Derek Chauvin found guilty of murder and manslaughter in death of George Floyd
In one of the most important trials of the Black Lives Matter era, a former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes last year was found guilty of murder and manslaughter on Tuesday.
Derek Chauvin, 45, was found guilty of accidental murder in the second degree, murder in the third degree, and manslaughter in the second degree. The jury deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days in coming to their decision.
Chauvin, who was wearing a mask in court, seemed unconcerned about the guilty verdict. His bail was revoked, and he was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom by a side door. The decision comes nearly 11 months after a bystander video captured Chauvin impassively kneeling on Floyd’s neck and back, handcuffed and lying prone on the ground, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020. The 46-year-old Black man gasped for air under the officer’s feet, repeatedly exclaiming “I can’t breathe,” and eventually went silent.
His final moments encapsulated what Black Americans have long said about how the criminal justice system dehumanizes African-Americans, sparking nationwide demonstrations as well as outbreaks of looting and unrest.
During the roughly three weeks of court testimony, Minnesota prosecutors repeatedly told jurors to “believe your eyes” and rely on the footage.
“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. It is exactly that. You can believe your eyes,” prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher said in closing arguments. “This wasn’t policing. This was murder.”
The defense called seven witnesses of its own — but not Chauvin himself, as he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that Chauvin’s use of force was unattractive but appropriate and said he was distracted by a crowd of hostile bystanders on the scene. He also argued that Floyd died due to fentanyl and methamphetamine use, his resistance of officers and his underlying heart problems, rather than due to Chauvin’s actions.
According to the second-degree murder charge, Chauvin deliberately assaulted Floyd with his knee, resulting in Floyd’s death. Chauvin is accused of acting with a “depraved mentality, without respect for human life,” according to the third-degree murder charge. Floyd died as a result of Chauvin’s “culpable negligence,” according to the second-degree manslaughter accusation.
Chauvin faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, 25 years if convicted of third-degree murder, and 10 years if convicted of second-degree manslaughter. Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, on the other hand, prescribe a maximum sentence of 12.5 years in prison on each murder charge and four years for each manslaughter charge.
According to the court’s records, six of the jurors are White, four are Black, and two are multiracial.