Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted T on all three counts in the death of George Floyd, whose killing sparked worldwide protests and a reckoning on race in the U.S. After about a day of deliberations, the jury found Chauvin guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Judge Peter Cahill read the verdict at the heavily guarded Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, where the trial began last month. A cheer could be heard from the crowd of peaceful protesters that had gathered outside.
Chauvin showed little reaction after the verdict was announced. Judge Cahill announced his bail had been revoked and Chauvin was led away in handcuffs. The judge said sentencing will take place in about eight weeks.
The defence lawyer argued a combination of Floyd’s underlying heart disease, adrenaline and the fentanyl and methamphetamine he had ingested prior to the arrest amounted to a fatal combination. He called the case “tragic,” but said it was an example of “officers doing their job in a highly stressful situation.”
In Minnesota, second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
But sentencing guidelines recommend less time for offenders with no criminal history.
In that case, the suggested sentencing range for unintentional second-degree murder and third degree murder is the same — from just over 10 and a half years to 15 years in prison. The recommended median sentence is 12 and a half years — the same sentence handed down in 2019 to Mohamed Noor, a former Minneapolis police officer convicted of third-degree murder for firing a shot from inside his squad car and killing a woman who had called 911.
Someone convicted of second-degree manslaughter with no criminal history would likely spend about four years in prison.
In the Chauvin case, prosecutors have introduced a series of “aggravating factors” that could add additional time to Chauvin’s sentence. They include committing a crime in front of a child — the youngest bystander who witnessed Floyd’s fatal arrest was 9 years old — and using police authority to commit a crime.
The other three officers involved are charged with aiding and abetting, and are expected to be tried jointly in August.
The jury — made up of six White people, four Black people and two multiracial people — heard 13 days of sometimes emotional testimony. The jury was sequestered (locked away from the public) during deliberations, but was not sequestered during the earlier portion of the trial.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Steve Schleicher urged jurors to focus on the video showing Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
“Believe your eyes,” Schleicher said. “Unreasonable force, pinning him to the ground — that’s what killed him. This was a homicide.”
Schleicher said Chauvin showed “indifference” to Floyd’s pleas for help and continued restraining the man even after he was unresponsive, ignoring the bystanders who were urging him to ease up.
“This case is exactly what you thought when you first saw it — when you first saw the video,” he said. “It’s exactly that. It’s exactly what you saw with your eyes. It’s exactly what you knew. It’s exactly what you felt in your gut. It’s what you now know in your heart. This wasn’t policing, this was murder.”
In his closing argument, defense attorney Eric Nelson said the state has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and has not been able to definitely show how Floyd died.
He said that while the state called a series of experts to testify positional asphyxia was the cause of Floyd’s death, it “flies in the face of reason and common sense” to suggest that Floyd’s drug use and heart disease did not play a role, Nelson said.
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