The court reached a decision on Tuesday afternoon in the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, a black man whose death on May 25, 2020 sparked worldwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Derek Chauvin, 45, was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. All three charges require that jurors find that Chauvin’s acts were a “substantial causal factor” in Floyd’s death, but none require that they find he intended to kill Floyd.
Second-degree murder is the most serious charge. It carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, according to state sentencing guidelines. But for people with no criminal history, like Chauvin, the presumptive sentence is 12.5 years.
Third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, or a presumptive sentence of 12.5 years for a person with no criminal history.
Second-degree manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, or a presumptive sentence of four years for a person with no criminal history.
Forty-five witnesses were called to the stand over nearly three weeks of testimony in Hennepin County District Court — 38 of them brought to the stand by state prosecutors.
Jurors deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days before reaching a verdict in the high-profile case. The 12-member diverse jury include 4 white women, 2 white men, 3 black men, 1 black woman, and 2 multiracial women, according to court records.
The four-member prosecution team, led by Assistant State Attorney General Matthew Frank, focused repeatedly on viral video footage of Floyd’s death, which included Chauvin pressing his knee on the man’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.
Prosecutors contend that Floyd died of asphyxiation due to Chauvin’s knee on his neck even after paramedics arrived. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher alleged during closing argument on Monday that Chauvin killed Floyd on purpose, and that he “chose pride over policing.” “This wasn’t policing. This was murder,” he said. “Believe your eyes,” Schleicher reiterated to the jurors Monday as they re-watched the viral footage of Floyd’s death.
But Chauvin lawyer Eric Nelson hinged his case on three assertions: that Floyd died due to drug use and a heart ailment; that an unruly crowd of bystanders posed a threat and distracted the cop; and that Chauvin followed his training in using the restraint.
In a unanimous decision, the 12-member panel found Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges
Reacting after the verdict, U.S Vice President Kamala Harris said:
“America has a long history of systemic racism, Black Americans and black men, in particular, have been treated as less than human,” Harris said. “Because of smartphones so many Americans have now seen the racial injustice that black Americans have known for generations.”
In his most direct comments in the case and race in American, U.S President, Joe Biden, commended the police officers who stepped up during the trial to testify for the prosecution in the case but gave credit to the activists who protested and the teen who recorded Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
President Biden and Vice President Harris also talked with Floyd’s family over the phone, the details of which can be heard in a video released on Twitter by the family’s attorney, Ben Crump.
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! ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/cg4V2D5tlI
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) April 20, 2021
“Nothing is going to make it all better, but at least now there’s some justice,” Biden told the family. “You’re an incredible family. I wish I were there to put arms around you.”
He added, “We’re all so relieved.”
“In George’s name and memory we are going to make sure his legacy is intact, and that history will look back at this moment and know this is an inflection moment,” Harris said on the call.