Chauvin verdict: Guilty on 3 charges in George Floyd’s death

Rev. Lawrence Richardson of the Linden Hills United Church of Christ (right), offers comfort to Rev. Jia Starr Brown of First Covenant Church (left) at George Floyd Square. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.
Rev. Lawrence Richardson of the Linden Hills United Church of Christ (right), offers comfort to Rev. Jia Starr Brown of First Covenant Church (left) at George Floyd Square. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.

The jury has spoken, and found Derek Chauvin guilty in the death of George Floyd.  The former Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd, who was handcuffed and face down on the pavement, for more than 9 minutes at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue last May. 

Chauvin was taken into custody and will be sentenced in eight weeks.

The incident was filmed by a teenager and set off a national racial reckoning after decades in which police killed Black men and were rarely punished.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listened to closing statements on April 19, 2021, in his trial for killing George Floyd.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listened to closing statements on April 19, 2021, in his trial for killing George Floyd.

Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder; guilty of third-degree murder; and guilty of second-degree manslaughter. The jury deliberated for 10 hours. 

Minnesotans reacted with relief and satisfaction that justice was done.

“I’m overjoyed. I feel like we can finally start doing the work that we need to do,” said the Rev. Lawrence Richardson of Linden Hills United Church of Christ. “My hope is that we can be an example for communities around the nation and around the world of what racial reconciliation can look like.”

Richardson joined others in George Floyd Square, the area in south Minneapolis near where Floyd was murdered and has become a place of collective grief and celebration since his death.

Justice came after prosecutors laid out a case over the course of 15 days that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen, or asphyxiation, after Chauvin, a 19-year veteran on the Minneapolis police force, knelt on Floyd, 46.  

In the video taken by then-17-year-old Darnella Frazier, Floyd’s face is pinned to the pavement, with Chauvin casually atop him, grinding his knee into Floyd’s neck until he went unconscious in 4 minutes and 45 seconds, had no pulse after 5 minutes and died on the street, according to a breathing expert.

Frazier testified during the trial that she’s stayed up nights “apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting — not saving his life.”

People in George Floyd Square celebrate the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.
People in George Floyd Square celebrate the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.

Attorney General Keith Ellison thanked George Floyd’s family and the community for their patience before the trial. He also thanked the witnesses who testified after watching Chauvin press his knee into Floyd’s neck. They performed “simple yet profound acts of courage” in telling the truth, Ellison said.

“Why did they stop? They didn’t know George Floyd,” he said. “They stopped and raised their voices, and they even challenged authority because they saw (Floyd’s) humanity.”

Ellison said a verdict can’t end the pain Floyd’s family is experiencing, but he hopes it helps them heal. He called on community members to continue working toward criminal justice reform, saying “it’s in your hands now.”

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“The work of our generation is to put unaccountable law enforcement behind us,” Ellison said. “One conviction like this one can create a powerful new opening to shed old practices and reset relationships.”

Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson argued Floyd died from a toxic mix of fentanyl and methamphetamine and health problems ranging from heart disease to hypertension, noting the county medical examiner found no evidence of injury to Floyd’s neck or back.

After closing arguments, Nelson moved for a mistrial, saying the overwhelming media coverage of the case — including comments from elected officials — was impossible to ignore. (Jurors were not sequestered until they began deliberating Monday afternoon).

The three other officers who were on the scene — Thomas Lane, who held down Floyd’s legs; J. Alexander Kueng, who knelt on Floyd’s back and Tou Thao, who kept onlookers at bay — are scheduled to go on trial in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin.

The maximum sentence is 40 years for second-degree unintentional murder, 25 years for third-degree murder and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. But Minnesota sentencing guidelines recommend a much shorter sentence — 12 ½ years — for murder for a person with no criminal history. Manslaughter has a presumptive sentence of four years for someone with no criminal history.

Kia Bible, who has helped run the medical unit providing services at George Floyd Square, said it was a relief that Chauvin was found guilty. The verdict means “that we can actually make a change, that people listen.” Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.
Kia Bible, who has helped run the medical unit providing services at George Floyd Square, said it was a relief that Chauvin was found guilty. The verdict means “that we can actually make a change, that people listen.” Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.

The case will be studied for decades given its historical importance and legal idiosyncrasies.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said he got a call from Attorney General Keith Ellison, who asked him to help with the case. When a call like that comes, he said, “don’t overthink it,” just do it.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said that “No verdict can bring George Perry Floyd back,” but the verdict shows “He was somebody … and that’s important.” Blackwell said he hopes it brings us along the road “to a better humanity.”

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank says it was a privilege to get to know the Floyd family.

“This is for you, George Floyd,” he said, choking up and walking away from the microphone.

This story is developing and will be updated.

Max Nesterak and Ricardo Lopez contributed reporting. 

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