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Hennepin County District Court Hennepin County District Court

Hennepin County District Court

Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles April 22, 2021

No, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer didn’t say space aliens invaded his body

If Your Time is short

  • In his closing argument, a defense attorney for Derek Chauvin explained what “capricious” and “fanciful” doubt means and used the example of space aliens inhabiting the body of Derek Chauvin to cause this death. He was not suggesting that this actually happened.
  • Capricious doubt or not, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts of killing George Floyd.

The trial of Derek Chauvin ended with guilty charges for the killing of George Floyd, but there’s some confusion as to what Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, was trying to prove in a comment he made during his closing argument.

The sentence was captured in a now-viral TikTok video: "Space aliens flew in, inhabited the body of Derek Chauvin, and caused this death." 

Additional text on the video reads, "If I ever go to jail make this guy my lawyer."

The video got 1.2 million views, and a lot of comments from people who were confused by Nelson’s statement. Context is definitely needed.

We took a look at the complete transcript of Nelson’s closing argument. Here’s the surrounding sentences of what he said:

"Essentially, what the state has to convince you is that the evidence in this case completely eliminates any reasonable doubt. Or in other words, leaving only unreasonable doubt. Capricious, fanciful, capricious doubt. Capricious means unpredictable. Fanciful, space aliens flew in, inhabited the body of Derek Chauvin and caused this death. That’s fanciful. Beyond the reasonable doubt, it is the highest standard in the law. It doesn’t mean beyond all possibility of doubt, because I suppose space aliens may have been inhabiting his body, but that’s obviously fanciful and capricious."

Ric Simmons, professor of law at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, broke it down for us — Nelson was not using space aliens as an argument for the defense, but rather as an analogy of what an unreasonable doubt would be. 

"Lawyers in criminal cases do this all the time. Nelson was trying to distinguish reasonable doubt from other kinds of doubt," Simmons said. "As he said, ‘capricious and fanciful doubt’ includes every kind of uncertainty, including the absurd and highly improbable scenarios like space aliens."

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Simmons said that Nelson had tried to prove the points made in his defense were reasonable, which were that Floyd died because of drugs, an enlarged heart, or carbon monoxide from the squad car exhaust.

Steve Schleicher, one of the attorneys for the prosecution, used his closing argument to say that there had been no medical evidence of any of the above, and that Floyd died because of the excessive force that Chauvin and the other officers used when they put him into the "prone" position.

"It's a position you use to secure someone in handcuffs," Schleicher explained. "And then when you're done with that, you immediately roll them on their side, right? That's the position he was in. Proning him was completely unnecessary, and this is where the excessive force begins, right?"

Schleicher later added, "Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw."

Following the closing arguments, the jury deliberated for 10 hours, and came back to the courtroom with convictions on all three charges against Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. His sentencing is expected in two months. 

Our ruling

A TikTok video went viral, claiming that Chauvin’s defense attorney said that space aliens inhabited Chauvin’s body and caused Floyd’s death.

Nelson wasn’t using that as part of his defense, but as an example of a capricious or fanciful doubt. Nelson was arguing that the points made in his defense were not capricious or fanciful. 

The jury did not agree with his points and convicted Chauvin on all counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Still, he wasn’t actually suggesting space aliens were to blame. We rate this post False.

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No, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer didn’t say space aliens invaded his body

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