After a six-week trial, former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murdering George Floyd, being found guilty on all three charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin’s sentencing will take place in eight weeks, and he faces a minimum of 40 years without parole. His bail has also been revoked.
The three other officers involved in Floyd’s death, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, will be tried in August for aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
On May 25, 2020, Floyd was arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. During the arrest, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. As Chauvin knelt on his neck and back, Floyd stated that he could not breathe more than 20 times, according to prosecution and live video footage.
During the trial, witnesses described the incident with fear and anger, including Darnella Frazier, the then 17-year-old who filmed Floyd’s death with her phone.
“I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Frazier said.
Chauvin was arrested on May 29, 2020, and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison would later add a second-degree unintentional murder charge against Chauvin.
Deliberations by the 12 jurors took place on April 19, one day before the verdict was reached. Both the prosecution and defense went back and forth with 38 witnesses, including defense witness Dr. David Fowler, Maryland’s former chief medical examiner, who testified that carbon monoxide from auto exhaust possibly contributed to Floyd’s death.
The defense also claimed that Chauvin’s use of force was necessary to restrain Floyd, according to defense lawyer Eric Nelson, who felt that Chauvin did “exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career.”
Debunking the carbon monoxide theory, pulmonologist Dr. Martin J. Tobin testified that these findings were “simply wrong” and that Floyd died from a low level of oxygen caused by Chauvin’s knee on his neck and back and from being handcuffed.
The trial has made history as Chauvin is Minnesota’s first white police officer to be charged in the death of a Black individual. Since 2005, only seven officers have been convicted of murder in police shootings of the 139 that have gone to trial, and 37 have been convicted of manslaughter or lesser charges.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented Floyd’s family, stated in a tweet that the verdict “is a gateway toward justice for Black people like Daunte Wright who should NEVER have been taken from their families” and shows that police officers can be held accountable for their actions.
Yesterday’s guilty verdict is a gateway toward justice for Black people like Daunte Wright who should NEVER have been taken from their families. It shows that we CAN hold police officers accountable for their disgusting actions! We CAN have justice! pic.twitter.com/GUTooDhYjg
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) April 22, 2021
In response to the verdict, Long Beach State President Jane Close Conoley stated in a tweet and a campus-wide email that the university remains “committed to fighting racism and hate” and “will continue leveraging our strengths and history as we work for social justice, equity and the public good.”
“I continue urging members of the Beach family to find ways to ensure that peace and justice prevail in our communities,” Conoley wrote. “We are in the midst of a national reckoning on racial justice and police reform. Within the past week, we have learned of two additional killings of Black men by police, reminding us that the Chauvin verdict is only a first step to address a much larger problem. At every level – local, state, and national – we must come together to ensure the dignity and safety of all.”
President Joe Biden said in a speech Tuesday that, for Floyd’s family, “nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back. But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.”
“In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen and occur again,” Biden said. “To ensure that Black and Brown people or anyone — so they don’t fear the interactions with law enforcement, that they don’t have to wake up knowing that they can lose their very life in the course of just living their life.”
Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, stated in a tweet that while “a jury in Minneapolis did the right thing,” achieving “true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial.”
“True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day,” the statement read. “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. And it requires us to do some thankless, often difficult, but always necessary work of making the America we know more like the America we believe in.”