world. Wolf?
BLITZER: It certainly is. You know, Shan Wu and Elliot Williams are still with us. I want to play this clip up, Elliot, and then we'll get your reaction for both of you. This is Eric Nelson, the defense attorney making his closing argument.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The state has really focused on the nine minutes and 29 seconds, nine minutes and 29 seconds, nine minutes and 29 seconds. It's not the proper analysis because the nine minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's referring to the resistance that George Floyd had in getting in the backseat of that police vehicle.
WILLIAMS: Yes, look, Wolf, if you and I get drunk and get into a bar fight, I can't then go into court and say, well, you know, I was sober all day, before I went into that bar. And, you know, the person that I knocked out, you know, I just shouldn't be held responsible for that, because I behaved myself perfectly and comported with good behavior earlier in the day. So that's a little bit of a misleading argument.
Now, where because this is about the reasonableness of police conduct, maybe there is space to say that 16 minutes gave officers caused to restrain Mr. Floyd, at least initially. But what the prosecution has done throughout this trial is note that nine minutes, the nine plus minutes, tested the bounds of reasonableness. So after 10 seconds, 15 seconds, three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, three minutes after he stops breathing and doesn't have a pulse, you cannot make the argument that the action was still reasonable.
So it's quite a distraction to point to that 16 minutes in light of the fact that the crime is committed itself in the course of that nine minutes and 29 seconds.
BLITZER: Shan, what do you think?
WU: Well, I think Wolf, Nelson had to go there. He has to shift the focus away from that nine and a half minutes. And it makes sense for him to do that to argue that don't view Chauvin in the vacuum of this horrible scene of him kneeling for nine and a half minutes. View them in the context, the totality of circumstances you heard him talk about, of what he thinks he is walking into, maybe that affected what you the jury should think of as a reasonable response.
So he had to make that argument. But I think still that does not overcome the horror of those nine and a half minutes.
BLITZER: Our Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins has been watching all of this together with us. Kaitlan, first of all, any reaction we're getting from the White House?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Basically, Wolf, they say they are waiting for this jury to go through these deliberations. They are preparing for either outcome, of course a guilty or not guilty verdict. And they say we will hear from President Biden after the jury has come to a decision and after that's made public. But they say before then, they are not going to weigh in one way or another.
But we do also know that President Biden has been concerned about potential backlash from the public if they do not like what this verdict is and they don't find it to be sufficient. And so that's also something that the White House says that they are preparing for if there is going to potentially be unrest in the face of what this jury comes to a decision, what they end up deciding.
And so because of that White House officials have been in touch with state officials there with other local authorities, and they say they are preparing in that way, depending on how all this ends up.
BLITZER: Because they recognize it the White House and I've spoken with some officials who say this is a really, really potential tinderbox that we're watching unfold right now. Is that what you're hearing?
COLLINS: Yes. And I think they also want to make sure that they're navigating it carefully, given just how much national attention it has gotten, and how this has been a conversation now for over a year, or for about a year now given what's been going on.
And so I think they want and that President Biden himself wants to be able to navigate this, depending on what the verdict ends up being and also what the response is going to be because we do know that he brought up what the potential verdict could be talking about how, what the response to the verdict could be during a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus here at the White House last week.
So it is certainly something that's been on his mind. And he has been watching this trial play out as have AIDS as well and of course, really the nation, Wolf?
BLITZER: I assume that behind the scenes whenever they can, they were watching this trial unfold on television, right?
COLLINS: Yes, I think they were watching it pretty closely given, you know, it also has been aired constantly. I think it's something that you can't really avoid. Everyone in the nation is watching it in that sense. And so President Biden has often had to weigh in on this.
You've seen this really overtake a lot of his early months of his presidency. It's not just what's happened with George Floyd and what's going on with this trial, the national conversation around that.
But also other police shootings that have happened in the nation and what's been going -- not just shootings that have happened, you know, just in the last few days in the last few weeks, but it's also this greater scale of how this fits into Biden's agenda because he came into office wanting to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recovery.
But part of being president is that you've got to deal with the crises of the nation as they unfold. And I think that is something that they've recognized. So they also see that what his response is going to be, depending on this verdict is also important.
BLITZER: They're beefing up security here in the nation's Capitol right now. All right, Kaitlan, we'll get back to you. We're going to have a bunch more of our special coverage right here in the Situation Room right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.
In Minneapolis this hour, jurors have begun deliberating the fate of former police officer Derek Chauvin nearly a year after the death of George Floyd sparked a national reckoning about race and justice. And now the nation anxiously awaits a verdict.
The Minnesota Governor just asked for law enforcement assistance from other states. And major cities in fact, across the United States have increased security in anticipation of possible protests and unrest.