From frantically scribbling on a yellow notepad to rapid eye motions, a body language expert has now revealed the hidden messages behind his movements.
Over 16 days of intense hearings in Minneapolis court Chauvin sat in the spotlight as jurors examined in extraordinary detail the day he kneeled Floyd’s neck during an arrest on May 25, 2020, until the handcuffed black man died.
The 45-year-old former cop’s fate was finally sealed on Tuesday when the jury found him guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Body language expert Patti Wood spoke to DailyMail.com on Wednesday about key points in the trial that shed light on what Chauvin was thinking and feeling.
Wood explained how Chauvin’s constant note-taking throughout the proceedings may have been an attempt to comfort himself and avoid giving away any reaction that could be perceived negatively by the jury.
When he spoke in court for the first time last week to confirm that he would not be testifying in his own defense, Chauvin’s abrupt responses and perfect posture showed heightened awareness and anxiety, Wood said.
During his attorney Eric Nelson’s closing statement on Monday, Chauvin removed his mask in what Wood described as a bid to let the jury see his emotion after several witnesses for the prosecution described his demeanor on the day of Floyd’s death as callous and uncaring.
Then on Tuesday when the jury returned with its verdict, Wood said Chauvin’s eyes showed a clear shift from fear to anger as he heard each charge followed by ‘guilty’ and processed possibility that he could spend up to 40 years in prison as a result.
The last glimpse the world got of Chauvin was on Wednesday morning when officials released a booking photo taken at the maximum security prison where he’s being held until sentencing. Wood said Chauvin’s puffy eyes and dramatic frown showed sadness – but he held his chin up in a manner that suggests defiance.
On the whole Wood explained that Chauvin could be perceived as unfeeling and even ‘sociopathic’ to some people because his expression remained largely unchanged, even when shown the gut-wrenching video of Floyd crying out under the weight of his knee.
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Chauvin’s eyes revealed his sudden shift from fear to anger as he processed the verdict
On Tuesday afternoon Chauvin entered the Hennepin County courtroom for the final time to hear Judge Peter Cahill deliver the jury’s verdict.
He stood as jurors filed into their seats and then sat down before Cahill began to read – beginning with the top charge of second-degree murder: guilty.
Though a mask was covering his face, Chauvin gave away a lot with his eyes, according to Wood.
‘The fear is clear in the tenseness of the lower eyelids and the way he is raising his upper eyelids,’ she said. ‘The rapid eye movement is him processing the verdict as anyone would – first in the emotional limbic brain and going over to the neocortex to the logical thinking brain to decide how to respond.’
‘The rapid movement shows his constant attempt to first feel fearful, understand what is being said and stay calm over and over again.
‘But mixed with the fear are also nonverbal indications of anger: when his eyebrows lower slightly and are drawn together along with the lower eyelid tension, so we see him glaring.
‘I had enough baseline of his normal to detect his shift from fear to anger in these few moments. I would say he did not expect his behavior to have reached this judgment.’
After the verdict Chauvin quickly scribbled something on his hand – which some believe was the phone number of his attorney – before he was escorted out in handcuffs.
Perfect posture and clipped responses during his address to the court showed his anxiety
After hours of testimony from 45 witnesses, the jury briefly heard from Chauvin himself on April 15 when he declared that he would exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and decline to testify.
In a short dialogue with his attorney, Chauvin confirmed that the decision was his own and that they had discussed it at length – offering just one word answers of yes and no into a microphone.
As for his body language during the brief exchange, Wood said: ‘What is striking here is his very erect posture and bearing see how it seems that there is an invisible rod through his back and up through his neck.
‘This is perfect professional posture and indicates he is very aware of his circumstances and surroundings.’
Wood also called attention to the way Chauvin grasped the microphone.
‘He is holding the microphone down away from his face and his heart and instead over his torso with his fingers only lightly holding it with the tips of his fingers extended,’ she said.
‘He may have been coached to hold the mike in this relaxed unguarded way, but in any case this placement and grip make it appear he is not tense.
‘You do see the tell of his anxiety his clipped, tense, rapid replies. His paralanguage – that is voice tone, tempo, speaking rate, high voice etc – and his focus on looking at his lawyer in a way that makes it look like he searching for approval that he is doing ok and making the right choice make him sound scared.
‘The one tell that makes him look a bit smug is his chin placement. Chin placement is a key place to read for feeling of confidence. Confidence is shown when the chin is held at the center.
‘He holds his neck arched out at one point and throughout hold his chin up above “the center line” showing he feels superior.
‘I think that is telling because it’s very hard to consciously control the chin placement when under stress, so it tends to go to its natural baseline of that persons normal.’
When Chauvin spoke in court for the first time last week to confirm that he would not be testifying in his own defense, Chauvin’s abrupt responses and perfect posture showed heightened awareness and anxiety, Wood said
Chauvin cast of his mask to offer a glimpse of emotion as his attorney delivered a final defense
Chauvin wore his mask throughout almost all of the trial, as mandated by the court’s health rules during the coronavirus pandemic.
During testimony he took it off briefly a couple times just so witnesses could identify him from the stand, but then abruptly put it back on.
However when his attorney Nelson stepped up to deliver the closing statement for the defense, Chauvin removed his mask and kept it off throughout the over three hour remarks.
Wood said she believes Chauvin did so because he wanted the jury to be able to see emotion on his face after many of the witnesses called by the state described him as being devoid of emotion during his fatal restraint of Floyd.
‘I think the mask off was an attempt to have the jury read him and potentially see him be emotional,’ she said.
‘The background of court trials recently has been controversial, in some they have delayed going forward for fear their defendant won’t be seen on Zoom or under a mask as a human, innocent and real. It’s a big concern.’
During his attorney Eric Nelson’s closing statement on Monday, Chauvin removed his mask in what Wood described as a bid to let the jury see his emotion after several witnesses for the prosecution described his demeanor on the day of Floyd’s death as callous and uncaring
Chauvin scribbled on his legal pad constantly to comfort himself and avoid giving any tells
Chauvin sparked a flurry of social media speculation after he was constantly seen scribbling notes on a yellow legal pad over 16 days of testimony.
It didn’t matter who was speaking – the judge, his attorney, a prosecutor or a witness – Chauvin always seemed to have pen to paper.
Wood said she’s had many clients ask her about what the mannerism means. She has a unique perspective because of her background of coaching clients on how to portray themselves best in official proceedings including court cases, debates and congressional hearings.
‘Many of my clients, curious about this case have asked me about his note taking,’ she said. ‘It is standard practice for me to coach my executive and politician clients to “take notes” so they will stay focused and occupied, have something to do with their hands – as hands often go to “Self-Comfort Cues” – and overall not be as nervous and not give as many tells.
‘I give caveats to that advice however saying its important at times to show respect, caring, and concern partiality. These caveats were not coached and or shown by [Chauvin].
‘Because he was labeled as unfeeling and lacking of emotion before the trial, it was a mistake for him to [take notes] so often. Here the lack of emotion during very painful testimony may have affected the jury’s impression of him negatively.
‘And you have that chin up and often shoulders back as he is taking notes. He looks more natural and humane when he is relaxed down in his chair here.’
Wood explained how Chauvin’s constant note-taking throughout the proceedings may have been an attempt to comfort himself and avoid giving away any reaction that could be perceived negatively by the jury
Chauvin’s booking photo from prison shows sadness in his eyes and mouth but defiance in his upturned chin
Wood also offered her analysis of Chauvin’s first booking photo after the verdict was read and he was remanded to MCF – Oak Park Heights, Minnesota’s only maximum security prison, until sentencing.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections released the photo on Wednesday morning as Chauvin woke up from his first night at the prison where he could end up facing a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Chauvin appeared tired and puffy-eyed with a frown and his hair in disarray.
As he did through much of the trial, Chauvin held his chin at an upward angle that Wood said could signal superiority.
‘There’s slight defiance in his eyes, and his mouth is placed in sad downward V,’ she said.
The last glimpse the world got of Chauvin was on Wednesday morning when officials released a booking photo taken at the maximum security prison where he’s being held until sentencing. Wood said Chauvin’s puffy eyes and dramatic frown showed sadness – but he held his chin up in a manner that suggests defiance
Chauvin’s demeanor throughout the trial cast him in a harsh light and caused some people to label him a sociopath
Looking across everything the court saw from Chauvin in the trial, Wood said several of his mannerisms could have been perceived negatively by the jury.
Body language expert Patti Wood
‘The constant note taking and the chin up, which can be seen even with a mask on, may have been the reason some people labeled Chauvin as looking unfeeling or even labeling him as a sociopath,’ she said.
‘Every individual has their baseline normal behavior that I use to do a read, and we have a standard of normal nonverbal behavior for situations,’ she explained.
‘Because of the long horrific video [of Floyd’s death] – this was a trial that caused many people who saw the video feel horrific pain and sympathy for the victim. So the baseline of normal response for the defendant is expected to show a reflection of our normal even knowing that he feels and considers himself innocent.
‘I know that lawyers may coach a client to show not emotion to make the victim look more guilty, but again we saw the video of the victim’s agony, so that standard lawyerly advice about how to comport yourself as the defendant in the courtroom could – and in this case did – backfire.’