On Tuesday, April 20, former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty for the murder of George Floyd. Chauvin was declared guilty on charges of second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder. The former officer will be sentenced eight weeks following the verdict and faces up to 40 years of jail time.
This outcome comes after three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses and experts. Both prosecutors and Chauvin’s attorney shared their closing statements on Monday. The jury deliberated for four hour hours before adjourning in the evening and reconnecting Tuesday morning. The deliberation took a total of 10 hours.
Earlier today, President Joe Biden weighed in on his hopes for the outcome of the trial, although he chose his words carefully. “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is — I think it’s overwhelming, in my view,” he told reporters, according to the New York Times. “I wouldn’t say that unless the — the jury was sequestered now and not hearing me say that.” He added that he had spoken to Floyd’s family, and was praying for them and for the “right” verdict.
Immediately following the guilty verdict, Ben Crump, the attorney representing Floyd's family, tweeted: "GUILTY! Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd’s family. This verdict is a turning point in history and sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement. Justice for Black America is justice for all of America!"
On May 25, 2020, Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Many horrified bystanders, who shared eyewitness accounts at the trial, stated that they called for Chauvin to move and even dialled 911, to no avail. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, claimed that Floyd died of a drug overdose and underlying health conditions. Nelson also said that Chauvin did “exactly what he had been trained to do.” Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, the longest-serving officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, disagreed, calling Chauvin’s actions “totally unnecessary” and stating that Floyd did not pose a threat.
Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests and outrage over America's long and deadly history of police violence, particularly against Black and brown Americans. Just since Chauvin's trial began, at least 64 more people — over half of them Black and Latino — were killed by police officers in America. Just recently, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed just 11 miles from the site of Floyd’s death.
According to the organisation Mapping Police Violence, 28% of all people killed by U.S. police officers were Black, even though Black Americans only make up 13% of the population. And there’s rarely any accountability: Between the years of 2013 and 2020, less than 2% of police killings ended with officers facing charges. Of the officers charged, only around 25% are actually convicted.
“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. It’s what you felt in your gut. It’s what you know now in your heart,” prosecutor Steven Schleicher told the jury during his closing statement. “This wasn't policing. This was murder.”