Derek Chauvin Convicted of All Charges in Murder of George Floyd
Jurors convicted Derek Chauvin of all three charges in George Floyd's May 2020 killing
Jurors on Tuesday found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd last May in an act caught on viral video that fueled a national reckoning on social justice, race and police brutality.
Chauvin, 44, was taken away in handcuffs and will go directly to jail. He will be sentenced in eight weeks.
The recommended sentence in Minnesota for a first-time offender found guilty is 12-and-a-half years in prison for either second- or third-degree murder, and four years for second-degree manslaughter.
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Floyd, 46, a Black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill, died facedown on the ground with his hands cuffed behind him as the white officer pinned his knee to Floyd's neck for about nine minutes.
The 12 jurors who reached the verdict were made up of five men and seven women — six white, four Black, and two who identified themselves as as mixed race.
The verdict followed a prosecution that continued to replay what millions around the world saw, propelling them into the streets in protests: the video of Chauvin, his hands in his pockets and his sunglasses perched atop his head, with Floyd underneath him crying out for his dead mother and repeatedly gasping, "I can't breathe."
"Ultimately, it isn't really that complicated," prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said in his team's closing argument Monday. "You can believe your eyes."
Three weeks of emotional testimony began March 29 with eyewitnesses describing their grief, regret, hopelessness and lingering trauma after witnessing but being unable to stop Floyd's slide into unconsciousness and death.
An off-duty EMT, Genevieve Hansen, testified that officers waived off her request to help Floyd when she happened upon the scene. Another witness, George McMillian, 61, testified through tears that after paramedics drove away with Floyd's lifeless body, he approached Chauvin to say the way he had kept Floyd restrained wasn't right.
"That's one person's opinion," Chauvin answered him. "We gotta put force, gotta control this guy because he's a sizable guy. Looks like he's probably on something."
The Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, also took the stand to testify against his former officer, who was fired after the death of Floyd, whose "I can't breathe" became a rallying cry for protesters around the country and across the globe.
"Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped," Arradondo testified.
"There is an initial reasonableness in trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds," he said. "But once there was no longer any resistance and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back -- that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy."
Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that Chauvin was only following his police training and protocol in his restraint of Floyd. He argued that it was not pressure applied by Chauvin to Floyd's neck that contributed to Floyd's death, but rather Floyd's history of underlying health conditions and drug use. He further alleged that a crowd of onlookers who appeared to grow angry presented a threat to Chauvin, guiding his actions.
"The standard is not what should the officer have done in these circumstances," Nelson said in his closing argument. "It's not what could the officer have done differently under these circumstances. The standard is what were the facts that were known to this officer at the precise moment he used force … and what would a reasonable police officer have done."
He added: "There is absolutely no evidence that officer Chauvin intentionally, purposefully applied unlawful force."
Chauvin pleaded the 5th Amendment in deciding not to take the stand in his own defense.
Both the Hennepin County medical examiner and a private pathologist hired by the Floyd family concluded that Floyd died by homicide.
In his closing, Nelson directed jurors away from widely shared bystander video of Floyd pinned to the ground that was repeatedly played in court. He instead advised them to consider the previous 17 minutes, when he said Floyd struggled and resisted officers who were trying to place him in a patrol car, telling them he suffered from claustrophobia. He said suspects sometimes fake a medical emergency "simply because they don't want to go to jail."
But "George Floyd was not a threat to anyone," another prosecutor, Steve Schleicher, said in his closing. "Facing George Floyd that day did not require one ounce of courage. All that was required was a little compassion, and none was shown."
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Noting the medical examiner's ruling of homicide, Schleicher said, "What the defendant did to George Floyd killed him."
"What the defendant did was not policing," he said. "What the defendant did was an assault. He betrayed the badge."
As the verdict was read, a nation riveted to the trial unlike any other in recent memory readied its reaction, from the Minneapolis memorial site now known as George Floyd Square where Floyd died to major cities around the country where law enforcement and National Guard troops stood poised to calm a potentially tumultuous response.
Chauvin will be sentenced at a later date. Three other now-former officers on the scene with Chauvin — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — all were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and will be tried apart from Chauvin this summer. All have pleaded not guilty.
Chauvin was fired a day after the killing. In the midst of jury selection that began March 8, the City of Minneapolis announced a $27 million settlement with Floyd's family in a civil lawsuit brought against the city, Chauvin and the other former officers.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
- National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.