Former Minneapolis officer found guilty on all counts for George Floyd’s death
Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts Tuesday afternoon for his involvement in the death of George Floyd in May 2020, almost a year after the incident.
The former Minneapolis police officer could face prison for the rest of his life — up to 75 years in prison. He was convicted of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
In Minnesota, second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, followed by third-degree murder with a maximum sentence of 25 years, followed by second-degree manslaughter, which is punishable by up to a decade. The suggested sentencing range for unintentional second-degree murder is the same as third-degree murder, but according to CBS News, someone convicted of second-degree manslaughter with no criminal history would likely spend about four years in prison.
The other three officers involved in the incident were charged with aiding and abetting and will likely be tried jointly in August.
Mr. Chauvin will remain in custody until he returns for his sentencing in eight weeks.
The jury’s verdict was announced around 2 p.m. PT Tuesday afternoon at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, and Mr. Chauvin did not express much emotion upon hearing the verdict. After Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill ordered his bail be revoked, the former officer calmly complied with being handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.
“Today we saw the Rule of Law upheld, as it must be in order for America to survive,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said in a statement. “Moving forward as a nation, let us do so with faith in our unrivaled system of justice, and with respect for one another.”
A large crowd gathered outside the courthouse in Minneapolis during the trial, and when the verdict was announced, the crowd chanted, “All three counts! All three counts!” in celebration, according to national media reports.
There were five men and seven women on the jury, and they heard three weeks of witness testimony before they began deliberating Monday. The jury was sequestered during deliberations, but not during the earlier portion of the trial.
Prosecutors argued that Mr. Chauvin — who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds (a corrected time frame by the prosecution from the original 8 minutes and 46 seconds) — caused Mr. Floyd to die from low oxygen (asphyxia).
The defense argued other factors could have caused his death, such as Mr. Floyd’s illegal drug use (low levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine), his pre-existing heart condition (enlarged heart and narrow arteries) or exposure to carbon monoxide.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher, in closing arguments, said Mr. Chauvin “chose pride over policing” and said his kneeling on Mr. Floyd was “unnecessary, gratuitous and disproportionate.” He also called on the jury to focus on just the 9 minutes and 29 seconds of kneeling.
“He did it on purpose,” he said. “This was not an accident. He did not trip and fall and find himself on George Floyd’s neck. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw.”
The lead defense attorney, Eric Nelson, rejected the request to focus on the 9:29.
“The 9 minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds,” he said in his closing arguments, referencing the police interaction with Mr. Floyd. “It completely disregards it. It says in that moment, at that point, nothing else that happened before should be taken into consideration by a reasonable police officer. It tries to reframe the issue of what a responsible police officer would do … A reasonable police officer would, in fact, take into consideration the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds.”
The Santa Barbara Police Department issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying it “remains committed to protecting the right to protest by all members of the community.”
“We are prepared and remain ready to assist the community should situations arise that require a law enforcement response,” the statement said. “We have a response plan in place to keep the community safe and protect the rights of those who choose to participate in First Amendment events.”
In the statement, Interim Chief Bernard Melekian said, “The humanity and great work of the officers who protect the Santa Barbara community is something you don’t see everywhere. I think it is unfortunate the actions of thousands and thousands of American police officers are being judged by a few. The verdict in Minneapolis today was an affirmation that the legal system can deliver justice. Today represents a significant step forward in advancing the ideals this nation was founded on.”
And the chief told the News-Press, “All of us are very grateful that this is over, or at least the trial is over and the anticipation of what the jury verdict might be is over.” He added that he really does hope the verdict is a step forward to “live up to the ideals the nation was founded on.”
Joyce Dudley, Santa Barbara County’s district attorney, told the News-Press that when she heard the verdict, she was “not surprised,” but “relieved.”
“When I saw George Floyd die, I knew I had just seen my first murder,” Ms. Dudley said. “Every ruling I read about or saw on the news seemed fair and just.
“My experience with juries is that they work very hard, often sacrificing their own peace of mind, to do the right thing, and their hard work and sacrifice often brings the victim’s family the peace and justice they crave. I believe justice was served.”
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris praised the jury’s decision shortly after it was announced.
“Nothing can ever bring their brother (and) their father back, but this can be a giant step forward in the march towards justice in America …” the president said in a statement. “For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors — a brave young woman with a smartphone camera, a crowd that was traumatized …
“Black men, in particular, have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human … We have to listen. ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words. We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words.”
Vice President Harris called for policing reform in the country as part of Mr. Floyd’s legacy.
“Today, we feel a sigh of relief,” she said. “Still, it cannot take away the pain. A measure of justice is not the same as equal justice.”