News Headlines 4/20/21

JURY BEGINS DELIBERATING IN CHAUVIN CASE AFTER HEARING CLOSING ARGUMENTS: The jury began deliberations Monday (April 19th) in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin‘s murder and manslaughter trial in the death of George Floyd after hearing closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense for most of the day. The jurors, who are being sequestered during deliberations, ended for the night after about four hours. They will have to decide charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

During his presentation, prosecutor Steve Schleicher referred to the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and played parts of it, telling jurors, “Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw.” He said said Floyd was killed by Chauvin constricting his breathing, dismissing defense arguments, including that he died due to fentanyl and methamphetamine found in his system, and that police were distracted by hostile bystanders who were urging Chauvin to remove his knee and provide medical assistance to Floyd. Fellow prosecutor Jerry Blackwell similarly dismissed the defense argument that Floyd died because he had an enlarged heart, saying, “The truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.”

Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that Chauvin did what any reasonable police officer would have done in that situation of a large man struggling with three officers, stating, “A reasonable police officer understands the intensity of the struggle.” Nelson showed jurors pictures of pills that were found in Floyd’s vehicle and remnants of pills found in the police car, saying that it, quote, “defies medical science and it defies common sense and reason” for the prosecution to say that Floyd’s medical issues and the drugs in his system didn’t play a role in his death.

Judge Criticizes Rep. Maxine Waters: After closing arguments, and  with jurors out of the courtroom, Judge Peter Cahill criticized comments that had been made a day earlier about the case by Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, while dismissing a defense request for a mistrial based on her comments. While taking part in protests over the recent police killing of another Black man in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Waters said that if Chauvin isn’t convicted of murder, quote, “we’ve got to get more confrontational.” Cahill called those remarks “abhorrent” and “disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch,” and while he didn’t grant the mistrial request that argued the comments had tainted the jury, he told the defense, “Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”

MEDICAL EXAMINER: CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER SICKNICK DIED OF NATURAL CAUSES AFTER CAPITOL ATTACK: The Washington, D.C., medical examiner’s office ruled Monday (April 19th) that Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after confronting rioters during the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, had a stroke and died of natural causes. Investigators had at first believed that the 42-year-old officer had been hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, and later thought he may have breathed in bear spray used by rioters that may have contributed to his death. Medical examiner Francisco Diaz did, however, tell The Washington Post that, quote, “all that transpired” on January 6th “played a role in his condition.” Still, the natural cause of death ruling means it wasn’t caused by an injury, making it unlikely any homicide charges will be brought in Sicknick’s death. U.S. Capitol Police said the ruling didn’t change the fact that Sicknick had died in the line of duty, quote, “courageously defending Congress and the Capitol.”

NO ‘RED FLAG’ HEARING HELD FOR FEDEX SHOOTER THAT COULD HAVE PREVENTED GUN PURCHASE: An Indiana prosecutor said Monday (April 19th) that a “red flag” hearing wasn’t held in 2020 for the 19-year-old man who killed eight people at a Fedex facility in Indianapolis last week even after his mother called police to say he might commit “suicide by cop.” Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said authorities didn’t try to hold a “red flag” hearing that could have prevented Brandon Scott Hole from buying a gun, because they didn’t have enough time under the law’s limits to definitively show that he had a propensity for suicidal thoughts. The law requires a “good-faith effort” to hold a hearing within 14 days. Police had taken a shotgun from Hole in March 2020 after his  mother’s call. Mears said yesterday, “The risk is, if we move forward with that [red flag] process and lose, we have to give that firearm back to that person. That’s not something we were willing to do.” Hole, who bought the two assault-style rifles he used in the Fedex shooting legally, also killed himself.

EX-DEPUTY WANTED IN KILLING OF THREE IN TEXAS CAUGHT: A 41-year-old former sheriff’s deputy who was wanted in the killing of three people, including his wife and 17-year-old daughter in Austin, Texas, was caught early Monday (April 19th) after a 20-hour manhunt. Stephen Broderick was apprehended after two 911 calls were made about a man walking along a road in an Austin suburb. Broderick is alleged to have killed his wife, Amanda Broderick, daughter Alyssa Broderick, and 18-year-old Willie Simmons III on Sunday. He resigned from the Travis County sheriff’s office after he was arrested last June and charged with sexually assaulting a child. Court records indicate the victim was his daughter Alyssa, who was then 16. Broderick had been released on bond and had to wear a GPS monitor. But a judge allowed him to remove it in October, with the defense saying he’d worn it for 142 days with no substantial violations.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE DEAD AT 93: Former Vice President Walter Mondale, whose served under President Jimmy Carter during his one term from 1977 to 1981, died on Monday (April 19th). He was 93. In a statement last night, Carter called Mondale “the best vice president in our country’s history,” saying, “Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior.” Mondale was the first vice president to have an office in the White House instead of in a building across the street, and he advised Carter on domestic and foreign affairs. President Biden said of the liberal icon, “It was Walter Mondale who defined the vice presidency as a full partnership, and helped provide a model for my service.” The Minnesota Democrat, who also served as a U.S. senator and ambassador to Japan, won the Democratic presidential nomination himself in 1984. He made history by choosing a woman, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, as his vice presidential running mate, but suffered a huge loss to President Ronald Reagan as he ran for re-election, winning only his home state and the District of Columbia in a 525-13 electoral vote loss.

COAST GUARD SUSPENDS SEARCH FOR EIGHT BOAT CREW MEMBERS IN GULF OF MEXICO: The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search last night (April 19th) for eight boat crew members in the Gulf of Mexico, six days after their lift boat capsized off Louisiana. Authorities don’t expect to find any more survivors. The Seacor Power lift boat, which has three legs that can be lowered to the sea floor to lift it out of the water as a temporary platform, capsized last Tuesday in a storm. Six people were rescued alive, and five bodies were found. The boat was headed to an oil platform at the mouth of the Mississippi River when it capsized.