MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.
Bystander video viewed around the world, and multiple police body cameras, captured Chauvin kneeling on Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds in the street outside Cup Foods that night. He was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and Judge Peter Cahill later reinstated a third-degree murder charge against him.
The jurors seated for the Chauvin trial deliberated for less than 10 hours before reaching their verdict. They delivered a verdict of guilty on all three charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin’s conviction marks only the second time a police officer has been convicted of murder in Minnesota, and the first time such a conviction has been won against a white officer who killed a Black man. The first murder conviction for a Minnesota officer was that of Mohamed Noor, a Somali officer convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of a Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a white woman.
The maximum sentence Chauvin could face is 40 years for second-degree murder, 25 years for third-degree murder and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. Those sentences would likely be served concurrently, not consecutively, since they are all for the same crime.
The presumptive sentences, however, are 12 and a half years for each murder charge and four years for the manslaughter charge. The judge could consider a heavier sentence based on an upward departure motion from the prosecution and other information discovered during the presentence investigation.
After the jury delivered its verdict, Chauvin was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. According to the Department of Correctional Facilities, Chauvin is being held at Oak Park Heights.
Fourteen jurors heard the case, but two alternates were let go right before deliberations. The final jury is made up of two white men, two multiracial women, three Black men, one Black woman, and four white women. Two of the jurors are immigrants.
During jury selection, many people expressed concern about their safety after the verdict is delivered. The judge told them they will remain anonymous until he deems it safe to release their identities as part of the public record of the case.
Floyd’s death last year sparked global protests over systemic racism and police brutality. In the Twin Cities metro, it also led to widespread rioting and many burned and damaged businesses. This year ahead of the trial, local, state and federal law enforcement created a coalition called Operation Safety Net to manage the potential civil unrest.
Barricades and fencing have been put up around the Hennepin County Government Center and the police precincts. Mayor Jacob Frey has said at the peak, there will be about 2,000 National Guard soldiers and 1,100 law enforcement partners out on the streets.
On April 15, the day testimony in the trial ended, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said he will be the one to decide whether to use tear gas as a crowd control tactic.
The Chauvin trial is wrapping up concurrently with another high-profile police killing in Minnesota: Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop on April 11 in nearby Brooklyn Center. Former officer Kim Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in Wright’s death, which prompted several nights in a row of protests in Brooklyn Center.
George Floyd’s family won a record civil settlement from the city of Minneapolis while the trial was ongoing: $27 million, surpassing the $20 million awarded to the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
What happens next
A presentence investigation will be conducted before Judge Cahill sentences Chauvin. That process was described by retired Judge LaJune Lange as a “background check” in which Chauvin’s whole life will come into play and possibly be shown to the public.
Before Chauvin is sentenced, he could also choose to make a statement to the judge. This would be the most the public has heard from the former officer himself, as he chose to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify at trial.
What happened during the trial
The jury heard two weeks of testimony from witnesses called by the prosecution, followed by a few days of defense witnesses.
Bystanders who witnessed Chauvin and other officers restraining Floyd testified that they repeatedly asked Chauvin to get up off Floyd’s neck. Multiple witnesses, some who were teens at the time, testified through tears that they carry guilt for not being able to save Floyd.
The state called a series of witnesses from the Minneapolis Police Department to testify about the training and policy Chauvin was required to follow. In a moment not seen often during police trials, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo took the stand to testify against his former officer, saying “That is not what we teach.”
Defense attorney Eric Nelson had several effective cross-examinations during this phase of the trial, including that of Lt. Johnny Mercil, who leads the department’s use-of-force training. Mercil said while putting a knee on a person’s neck is not a trained restraint, it “isn’t unauthorized.” When asked about the concept that if a person can talk, they can breathe, he replied, “It’s been said, yes.”
Mercil and other high-level MPD officers all told the jury that officers are trained to turn a person to the side recovery position because of the dangers of the prone position, and to render medical aid to anyone in their custody who needs it.
Defense attorney Nelson called his own use-of-force expert, who testified that Chauvin acted with “objective reasonableness” and that he likely perceived the crowd of bystanders as a threat. He also said that the prone position is not inherently dangerous.
Finally, the prosecution called medical experts who testified that Floyd died from asphyxia, or a low level of oxygen, caused by the officers’ restraint. The defense’s own medical expert said he believes the cause of death was a sudden cardiac arrhythmia that happened during the restraint, and that Floyd’s underlying heart conditions and the drugs in his system were contributing factors.
Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner who performed Floyd’s autopsy, was a key witness for both sides. He testified that the law enforcement restraint and neck compression “was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions.” He said in another statement that the restraint “tipped him over the edge.”