Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all charges in the murder of George Floyd, whose death led to months of demonstrations against police brutality last summer.
The verdict was read late Tuesday afternoon in downtown Minneapolis. It took the jury less than a day to come to its decision.
Chauvin was found guilty on all three of the criminal counts that he was facing — second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder. He could face up to life in prison.
Chauvin showed no emotion in the courtroom as the verdict was read. He was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately after Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill read the jury’s decision.
The trial was seen as a referendum on policing, and whether a conviction of a police officer for killing a Black person could be won.
Graphic bystander footage of the fatal arrest showed Floyd, 46, pleading with Chauvin that he couldn’t breathe as the officer pinned him to the street, his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Chauvin’s knee remained on Floyd’s neck for well over nine minutes, even after Floyd became unresponsive.
Floyd died a short time later at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Prosecutors argued it was an intentional act that directly led to Floyd’s death, while the officer’s defense portrayed it as a normal form of police work.
Chauvin’s legal defense also rested on the idea that other factors led to Floyd’s death, a premise rejected by prosecutors.
Particularly, Chauvin defense lawyer Eric Nelson unsuccessfully argued that Floyd died from the drugs in his system at the time of his arrest and underlying heart disease.
It was known that Floyd struggled with opioid addiction and trace amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine were found during the county medical examiner’s autopsy. The autopsy also found that Floyd’s heart was slightly enlarged and several arteries were significantly occluded.
However, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker stated in his autopsy report that Floyd’s cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest [the stopping of both the heart and lungs] complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
Baker described both the drugs in Floyd’s system and his heart disease as contributing factors but said that neither were direct causes of Floyd’s death.
He also categorized Floyd’s death as a homicide, which in medical terms simply means death at the hands of someone else.
During his testimony, the doctor made it clear that his opinion of how Floyd died had not changed.
In addition to Baker, the prosecution called forth numerous other medical professionals who testified that Floyd died from low levels of oxygen, also known as asphyxia.
Several officers from the Minneapolis Police Department also testified against Chauvin — a rare occurrence in a case like this — explaining to the court that Chauvin’s conduct was not something trained by the force.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo was one of the members of the department who took the stand, vehemently condemning what Chauvin did.
Minneapolis and other cities around the country had braced for an opposite verdict, with many mobilizing their national guard and declaring a state of emergency.
Former President Barack Obama reacted to the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin case.
“Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more,” Obama tweeted.
In a statement, Obama also noted:
“True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day. 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 the sometimes thankless, often difficult, but always necessary work for making the America we know more like the America we believe in.
“While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from sufficient one. We cannot rest.”