Jurors convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday of all the counts filed against him — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — in the death of George Floyd, who died after being pinned under his knee for more than nine minutes last May.
Chauvin looked stern and glanced around the courtroom as the verdicts were removed from an envelope and read by Judge Peter Cahill.
The fired police officer had on a paper mask and showed no significant reaction to the results. When his bail was revoked, he stood up, put his hands behind his back, was handcuffed and gave a nod to defense attorney Eric Nelson as he was led out the back door of the courtroom by a Hennepin County sheriff’s deputy.
Cahill thanked the jurors, who each confirmed their votes as correctly read. “I want to thank you for not only jury service, but heavy duty jury service,” the judge said.
He asked the attorneys to file written arguments regarding aggravated sentencing factors that could add time to Chauvin’s sentence.
In a prepared statement, Floyd family attorney said: “Painfully earned justice has arrived for George Floyd’s family and the community here in Minneapolis, but today’s verdict goes far beyond this city and has significant implications for the country and even the world. Justice for Black America is justice for all of America.
“This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message we hope is heard clearly in every city and every state. We thank Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and his team for their fierce dedication to justice for George. But it does not end here. We have not forgotten that the other three officers who played their own roles in the death of George Floyd must still be held accountable for their actions, as well.”
One of Floyd’s brothers, Philonise Floyd, was in the courtroom for the verdicts. He hugged prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Ellison and another prosecutor. Ellison and Blackwell heartily shook hands. The younger brother has been a steady presence on behalf of the family.
Reaction from leading officeholders was swift, among them Mayor Jacob Frey, who said in a statement, “Today the jury joined in a shared conviction that has animated Minneapolis for the last 11 months: they refused to look away. They believed their own eyes and affirmed George Floyd should still be here today.”
The foreperson was Juror No. 19, a white man in his 30s who works as an auditor. He pledged during the jury selection process that he could examine the evidence “from a viewpoint of the law.”
Jurors, who were sequestered, reached their decision after hearing closing arguments from the prosecution and defense Monday. They started deliberations afterward. Jurors heard from 44 witnesses over 14 days of testimony. The trial began seven weeks ago on March 8 with jury selection, and it was livestreamed across the world by several media outlets on multiple platforms.
The jurors were asked to decide between the prosecution’s claims that Chauvin used excessive force and an unsanctioned maneuver when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for about 9 1/2 minutes last May 25, and the defense’s argument that Chauvin was following his training when he arrested an unruly Floyd, who died of a cardiac arrest that stemmed from drug use and pre-existing heart disease and clogged arteries.
The cause of death became a key issue, with prosecutors telling jurors Floyd, 46, died of asphyxia from low oxygen when Chauvin knelt on his neck as former officers J. Alexander Kueng knelt on his buttock and thigh area and Thomas Lane knelt and held onto his legs. Former officer Tou Thao kept angry bystanders at bay.
The officers were arresting him for using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at Cup Foods in south Minneapolis.
Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker ruled that Floyd died of a homicide, an act caused by another person, and that the cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” He also listed hardening and thickening of the artery walls, heart disease and drug use as “other significant conditions.” Fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in Floyd’s system.