A jury found Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota last spring, guilty of murder in the second degree, murder in the third degree and manslaughter in the second degree on 20 April.
Chauvin, a use-of-force expert testified earlier this month, had his knee on Floyd’s neck area for the entirety of the nine and a half minutes that Floyd lay face down with his hands cuffed. Floyd’s death was filmed.
The police were called after Floyd used what appeared to be a counterfeit $20 bill. The store clerk who took the bill testified in March that he thought, as Floyd died, “If I would have just not took the bill, this could have been avoided.”
The case was taken over by the Minnesota state attorney general Keith Ellison last June after Minneapolis legislators said they did not have confidence in the local prosecutors.
The verdict was reached less than a day after the jury – comprised of six white people, four black people, and two people who identify as multiracial – was sequestered for deliberations. According to reports, the jury did not ask a single question. Earlier on Tuesday (20 April), President Joe Biden described the evidence as “overwhelming” and said he was “praying that the verdict is the right verdict”.
The prosecution argued that Chauvin’s use of force was not necessary. The defence attorney, Eric Nelson, tried to make the argument that “a reasonable police officer” would understand what Chauvin did. Nelson also called for a mistrial, citing the California Representative Maxine Waters’ call for protesters to “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if there was no guilty verdict. The judge acknowledged that Waters “may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned” but denied the motion for a mistrial.
Floyd’s death sparked a summer of protests last year in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Even so, while the trial was being held a man named Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a police officer about ten miles away; Wright had reportedly been pulled over for having an expired registration. Floyd’s former girlfriend, it turned out, taught Wright in high school.