A jury on Tuesday found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges stemming from the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, last year.
Chauvin was not expressive as Judge Peter Cahill announced his conviction on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The verdicts were read a day after jurors began their deliberations.
Video of Chauvin holding his knee on or near Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes last May, while Floyd was prone and handcuffed, spurred months of protests and reanimated the movement opposing police brutality against Black men.
Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder has a maximum penalty of 25 years. Second-degree manslaughter has a maximum of 10 years. Sentencing guidelines call for sentences short of the maximum.
Cahill said that sentencing would take place in eight weeks. After the verdicts were read, Chauvin was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.
“This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message we hope is heard clearly in every city and every state,” Ben Crump, an attorney for Floyd’s family, said in a statement.
President Joe Biden, in a phone call with Floyd’s family that Crump recorded and posted online, pledged to accomplish meaningful police reform and told them that “nothing is going to make it all better, but at least now there’s some justice.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who was also on the phone call, said: “We are going to make something good come out of this tragedy.”
Chauvin’s high-profile trial began in March and concluded on Monday in a Minneapolis courthouse fortified with barbed wire.
People react after the verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, found guilty of the death of George Floyd, in front of Hennepin County Government Center, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 20, 2021.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
The case has been at the forefront of the anti-racist movement that gained steam during former President Donald Trump’s term in office and ignited around the country in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The video of Floyd’s death became a vivid illustration to many of the way Black men are often treated at the hands of law enforcement. Whether Chauvin was found guilty or acquitted was widely seen as a test of America’s system of justice.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who oversaw the prosecution, said at a press conference that “George Floyd mattered. He was loved by his family and his friends.”
“He mattered because he was a human being, and there is no way you can turn away from that reality,” Ellison said. He said that the verdict is not justice in itself, but that it is “accountability, which is the first step toward justice.”
After it was announced that the jury would deliver its verdict on Tuesday afternoon, Biden canceled planned remarks on an infrastructure proposal he is attempting to pass in Congress. He was expected to address the verdict later Tuesday.
Top Democrats in Congress cheered the decision. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the “guilty verdict serves as an official proclamation of what so many of us have known for nearly a year: George Floyd was murdered by an officer who was sworn to protect and serve.”
“However, we should not mistake a guilty verdict in this case as evidence that the persistent problem of police misconduct has been solved or that the divide between law enforcement and so many of the communities they serve has been bridged,” Schumer said. “We must remain diligent in our efforts to bring meaningful change to police departments across the country.”
Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama said in a joint statement, “Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more.”
“True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day,” the Obamas said. “It requires us to recognize that millions of our friends, family, and fellow citizens live in fear that their next encounter with law enforcement could be their last.”
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is led away in handcuffs after a jury found him guilty of all charges in his trial for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 20, 2021 in a still image from video.
Pool via Reuters
People who were close to Floyd braced themselves for potential outcomes earlier Tuesday.
“I think it will mean change; it will mean change. It’s a first step in a long road to recovery,” Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Batya Ross, said in an interview on CNN on Tuesday, addressing a potential guilty verdict. “I believe Floyd came here for a reason,” she said.
After the verdict was read, celebrations erupted at the courthouse and at the Cup Foods where Floyd was killed.
A trial for three of the other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, is set to begin in August.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, earlier indicated that his client would appeal a guilty verdict on the basis that jurors may have been impermissibly swayed by outside forces. Nelson cited comments by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who urged protesters to become confrontational if the jury acquitted Chauvin.
Biden, who has pledged to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system, refrained from providing his views on the case while it was ongoing. On Tuesday, while jurors were sequestered, he said that he prayed that the jury would come to the “right verdict.”
The tense atmosphere surrounding the trial was amplified in recent weeks by a spate of police killings that have led to protests.
On April 11, Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was killed by a police officer in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. The officer, Kimberly Potter, later claimed that she thought she was using a Taser. Potter has resigned and been charged with second-degree manslaughter.
People react after the verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, found guilty of the death of George Floyd, at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 20, 2021.
Adrees Latif | Reuters
Adam Toledo, a Latino 13-year-old, was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer on March 29. Footage of the seventh grader’s killing, which fueled anguish in Chicago and around the country, was released amid Chauvin’s trial.
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