Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday afternoon of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that touched off worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the United States.
The verdict set off cheers around the city. People instantly flooded the surrounding streets downtown, running through traffic with banners, and cars blared their horns. Floyd family members gathered at a Minneapolis conference room could be heard cheering and even laughing.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, who pounded away at Chauvin’s witnesses during the trial, said the verdict sends a message to Floyd’s family “that he was somebody, that his life matters.”
The jury of six White people and six Black or multiracial ones came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of considering the evidence over two days. Chauvin was found guilty on all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was led away with his hands cuffed behind his back.
The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest — not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.
Three other former Minneapolis officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death will stand trial in August.
Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a fake $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.
The centerpiece of the case was a bystander video of Floyd gasping “I can’t breathe” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was 9½ minutes. Floyd slowly went silent.
Prosecutors played the footage over and over, analyzed one frame at a time by witnesses on both sides.
In the wake of Floyd’s death, demonstrations and scattered violence broke out in Minneapolis, around the country and beyond. The furor also led to the removal of Confederate statues.
Police-procedure experts and law enforcement veterans, including the Minneapolis police chief, testified that Chauvin used excessive force and went against his training.
Medical experts for the prosecution said Floyd died of lack of oxygen because of the way he was held down on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him, a knee on his neck and his face jammed against the ground.
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson called two experts to help make the case that Chauvin acted reasonably against a struggling suspect and that Floyd died because of an underlying heart condition and his illegal drug use. Floyd had high blood pressure, an enlarged heart and narrowed arteries. Two drugs were found in his system the day he died.
Under the law, police are allowed to use force in certain situations. They are judged according to whether their actions were “reasonable” under the circumstances.
The prosecution’s case also included tearful testimony from onlookers who said the police kept them back when they protested what was happening. Eighteen-year-old Darnella Frazier, who shot the crucial video, said Chauvin just gave the bystanders a “cold” and “heartless” stare.
Frazier and others said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt from witnessing Floyd’s slow-motion death. “It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she testified.