The jury’s quick verdict for Chauvin in Floyd’s death: guilty

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – After three weeks of testimony, trial of former police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd ended quickly: barely more than a day of jury deliberations, then just minutes before the verdicts were read – guilty, guilty, and guilty – and Derek Chauvin was handcuffed and taken to prison.

Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades if convicted in about two months in a case that sparked global protests, violence and a furious re-examination of racism and police in the US.

The verdict caused jubilation with grief in the city and the entire country. Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some running through the traffic with banners. Drivers rang their horns during the party.

“Today we can breathe again,” Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said at a joyful family press conference with tears streaming down his cheeks as he compared Floyd to Mississippi 1955 lynch victim Emmett Till, except that this time there were cameras to let see the world what happened.

On Wednesday, Philonise Floyd described his thoughts as he watched Chauvin become handcuffed. He recalled ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​how it seemed “a lot easier” with Chauvin than when his brother was handcuffed before his death, but said it still represented “accountability.”

“It makes us happier knowing that his life mattered, and that he didn’t die for nothing,” he said.

The jury of six whites and six black or multiracial people returned with their verdict after about 10 hours of deliberation for two days. The white officer, now fired, was found guilty second degree accidental murder, third degree murder and second degree homicide.

Chauvin’s face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and there was little reaction beyond his eyes darting through the courtroom. His bail was immediately withdrawn. The sentencing will take place in two months; the most serious charge can lead to up to 40 years in prison.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed Chauvin out of court without comment.

Chauvin was booked shortly after the sentences were read in Minnesota’s only maximum security prison, Oak Park Heights, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Minneapolis. He is being held in a single cell under administrative segregation for his safety, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sarah Fitzgerald said.

President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying that Floyd’s death was “a murder in the light of day, and it ripped off the blinders for the whole world” to see systemic racism.

But he warned, “It’s not enough. We cannot stop here. We are going to bring about real change and reform. We can and must do more to reduce the likelihood of these kinds of tragedies ever happening again. “

The jury’s decision was hailed as justice across the country by other political and civic leaders and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and California Governor Gavin Newsom, a white man, who said on Twitter that Floyd “ would still be alive if he looked like me. That must change. “

In a park next to the Minneapolis Courthouse, a crowd of about 300 was silent as they listened to the verdict on their cell phones. Then there was a loud roar, with many people hugging each other, some tears shed.

At the intersection where Floyd was pinned down, a crowd shouted, “One down, three to go!” – a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis officers who went to trial in August on charges of complicity in murder in Floyd’s death.

Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt grateful and relieved.

‘I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete, ”she said, adding that she was looking forward to the next case with joy, optimism and strength.

Jamee Haggard, who took her biracial 4-year-old daughter to the intersection, said, “Some form of justice is coming.”

The verdict was read in a courthouse surrounded by concrete barriers and barbed wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a town on edge due to another round of unrest – not only because of the Chauvin case, but also because of the deadly shooting of a young black by the police. husband, Daunte Wright, in suburban Minneapolis on April 11.

The jurors’ identities have been kept secret and will not be released until the judge decides it is safe.

More about Derek Chauvin’s conviction

It is uncommon for police officers to be prosecuted for murdering someone at work. And convictions are extremely rare.

Of the thousands of deadly shootings by police in the US since 2005, less than 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter, according to data from Phil Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. Before Tuesday, only seven had been convicted of murder.

Juries often give police officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim they had to make life or death decisions in a split second. But that was not an argument that Chauvin could easily make.

Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a bogus $ 20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked, pleaded claustrophobic, and struggled with the police when they tried to put him in a police car. Instead, they put him on the floor.

The center of the case was the excruciating spectator video of Floyd repeatedly gasping for breath, “I can’t breathe” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop when the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck, as authorities say. was 9 1/2 minutes, including a few minutes after Floyd’s breathing had stopped and he had no pulse.

Prosecutors played the footage as quickly as possible, during opening statements, and told the jury, “Believe your eyes.” From there it was shown over and over, analyzed frame by frame by witnesses on both sides.

After Floyd’s death, demonstrations and scattered violence erupted in Minneapolis, across the country and beyond. The furor also led to the removal of Confederate statues and other offensive symbols such as Aunt Jemima.

In the months that followed, many states and cities restricted police use of force, renewed disciplinary systems or subjected police forces to tighter surveillance. Wednesday morning, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department is opening a sweeping investigation in Minneapolis police practices.

The story of Floyd’s death began with a late night press release from the Minneapolis Police Department, which stated that Floyd “appeared to be in medical need” after resisting arrest and being handcuffed. Once the bystander video of teen Darnella Frazier surfaced, a department spokesperson said it became clear the statement was false, and the “Blue Wall of Silence” that often protects police accused of wrongdoing, quickly crumbled.

The Minneapolis police chief was quick to call it “ murder ” and fired all four officers, and the city reached a shocking $ 27 million settlement with Floyd’s family. as the jury selection was underway.

Police procedural experts and law enforcement veterans within and outside the Minneapolis department, including the chief, testified to the prosecution that Chauvin used excessive force and opposed his training.

Medical experts for the prosecution said Floyd died of asphyxiation, or lack of oxygen, because his breathing was limited by the way he was pressed to his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him, one knee in his neck, and his face to the ground. printed. .

Chauvin’s attorney called a police force expert and forensic pathologist to try to show that Chauvin was acting reasonably against a struggling suspect and that Floyd died of a heart condition and his illegal drug use. Floyd had high blood pressure and narrowed arteries, and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.

By law, the police have a certain margin of maneuver to use force and are judged based on whether their actions were “reasonable” under the circumstances.

The defense also tried to show that Chauvin and the other officers were hindered in their duties by what they saw as a growing hostile crowd.

Chauvin did not testify, and everything the jury or the public had ever heard as a statement from him came from police camera footage after an ambulance took six-foot Floyd. Chauvin told a bystander, “We have to control this man because he’s a big man … and it looks like he’s probably on something.”

The prosecution’s case also included tearful testimony from onlookers who said the police stopped them protesting what happened.

Frazier, who made the crucial video, said Chauvin gave bystanders a “cold” and “heartless” look. She and others said they felt a sense of helplessness and persistent guilt from witnessing Floyd’s slow-motion death.

“It has been nights when I stayed up, apologized and apologized to George Floyd for not doing more, not having physical contact and not saving his life,” she testified.


Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press video journalist Angie Wang in Atlanta and writers Doug Glass, Stephen Groves, Aaron Morrison, Tim Sullivan, and Michael Tarm in Minneapolis; Mohamed Ibrahim in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed.


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