Former police officer Derek Chauvin found guilty of George Floyd’s murder

Cheers erupt outside courthouse in Minneapolis after verdict in case that gripped nation

After a half-day deliberation, Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd last year in Minneapolis, has been convicted of all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Video: Reuters

 

Former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd on Tuesday, in a landmark court case that shone a light on race relations and policing in America.

Cheers broke out outside the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis as the verdict was read out by Justice Peter Cahill.

The 46-year-old former police officer was convicted of all three charges against him – second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The verdict, which was unanimous, was reached by the 12-member jury after about 10 hours of deliberation.

Mr Chauvin, who attended his trial each day, sat impassively as the verdict was read out by the judge. He was remanded in custody and led out of court in handcuffs.

Sentencing will be made in eight weeks. Though the most serious charge, second-degree murder, can command up to 40 years in prison, sentencing guidelines suggest a shorter time for those without a criminal record.

“Justice for Black America is justice for all of America,” the Floyd family’s attorney Benjamin Crump said in a statement. “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.”

Reacting to the trial’s outcome, US President Joe Biden called the murder conviction for Chauvin a “step forward”, but said such a verdict was much too rare in a country plagued by systemic racism.

“This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” Mr Biden said in remarks from the White House.

The killing of George Floyd, which was captured on the cellphone of a passerby in May last year, shocked America and the world leading to global protests about racial inequality. Mr Chauvin, a police officer for 19 years, knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he died. Mr Floyd could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” and calling out for his mother in his final moments.

Mr Biden had spoken to the family of Mr Floyd on Monday, after the closing arguments in the trial concluded and the jury began their deliberations.

Philonise Floyd, Mr Floyd’s brother who testified during the trial, said that the president had phoned the family to offer his sympathy.

“He knows how it is to lose a family member, and he knows the process of what we’re going through. So he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, hoping that everything will come out to be okay,” he said.

The trial, which opened on March 29th, has gripped the nation. Prosecutors made their case over two weeks, drawing on expert witnesses from the field of medicine and law enforcement. The defence arguments took place last week, with the jury beginning deliberations on Monday evening.

People react after the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
People react after the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Cities across the US had been braced for unrest ahead of the verdict, following a summer of demonstrations last year.

In Minneapolis, more than 3,000 National Guard soldiers as well as local police officers and state police have been sent to the city in recent days, with many buildings bordered up in anticipation of possible violence.

In Washington DC, the site of prolonged protests after the killing of Mr Floyd last May, the Secretary of the Army authorized the activation of unarmed troops following a request from mayor Muriel Bowser.

On Monday, the governor of Illinois activated the National Guard in response to a request from Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Chicago saw protests over the weekend, following the shooting dead of a 13-year-old boy by a police officer last month.

Minneapolis is also reeling from the death of another African-American man at the hands of police officers on April 11th. Officer Kim Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter for shooting and killing Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center after he was stopped by police for a traffic violation.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have called for Democrat Maxine Waters to be formally censured over remarks she made during a visit to Minnesota. at the weekend.

“We’ve got to stay on the street, and we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational,” Ms Waters said. “We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

During closing arguments in the court on Monday, Judge Peter Cahill suggested that Ms Waters’ comments could be grounds for an appeal.

“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” he said, after defence attorney Eric Nelson raised the issue.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended Ms Waters’ comments, saying that she did not think she should apologise.

“Maxine talked about confrontation in the manner of the Civil Rights movement,” she said. Additional reporting: Reuters