Chauvin convicted in death of George Floyd
Last updated 4/20/2021 at 5:03pm
MINNEAPOLIS — The former Minneapolis police officer charged with George Floyd's death last year was convicted on Tuesday afternoon.
The jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Jurors, who were sequestered, reached their decision after hearing closing arguments from the prosecution and defense Monday. They started deliberations afterward. Jurors heard from 44 witnesses over 14 days of testimony. The trial began seven weeks ago, on March 8, with jury selection, and was livestreamed across the world by several media outlets on multiple platforms.
Jurors were asked to decide between the prosecution's claims that Chauvin used excessive force and an unsanctioned maneuver when he knelt on Floyd's neck for about 9 1/2 minutes on May 25, 2020, and the defense's argument that Chauvin was following his training when he arrested an unruly Floyd, who died of a cardiac arrest that stemmed from drug use and preexisting heart disease and clogged arteries.
The cause of death became a key issue, with prosecutors telling jurors Floyd, 46, died of asphyxia from low oxygen when Chauvin knelt on his neck as former officers J. Alexander Kueng knelt on his buttock and thigh area and Thomas Lane knelt and held onto his legs. Former officer Tou Thao kept angry bystanders at bay.
The officers were arresting him for using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at Cup Foods in south Minneapolis.
Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker ruled that Floyd died of a homicide, an act caused by another person, and that the cause of death was "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." He also listed hardening and thickening of the artery walls, heart disease and drug use as "other significant conditions." Fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in Floyd's system.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill will be asked to determine whether there were aggravating factors in the case, which the prosecution can use in arguing for a higher than recommended prison term. The Minnesota Attorney General's Office, which is leading the prosecution, previously filed notice that it would seek the factors and a longer sentence.
Chauvin was immediately taken into custody and will be sentenced in the next few weeks.
Prosecutors wrote that there were five aggravating factors:
— Floyd was "particularly vulnerable" because his hands were handcuffed behind him.
— Floyd was treated with "particular cruelty." Prosecutors said at trial that Chauvin remained on Floyd's neck even though he wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse for nearly five minutes. Bystander video also captured Floyd repeatedly saying he couldn't breathe before he became unresponsive.
— The officers abused their position of authority.
— The officers committed the act as a group.
— The officers' actions occurred in front of children. The youngest witness was Judeah Reynolds, then 9. Her cousin, Darnella Frazier, then 17, recorded and shared video of the incident, which many credit for leading to the criminal prosecution.
Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, argued at trial that the bystanders, which also included adults, were hostile toward the officers and created a potential threat.
Second-degree unintentional murder is punishable by up to 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. However, Minnesota sentencing guidelines call for identical presumptive prison terms for both counts, starting at 12 1/2 years for someone with no criminal history.
Second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $20,000. The count carries a presumptive sentence of four years for someone with no criminal history.
The verdict comes at a time of heightened tensions in the metro area following the April 11 fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was shot during a traffic stop by then-Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter.
Then-Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who has since resigned, said Potter mistakenly fired her gun instead of a Taser while assisting in the arrest of Wright, who had been stopped for expired tabs and was found to have a warrant. Potter, who also resigned, was charged last week with second-degree manslaughter.
Wright's death led to several nights of protests outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, where police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and flash-bang grenades at demonstrators, alarming residents of an apartment building across the street who said they were being impacted. Police also accused some demonstrators of throwing objects, including cans and bricks, at police.
A coalition of at least nine local law enforcement agencies working as "Operation Safety Net" have coordinated with each other to provide security during Chauvin's trial, and are expected to respond the public's reaction to the verdict. Coalition partners have also responded to the protests in Brooklyn Center.
The death of Floyd, who was Black, under a white officer's knee sparked demonstrations across the world and a racial reckoning that prompted calls for defunding the police. It led to alterations to the long-held names of popular musical acts and the rebranding of well-known products that had used racially insensitive terminology or mascots, among other changes.
Many activists and community members had looked to Chauvin's trial as a test of the criminal justice system and a potential turning point in community-police relations, only to be disrupted by Wright's killing.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Floyd's family and who helped negotiate a record $27 million settlement with the city of Minneapolis, is also representing Wright's family.