Derek Chauvin guilty of murder, manslaughter in death of George Floyd
Verdict met with relief, jubilation on streets of Minneapolis and across the U.S.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, whom he pinned to the pavement, with his knee on the Black man's neck and back, in a case that touched off worldwide protests, violence and a furious re-examination of racism and policing in the U.S.
The jury came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days, finding Chauvin, 45, guilty on all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
As the judge asked the 12 jurors if they had reached a verdict, outside, a hush fell on the crowd of hundreds in a park adjacent to the courthouse, with people listening to the proceedings on their cellphones.
When the guilty verdict was announced, the crowd roared, many people hugging, some shedding tears.
People elated by the verdict flooded the streets surrounding Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis where the three-week trial took place.
The crowd burst into chants of "All three counts" and "Say his name. George Floyd," as drivers beeped their horns and people ran through traffic, waving banners.
WATCH | The verdict is read:
"The whole world was watching," Joe Nixon said. "We got justice for George Floyd. We are looking to get justice for many more."
Asked why he came down to the courthouse for the verdict, Nixon said, "Because I'm a Black man, and that could have been me."
"Minnesota is going to be the beacon for America," said Jonathan Mason in tears.
"I don't know how to react but at the end of the day it needed to happen," said Valentino Jackson.
Floyd family members gathered in a room adjacent to the courtroom could be heard cheering as each verdict was read. Soon after, they took a call from U.S. President Joe Biden.
WATCH | The crowd reacts to the verdict:
Sentencing expected in 8 weeks
Chauvin was remanded into custody and is expected to be sentenced in eight weeks.
The two murder convictions carry maximum prison sentences of 40 years and 25 years, respectively, but for first-time offenders such as Chauvin, the presumptive sentence is 12 and a half years, according to state sentencing guidelines. The guidelines give the judge discretion to hand down a sentence between 10 and 15 years.
The manslaughter conviction has a maximum sentence of 10 years and a presumptive sentence for first-time offenders of four years.
It's not clear whether Chauvin would serve the sentences concurrently or consecutively. The prosecution may also argue for a longer imprisonment than the presumptive sentence, possibly on the grounds that there were aggravating factors, such as that the crime occurred in the presence of a child (one of the bystanders was nine years old).
Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin pressed his knees on his neck and back for more than nine minutes as two other officers held him face-down on the pavement while he was handcuffed. He had been detained outside a convenience store on suspicion of paying with a counterfeit bill.
In court, Chauvin's face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the room.
His bail was immediately revoked after the verdict was read, and he was led away with his hands cuffed behind his back.
At the intersection where Chauvin had pinned Floyd to the ground, a crowd chanted, "One down, three to go!" — a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis police officers facing trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder in Floyd's death.
Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt grateful and relieved.
"I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete," she said, adding that she was looking forward to the "next case with joy and optimism and strength."
An ecstatic Whitney Lewis leaned halfway out a car window in a growing traffic jam of revelers waving a Black Lives Matter flag. "Justice was served," the 32-year-old from Minneapolis said. "It means George Floyd can now rest."
The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest — not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb on April 11.
Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris called members of the Floyd family moments after the verdict, according to video posted by family attorney Ben Crump.
Biden told the family, "Nothing is going to make it all better, but at least now, there is some justice."
"We're all so relieved."
Biden said he hoped the verdict would give momentum to congressional police reform efforts.
The identities of the jurors, who included four Black people, four white people and two who identified themselves as multiracial, were kept secret throughout the trial and will not be released until Judge Peter Cahill decides it is safe to do so.
WATCH | Floyd family gets a call from Biden, Harris:
What the jury had to consider
The jury had been deliberating since late Monday afternoon, sifting through 14 days' worth of evidence that included scores of exhibits, video and testimony from 45 witnesses, most of whom were called by the prosecution.
Chauvin chose not to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to do so.
The task for the prosecution was to convince the jury that Chauvin's actions were a "substantial causal factor" in Floyd's death and that his use of force was unreasonable.
To secure a conviction on the second-degree unintentional murder charge, prosecutors had to prove Chauvin caused Floyd's death while committing or attempting to commit a felony. In this case, the jurors had to determine whether Chauvin's knees pressed into Floyd's neck and back was a third-degree assault.
However, as the charge states, the death can be unintentional, meaning the prosecution wasn't required to prove that Chauvin intended to kill Floyd. Nor did it have to prove that no other factors contributed to his death.
For the third-degree murder charge, prosecutors had to convince the jury that Floyd's death was caused by an act that was obviously dangerous, though not necessarily a felony.
The manslaughter charge had the lowest bar, requiring proof that Chauvin caused Floyd's death through negligence that created an unreasonable risk and consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death.
What the witnesses had to say
Court heard from several prosecution medical witnesses who testified that Floyd died of positional asphyxia, meaning his oxygen was cut off during his restraint by police.
The state also elicited testimony from use-of-force experts, including from within the city's own police force. Several of them agreed the actions of Chauvin, who had been trained in use-of-force tactics, were excessive.
The city's police chief, Medaria Arradondo, testified that Chauvin violated police policy and should have stopped kneeling on Floyd once Floyd had stopped resisting and signalled he was in distress.
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Perhaps the most powerful pieces of evidence the prosecution relied on were the videos, from bystanders, police body cameras and surveillance cameras, showing Floyd pressed to the pavement, pleading that he couldn't breathe, before he eventually became unresponsive and police were heard saying they couldn't find a pulse.
That evidence included the video, shot by a teenage bystander, showing Chauvin pressing his knees into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds, a period of time the prosecution repeatedly referred to in its closing argument.
With files from Mark Gollom in Minneapolis