George Floyd: Jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty of murder

·5 min read

A US jury has found a former police officer guilty of murder over the death of African-American George Floyd on a Minneapolis street last year.

Derek Chauvin, 45, was filmed kneeling on Mr Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes during his arrest last May.

The widely watched footage sparked worldwide protests against racism and excessive use of force by police.

Chauvin was found guilty on three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

His bail was immediately revoked and he was placed in custody. Sentencing is likely to happen in two months, and Chauvin could spend decades in jail.

In Minnesota, second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Chauvin is expected to appeal against the verdict.

Police officers have rarely been convicted - if they are charged at all - for deaths that occur in custody, and the verdict in this trial has been widely seen as an indication of how the US legal system will treat such cases in future.

Three other officers are due to face trial later this year on aiding-and-abetting charges.

What was the reaction?

The 12-member jury took less than a day to reach their verdict, which followed a highly-charged, three-week trial that left Minneapolis on edge.

Several hundred people cheered outside the court as the verdict was announced.

The Floyd family's lawyer, Ben Crump, said it marked a "turning point in history" for the US.

"Painfully earned justice has finally arrived," he tweeted. "[It] sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement."

President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris called the Floyd family after the verdict. Mr Biden was heard saying that "at least now there is some justice".

In nationally televised remarks shortly afterwards, Mr Biden said: "Systemic racism is a stain on the whole nation's soul."

Meanwhile, Ms Harris urged lawmakers to pass the George Floyd bill aimed at reforming policing in the US.

The Minneapolis police federation, a not-for-profit organisation representing police, said they respected the jury's decision.

"We also want to reach out to the community and still express our deep remorse for their pain, as we feel it every day as well. There are no winners in this case," the federation said.

According to reports, one of the most likely avenues of appeal is the huge publicity given to the case, with the defence team arguing that this might have influenced the jury.

Also, Presiding Judge Peter Cahill said on Monday that public comments by Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters could be grounds for an appeal.

Over the weekend, Ms Waters had urged protesters to "stay on the street" and "get more confrontational" if Chauvin was acquitted.

Analysis box by Tara McKelvey, White House reporter
Analysis box by Tara McKelvey, White House reporter

On hearing the verdict, people were screaming and cheering, and a little girl in a pink coat held up a tiny fist, in jubilation.

"It's a good day in Minneapolis," says 21-year-old Kenneth Nwachi. "It's a blessing."

Activists say justice has been done, and they will feel as though a weight has been lifted from their shoulders.

Their relief is shared by many in the city, a place that has been on edge for months. It is a landmark case for police use of force against black people, and the verdict marks a significant break with the past.

Few officers are charged with manslaughter or murder, and fewer still are convicted.

But protesters say the calls for justice for George Floyd do not stop after this verdict.

What happened to George Floyd?

The 46-year-old bought a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store in South Minneapolis on the evening of 25 May 2020.

A shop assistant believed he had used a counterfeit $20 note and called the police after Mr Floyd refused to give the cigarettes back.

When police arrived, they ordered Mr Floyd out of his parked car and handcuffed him. A struggle ensued when officers tried to put a screaming Mr Floyd in their squad car. They wrestled him to the ground and pinned him under their weight.

National Guards and other Law enforcement officers stand guard
Security was ramped up in Minneapolis ahead of the verdict

Chauvin pressed his knee into the back of Mr Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, as the suspect and several bystanders pleaded for his life.

As he was being restrained, Mr Floyd said more than 20 times that he could not breathe, pleading for his mother and begging "please, please, please".

When the ambulance arrived, Mr Floyd was motionless. He was pronounced dead about an hour later.

What happened during the trial?

During Chauvin's trial, the jury heard from 45 witnesses and saw several hours of video footage.

Some of the most powerful testimony came from eyewitnesses. Several broke down in tears as they watched graphic footage of the incident and described feeling "helpless" as events unfolded.

Mr Floyd's girlfriend of three years and his younger sibling also took the stand.

Expert witnesses on behalf of the state testified that Mr Floyd died from a lack of oxygen due to the manner of restraint employed by Chauvin and his colleagues.

Chauvin himself chose not to testify, invoking his right to not incriminate himself with his responses.

What are the charges?

Manslaughter is when someone unintentionally causes another person's death.

In second-degree murder, the act that led to someone's death could have been intentional or unintentional. The maximum sentence for this charge is 40 years in prison.

Third-degree murder means that an individual has acted in a way that endangered one or more people, ending in death.

How did the jury reach its decision?

Twelve jurors were tasked with deciding if Chauvin would face time in jail or be acquitted.

The jury remained anonymous and unseen throughout the trial, but its demographics skewed younger, more white and more female.

After both sides presented closing arguments on Monday, the jury was isolated in a hotel with no outside contact so they could deliberate on a verdict, a process known as sequestration.

Jurors had to agree on a unanimous verdict and were told they could not return home until they had made their decision.