Former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin was convicted today for the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man. The jury found Chauvin guilty on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Jury deliberations went on for approximately 10 hours, and following the verdict a crowd that had gathered outside the court broke out into spontaneous cheers. Sentencing will take place in about eight weeks and Chauvin will be held without bail until then.
On May 25, 2020, officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the back of George Floyd’s neck in a bid to restrain him while trying to take him into custody in connection with a matter involving an allegedly fake $20 bill. Chauvin had been fired from the police force a day after killing, and arrested on May 29 charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. But the charges were later bumped up to second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was released on bail in October 2020. Chauvin was the fourth and last accused to be released on bail in the murder case. Other accused, Chauvin’s fellow police officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, who had been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, had been released on bail earlier on June 10 (Lane), June 19 (Kueng) and July 4 (Thao).
Jury selection for Chauvin’s trial began on March 8, 2021 and a Hennepin County judge reinstated a count of third-degree murder on March 11, 2021. Judge Peter Cahill had dropped the charge in October 2020, saying it did not apply in the case. But in February this year, an appeals court ruling in connection with a case involving former Minneapolis Police officer Mohammed Noor, paved the way for reinstatement of the charge against Chauvin. On Thursday, March 11, Judge Cahill accepted that the appeals court ruling set a precedent, and went on to reinstate the charge. On March 12, the City Council of Minneapolis unanimously approved a settlement amount of $ 27 million to the family of George Floyd in matter of the police custody death lawsuit. Not only were cameras allowed in court to carry a live feed of the trial, the judge also dismissed an appeal to move the trial out of Minneapolis.
A bitter-sweet victory
“I feel relieved today,” said Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, addressing the media after the verdict was delivered, reportedly after 10 hours of jury deliberations. “I had faith that he will be convicted,” he said adding, “It’s been a long journey.”
Attorney Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer fighting for justice for not only George Floyd, but numerous other black people affected by racism and police brutality hailed the verdict as “a victory for those who champion humanity over inhumanity, those who champion justice over injustice.”
President Joe Biden spoke to George Floyd’s family after the verdict. Calling them a “remarkable family of extraordinary courage”, President Biden said, “Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back. But this can be a giant step forward toward justice in America.”
Vice President Kamala Harris pushed for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act saying, “A measure of justice is not equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system.”
Former President Barack Obama also welcomed the verdict but cautioned that “if we are being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial” referring to systemic racism and unchecked police brutality.