George Floyd Trial Verdict: Derek Chauvin Found Guilty on All Counts
Nearly a year after George Floyd was killed in police custody, sparking an unprecedented social justice movement across the country, the police officer who kneeled on his neck for nearly ten minutes was found guilty of all three counts against him.
On Tuesday, the high-profile trial came to a close with the jury finding former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter; he had pleaded not guilty on all counts.
Philonise Floyd, Floyd’s brother, called the ruling “historic.” On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers expressed exhausted relief at the outcome, with California Rep. Maxine Waters saying, "I'm not celebrating. I'm relieved," according to Business Insider. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew criticism for comments thanking Floyd “for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that, call out for your mom, 'I can't breathe.'" Pelosi made the remarks at a press conference the Congressional Black Caucus held to respond to the verdict.
The 12-member jury began deliberating on Monday for more than 10 hours and came to a unanimous decision Tuesday afternoon (juries in criminal cases have to reach a unanimous verdict). During closing arguments, prosecuting attorneys described law enforcement as a “noble profession,” but said Chauvin’s actions were an exception to the rule, BuzzFeed News reported at the time. In video recordings taken by bystanders, Chauvin is seen kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a Black 46-year-old who he was arresting on the suspicion of using a counterfeit bill.
"This wasn't policing, this was murder," prosecutor Steve Schleicher said, according to BuzzFeed News. “This case is called the State of Minnesota versus Derek Chauvin. It is not called the State of Minnesota versus the police."
Wright’s killing reignited conversations about police accountability and systemic racism in America. Over the nights of demonstrations in Minneapolis, police deployed tear gas and stun grenades against protestors, according to CNN.
On Monday, while closing arguments proceeded, students at over 100 Minnesota schools walked out in solidarity against racial justice, a HuffPost editor reported. The demonstration was organized by Minnesota Teen Activists — a group that formed after Floyd’s death — through Instagram.
In front of the area where Floyd died, a makeshift memorial area people are calling George Floyd Square, was filled with flowers and art as community members awaited closure, CNN’s Omar Jimenez reported.
During the trial, Chauvin’s defense attorney worked to portray him as a “reasonable” police officer who followed his training. He argued that Floyd’s death was likely a result of heart disease and his ingestion of drugs. Medical experts for the prosecution said that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because of Chauvin’s restraint.
"You've been told … that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big," prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said. "The reason George Floyd is dead because Mr. Chauvin's heart was too small."
President Joe Biden is expected to make public remarks about the trial’s outcome, NPR reported. Earlier Tuesday, he told reporters he spoke with Floyd’s family. His statement will serve as a test of the new president’s ability to lead on racial justice issues. During Biden’s 2020 campaign, his new criminal justice reform plan, record on crime policy in Congress, and staunch opposition to defunding the police drew criticism from activists.
The jury — which was made up of eight white people and six people of color (including alternates) — had expressed respect and trust for law enforcement and disapproval for the notion of defunding the police.
Outside of the courtroom, protests against police brutality continued across the country. On April 11, as Chauvin’s trial got underway, a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, was killed in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center by a police officer who allegedly mistook her gun for a taser.