A jury on Tuesday convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder in the death of George Floyd, ending a three-week trial that has become the focus of a national movement for racial justice.
The jury deliberated for about 10 hours before reaching the verdict. Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charges carry maximum sentences ranging from 10 to 40 years in prison.
After reading the sentence, Judge Peter Cahill revoked Chauvin’s bail and ordered him detained. He said that sentencing would be held in about eight weeks.
“I have to thank you not only for jury service but heavy duty jury service,” Cahill told the panel.
Floyd died on May 25, after Chauvin pinned him to the ground for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Bystander video showed that Floyd repeatedly cried out that he could not breathe, while Chauvin’s knee pressed down on his neck. The medical examiner’s office ruled that Floyd’s death was a homicide.
“This wasn’t policing. This was murder,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said in his closing argument. “There’s no excuse.”
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, had urged the jury to find that the officer’s use of force was justified. The defense suggested that other factors, including car exhaust and Floyd’s history of drug use, contributed to his death.
Schleicher called the defense arguments “nonsense,” and asked the jury to apply its own common sense.
“Believe your eyes,” Schleicher said. “What you saw happen, happened.”
Floyd’s death sparked a wave of protests across the country last summer, and renewed emphasis on racial justice issues in many arenas. President Joe Biden cited racial equity as one of the “four crises” that defined his campaign, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy and climate change.
National guard troops were activated in Minneapolis in anticipation of civil unrest and police departments throughout the country made preparations for the fallout.