Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd

A jury has unanimously convicted Derek Chauvin of the murder of George Floyd.

Former Minneapolis police officer Chauvinhad denied charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

But after 10 and a half hours of deliberations, the jury convicted the 45-year-old on all counts.

Chauvin, whose face was obscured by a COVID mask, showed little emotion as the guilty verdicts were read out.

He was remanded in custody, handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.

Under the state’s sentencing guidelines, he faces 12.5 years in prison for his murder conviction as a first-time offender but prosecutors could seek a maximum of 40 years if the judge determined there were “aggravating factors”.

Tears of relief as Derek Chauvin is found guilty
Image:There were emotional scenes outside the court building following the guilty verdicts

President Biden and VP Harris call the Floyd family after the GUILTY verdict! Thank you @POTUS & @VP for your support! We hope that we can count on you for the police reform we NEED in America! ✊🏾

— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) April 20, 2021

Outside the court building, a crowd of several hundred people erupted in cheers when the verdicts were announced.

More from Black Lives Matter

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  • George Floyd killing: Derek Chauvin acted ‘reasonably’ and was following training, trial hears

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  • Daunte Wright death: Police officer who ‘accidentally’ shot black man resigns along with police chief

  • Daunte Wright death: Officer who fatally shot black man in Minneapolis ‘meant to reach for Taser – not handgun’, police say

There were emotional scenes, as people hugged each other and cried. Chants of “George Floyd” and “All three counts” also broke out.

At Minneapolis’s George Floyd square, where Mr Floyd was killed and which is now named after him, people screamed, applauded and wept.

The site has become a rallying point for racial justice protests.

Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died while being restrained by Chauvin, who is white, during his arrest in the US city in May 2020.

Video filmed by bystanders showed Chauvin’s knee pressed into Mr Floyd’s neck and back for almost nine minutes as he gasped for breath.

The footage shocked the world and sparked global protests about racism and police brutality.

Derek Chauvin is remanded into custody
Image:Chauvin is led away in handcuffs after hearing the verdicts

An unarmed Mr Floyd had been apprehended after being accused of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes in a neighbourhood shop in Minneapolis – something senior police officers had said would not normally warrant arrest.

However, Chauvin’s lawyer had argued the former officer had acted reasonably because Mr Floyd kept struggling and he had actually died due to drugs found in his system – arguments both dismissed by the guilty verdict.

So, what unfolded on 25 May 2020?

After Donald Williams watched the last moments of George Floyd’s life, he called the police because he believed he had witnessed a murder.

And now a jury in Minneapolis has agreed with that assessment.

But what Mr Williams witnessed from the pavement on 25 May last year was also seen by millions of people around the world within hours of Mr Floyd’s death.

George Floyd was killed while under arrest in Minneapolis in May
Image:George Floyd was killed while under arrest in Minneapolis in May 2020

People using video phones captured the moment officers approached him outside the shop, to the moment his limp body was pulled on to a stretcher and carried into an ambulance.

Throughout the footage, Mr Floyd appeared upset, scared, uncooperative but never violent.

One of the key recordings came from the then 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, who told the court she stays awake some nights apologising to the memory of Mr Floyd for not intervening.

George Floyd responds to police after they approached his car in Minneapolis. Pic: AP
Image:Mr Floyd responds to police after they approached his car in Minneapolis. Pic: AP

Who can say how differently this story may have played out had the teenager not recorded and shared on social media the anguished death of Mr Floyd?

Her mobile phone video – those infamous eight minutes and 46 seconds of footage – exposed the reality of one man’s interaction with law enforcement and told a wider story of a history of police brutality and racial inequality in America.

A pivotal moment in US history?

It also made Chauvin’s murder trial a landmark moment for the country.

It is rare for any police officer to be charged with murder or manslaughter when they kill someone in the line of duty. Only about a third of those who are charged are convicted.

George Floyd with his mother
Image:George, as a baby, with his mother, affectionately known as Miss Cissy, who he was said to have ‘doted on’

Before Chauvin, only one police officer in Minnesota has ever been convicted of murder – and he was a Muslim Somali-American.

Chauvin’s conviction will be welcomed by those who have been calling for a reckoning in the way minority communities, in particular, are treated by police. But it will be seen as only one step on a long road.

Officers had been called to the scene on the day Mr Floyd died over reports of the use of a counterfeit $20 bill. The police chief of Minneapolis said that was an offence that would not usually merit arrest.

People hold signs as they march near the Hennepin County Government Center during a rally in Minneapolis on Monday, April 19, 2021, after the murder trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin advanced to jury deliberations. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Image:Protests flared across the US as the police officer stood trial. Pic: Associated Press

Activists say the escalation that followed between Mr Floyd and the officers there, is a familiar story in interactions between police and people of colour.

And the death of Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb, while the Chauvin trial was on-going – the 20-year-old shot was dead by a police officer during a routine traffic stop over expired number plates – was a reminder of the point that no-one needed.

Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin listens, without his face mask, as his defence attorney Eric Nelson gives closing arguments
Image:Derek Chauvin invoked his ‘Fifth Amendment right’ and chose not to give evidence at the trial

Minneapolis and America will be forced to examine the events of 25 May 2020 once again when the three other officers who were present, go on trial themselves in the summer, charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin.

By then, those demanding fundamental change in America will expect to have seen progress.

The anger and disillusionment among whole swathes of the community is very real.

George Floyd’s death continues to be a pivotal moment in America’s history.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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