George Floyd murder: Celebrations in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin convicted
Biden calls for new legislation on police reform, says verdict is ‘step forward’ for US
In a landmark court case that shone a light on race relations and policing in the United States, the former police officer was convicted of all three charges against him – second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Cheers broke out outside the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis as the verdict was read out by Mr Justice Peter Cahill, with hundreds of people celebrating as they welcomed news of the conviction.
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.
The killing of George Floyd, which was captured on the phone of teenager Darnella Frazier 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.
Speaking on Tuesday night, Clara Kassim (16) and her sister Samira said that they had come to mark the moment. “I think that there is now a real conversation about race in the country,” said Clara , who is black. She said that while racial tensions were still an issue in Minneapolis, she hoped that this could mark a turning point despite the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright by a white police officer earlier this month.
Shortly before the verdict, however, it emerged that a black teenage girl was killed by police responding to an incident in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday – an illustration of the challenges that still remain in dealing with excessive police force and race relations in the US. Details of the shooting were still emerging overnight.
Earlier in the evening, president Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris addressed the nation shortly after the verdict was announced. Mr Biden said that the verdict was a “step forward” for the country. Noting that he had just spoken to Mr Floyd’s family, he said, “Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back, but this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.”
But he called for Congress to act to introduce meaningful legislation on police reform. “It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism . . . that is a stain our nation’s soul.”
Mr Floyd’s family also reacted with relief. “Today, we are able to breathe again,” said Philonise Floyd, one of the victim’s younger brothers. He said that one of the most difficult moments of the trial was having to rewatch the video of his brother’s death again and again.
Mr Chauvin, whose bail was revoked and is being held in jail until his sentencing, could also face charges from the federal government. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the justice department’s civil rights investigation into the death of George Floyd is “ongoing”.
The other three police officers who were present for the killing of Mr Floyd are due to stand trial in August.