Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all charges against him, Judge Peter Cahill announced on Tuesday. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter after kneeling on the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020, outside of the Cup Foods corner store in Minneapolis.
Cheers could be heard outside the courthouse seconds after the verdict was read. “GUILTY! Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd’s family,” attorney for the Floyd family Ben Crump said in a statement on social media. “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!”
“According to MN court authorities, if the jury finds Chauvin guilty on any count, he will immediately be handcuffed and taken into custody,” journalist David Shuster tweeted.
Chauvin is facing 40 years for second-degree murder, 25 years for third-degree murder, and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter, according to the Los Angeles Times. The jury consist of six white people, four Black and two jurors who self-identify as multiracial, according to NPR. Read more about the jurors in an earlier Daily Kos post.
CNN correspondent Sara Sidner tweeted that she spoke with Floyd's brother, Philonise, who hadn't heard the news of the pending verdict. "You know what he said?" Sidner asked. “'It’s gonna be alright. It’s a historic case for America but a deeply personal case for us.’”
Courteney Ross, George Floyd's girlfriend, said outside of the courthouse where the verdict will be read that she's confident Chauvin will be convicted of second-degree murder. “I am convinced that there is going to be a guilty verdict coming,” Ross said.
She told CNN crying Floyd is “over all of us right now.” She said she knows he would want people to come together. “I know this verdict is coming back guilty,” she said, calling that “the first step to a long road to recovery.”
“This is not a comfortable place for many of us to be (...),” Ross said of the courthouse. She said she’s had many bad encounters there, but it’s supposed to be about justice.
The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 50 organizations focusing on attaining progress in Black communities, gave a similarly hopeful statement while also noting the progress still to be made.
The organization said:
“George Floyd should still be alive, full stop. Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict doesn’t fix an irredeemable, racist system of policing rooted in white supremacy that will continue working against and harming Black people just as designed. Minnesota police couldn’t even go the full length of the trial without taking the life of another Black person, and now we’re grieving for Daunte Wright just as we continue to grieve for George Floyd. This repeat cycle of police killings, trials, and no real substantive systemic change has to stop. Now is the time for a complete reimagining of public safety in the United States, so that no more fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, children, siblings or loved ones are lost to the hands of state violence. It’s past time to divest from an institution that consistently proves itself to be deadly, and invest in a system of safety that protects us all. Our calls for defunding the police will continue to grow louder with each police murder. We will not give up fighting until Black people and communities get the justice and liberation they deserve.”
Chauvin was handcuffed and taken out of the courtroom as promised.
Vice President Kamala Harris told CNN on Tuesday before the verdict was read that it "will not heal the pain that existed for generations." She said: "I think there needs to be a consequence and accountability for people who break the law. Period."
President Biden and Vice President Harris are now making statements. “It was murder in the full light of day,” says Biden. Racial justice is “a problem for every American,” says Harris. “It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all.”
The trial determining Chauvin’s fate involved 45 witnesses who gave their testimony over 14 days. During that time, the prosecution built a solid case featuring medical and excessive force experts, police officials, first responders, and onlookers who witnessed and in several cases recorded the moments before Floyd died. “This wasn’t policing. This was murder,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said during his closing statement on Monday. He and fellow prosecutor Jerry Blackwell argued that Chauvin used excessive force when he and other officers piled on top of Floyd despite repeated complaints that he couldn’t breathe and had a weakening pulse. They said no number of alternate theories or claims that Floyd resisted arrest should override jurors applying their common sense to the evidence presented in the case.
Jena Scurry, a 911 dispatcher who watched early police interactions with Floyd via a remote feed, testified on the first day of witness testimony on March 29 that Chauvin had Floyd pinned so long she thought the "screens had frozen." On the ninth day of the trial, Martin Tobin, a Chicago pulmonologist and critical care physician, and Bill Smock, an emergency medical physician, both testified that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen. Although he floated several ridiculous notions of what caused Floyd’s death, even an expert witness called by the defense agreed with the prosecution that officers’ combined weight on a person's abdomen or torso could cause compressional or positional asphyxia, a lack of oxygen flow to the brain if the weight on the person exceeds 225 pounds.
Forensic pathologist David Fowler also testified in court that he believed Floyd underwent a cardiac arrhythmia and that his history of drug use, heart disease, and carbon monoxide exposure from the squad car during his detainment contributed to the arrhythmia. “All of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd’s death,” Fowler said. It was a central argument of defense attorney Eric Nelson’s case along with his claim that an unruly crowd of onlookers distracted his client and contributed to officers’ need to control the scene.
Nelson attempted to discredit testimony during the trial that the position Chauvin held Floyd in contributed to his death. "People sleep in the prone position. People suntan in the prone position. People get massages in the prone position," he said during more than two hours of closing arguments. "The prone position in and of itself is not an inherently dangerous act."
Chauvin’s interpretation of the position, however, is not a part of the Minneapolis Police Department’s standards, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified. "There's an initial reasonableness in trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds,” Arradondo said, “but once there was no longer any resistance and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive, and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person prone out, handcuffed behind their back, that, that in no way, shape, or form is anything that is by policy.
“It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values."
Viral witness video of Floyd’s death sent shockwaves through the country and reignited a protest movement aimed at police reform and justice. President Joe Biden called Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, on Monday to let him know the president is praying for him as the country awaited a verdict in Chauvin’s case, according to NBC's Today show. "He was just calling," Philonise Floyd told NBC. "He knows how it is to lose a family member, and he knows the process of what we’re going through. So he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, hoping that everything will come out to be Okay."
Check back later for reactions to the trial verdict.