In an unusual break with tradition, President Joe Biden has weighed in on an active court case, calling the prosecution’s evidence in the George Floyd case “overwhelming” as the jury considers murder charges against Derek Chauvin.
“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. Which is – I think it’s overwhelming in my view,” Mr Biden told reporters in the Oval Office.
“I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now.”
Mr Biden’s White House press secretary Jen Psaki later clarified that the president had not been trying to influence the outcome of the trial with his comments.
Ms Psaki said Mr Biden felt it was the right to time to give his view on the case with the jury now required to stay in a hotel and to have no contact with the outside world.
“As he also noted, the jury is sequestered which is why he spoke to this, but I would expect he will weigh in more – further once there is a verdict and I’m not going to provide additional analysis on what he meant,” Psaki said at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
Mr Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
If convicted, Mr Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.
The charges will be considered separately by the jury so he could be convicted of none, some or all of them.
Mr Biden also spoke by phone with Mr Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, on Monday.
“He was just calling. He knows how it is to lose a family member. And he knows that the process of what we’re going through so he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, and hoping that everything would come out to be okay,” Mr Floyd told NBC’s Today Show.
Mr Floyd’s killing on a Minneapolis street last May, which was captured on video by bystanders and went viral, sparked weeks of racial justice protests across the United States.
The jury was handed the case after closing arguments by the prosecution and Mr Chauvin’s defence attorney on Monday.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Steve Schleicher, who spoke for an hour and 43 minutes, argued that Mr Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds because of his pride and his ego and despite the obvious concern from bystanders.
“George Floyd’s final words on 25 May 25 2020, were, ‘Please, I can’t breathe,’ and he said those words to Derek Chauvin,” Mr Schleicher told the jurors.
“All that was required was a little compassion, and none was shown on that day.”
Eric Nelson, defending Mr Chauvin, argued that the former police officer used appropriate force and followed his training.
Mr Nelson highlighted for the jury Mr Floyd’s use of fentanyl and methamphetamine and his heart issues.
The jury, of which six are white, four are Black and two are multiracial, deliberated for around four hours on Monday before being sent home, and began their work again on Tuesday morning.
Two of the jurors are in their 20s, three each are in their 30s, 40s and 50s and one juror is in her 60s.
With the jury now in deliberations, members of the Minnesota National Guard have been deployed in the event of any violence.
“The Minnesota National Guard’s mission is to protect people, prevent property destruction, and preserving first amendment rights,” Lt Col Scott Hanks told CNN.
“The Guard will be assigned roles by the Minneapolis Police Department in areas throughout the city to deter acts of violence and free up law enforcement to perform their role where it is needed most.
“Additionally, we will be ensuring the cities EMS and Fire departments are able to safely get to and conduct their life saving missions throughout the city.
“This city, these communities are where we live and work, we want to keep them safe.”
With the Derek Chauvin trial and the killing of Daunte Wright happening in the same area, there are now 3,000 national guardsman activated in the state.
Authorities in the biggest cities across the US say they have made preparations to deal with the reaction to the verdict in the case.
In New York police say they are prepared for protests, with NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea saying that the city has averaged 10 to 20 protests a day since Mr Floyd’s killing.
Authorities in Los Angeles say they have stepped up community outreach and that extra officers will be available.
In San Francisco, the police department says that discretionary days off for officers have been canceled and additional officers will be deployed when the verdict comes in.
The Philadelphia Police Department said it is prepared “with additional personnel to secure and patrol strategic locations.”
And in Washington DC, the Metro Police Department says it will be “fully activated” with officers on 12-hour shifts.
In Minneapolis itself, schools will move to remote learning from Wednesday until the end of the week in anticipation of a verdict.
In downtown Minneapolis the police building has been wrapped in razor wire, which will also happen at other precincts in the city.
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