Derek Chauvin convicted of murdering George Floyd
Ex-Minneapolis police officer found guilty on all counts and faces up to 40 years in prison
46 minutes ago
Derek Chauvin is set to be sentenced in eight weeks following his conviction © via Reuters
A jury has convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, whose death last year set off worldwide protests against racial injustice.
Chauvin, 45, was found guilty on all three charges — second-degree and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The second-degree murder count, the most serious of the three, carries a prison sentence of up to 40 years.
Wearing a grey suit, a blue tie and a mask, Chauvin furrowed his brow only slightly when the verdict was read. He was led away in handcuffs and will be sentenced in eight weeks.
Speaking after the verdict, Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney-general who led the prosecution, said: “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice.”
The trial in Minneapolis has been one of the most closely watched US court cases in years, and comes at a time of calls for greater accountability when police kill people of colour while performing their duties. Jury selection began on March 9, and opening statements began on March 29. Jurors deliberated roughly 10 hours before announcing they had reached a verdict.
A crowd of people gathered to hear the verdict outside the Minneapolis courthouse where the case was tried © Reuters
In May last year, Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while arresting him for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.
“What is important to think about for justice, is what justice looks like for George Floyd’s family,” said Ashley Howard, a University of Iowa professor who studies the history of African Americans in the Midwest. “Any conviction will never bring back their father, their partner, their friend. But if a conviction brings some closure for the family, then they can call that justice.”
A crowd grew outside the Hennepin county government centre in downtown Minneapolis ahead of the verdict. One person led a familiar chat, shouting “Say his name”, to which the crowd responded “George Floyd”.
The charges against Derek Chauvin
Second-degree unintentional murder requires that prosecutors prove the defendant committed the murder while committing a felony — in Chauvin’s case, the alleged felony was assault. They did not need to prove an intent to kill, only an intent to commit the assault. The maximum penalty is 40 years in prison.
Third-degree murder, which carries a 25-year maximum sentence, applies to a defendant who kills someone while committing an “eminently dangerous” act “and evincing a depraved mind”.
Second-degree manslaughter requires proving that a defendant acted with “culpable negligence” by creating “an unreasonable risk” of killing someone. Defendants face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The city has expected protests after the verdict, regardless of the jury’s decision. The government centre has been barricaded with a fence topped with concertina wire since March. The National Guard increased troops in the metro area last week following civil unrest in a northern suburb after police shot a 20-year-old black man during a traffic stop.
Six of the 12 jurors were white, four were black and two were multiracial, according to the Minnesota newspaper the Star Tribune.
The trial revolved around two issues: whether Chauvin’s use of force was justified and the precise cause of Floyd’s death.
Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo took the stand to condemn Chauvin’s actions, while defence attorney Eric Nelson said force can be “awful but lawful” and that Chauvin should be judged on what any reasonable officer would have done in similar circumstances.
Prosecution witnesses primarily cited asphyxia as Floyd’s cause of death, and medical examiner Andrew Baker said he died from cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement. A lawyer for Chauvin said Floyd died of cardiac arrhythmia, pointing to prior health problems and drug use.
Race has been a central element of the trial and the attention around it, although both prosecutors and defence have tried to separate the court case from its social context. Police are rarely charged when they kill someone in the line of duty, let alone convicted.
For Jada Brown, a Minneapolis protester who supports redirecting police department funding to social services, Chauvin’s conviction is “a first step. I don’t think it’s a victory.”