Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, listen as Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Frank, questions witness Donald Williams, as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)
By: Sam Cohen
MINNEAPOLIS — Former police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 death of George Floyd.
The jury returned the unanimous verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over Monday night and Tuesday morning. The 12 members of the jury include four people who identify as Black, two who identify as multiracial and six people who identify as white; there are seven women and five men.
The jury did not ask any questions of the judge during their deliberations. Chauvin’s bail was revoked and he will now remain in custody until sentencing.
It will be a little while before a sentence is determined. Chauvin has opted to have the judge decide if any of the sentences should be lengthened because of aggravating factors, and there will be a presentence investigation to determine if there should be sentence enhancements.
Floyd died after being pinned down on the pavement for several minutes by multiple officers from the Minneapolis Police Department. Officers had originally responded to the Cup Foods store after Floyd allegedly tried to use a counterfeit bill.
Widely-shared video from a bystander showed Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck and back for more than nine minutes while the man struggled to breathe and called out for help.
Floyd’s death sparked several months of protests against police brutality and racial injustice throughout the country last summer.
Following the announcement Tuesday afternoon a verdict had been reached, Hennepin County Court personnel, where Minneapolis is located, were told to stop working in their offices downtown and leave the downtown area.
During the trial and closing arguments, prosecutors tried to keep the jury focused on that nine-minute span and the actions that were, or were not, taken. They called several medical experts who said Floyd died from asphyxia, or a low level of oxygen that caused his heart and brain to stop working.
“A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died,” pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin told the jury.
The prosecution also included testimony from the Minneapolis chief of police and department trainers on what kind of training officers receive in regard to handling situations with subjects.
In what is called “spark of life” testimony, the prosecution called witnesses to give the jury an impression of who Floyd was before his death. This included emotional testimony from his girlfriend and his brother, Philonise Floyd.
The defense argued underlying medical factors, drug use and potentially carbon monoxide poisoning from cars on the road contributed to Floyd’s death, and that other circumstances may have justified Chauvin’s use of force at the time.
Attorney Eric Nelson tried to inject reasonable doubt about the exact cause of Floyd’s death; like asking the medical examiner about other factors he listed on the official death certificate, including heart disease and hypertension. Nelson also found training materials that appeared to include a maneuver where an officer would use their knee on a subject’s back to subdue them.
After the 12 jurors and two alternates were selected in March, 45 witnesses were called to testify over 14 days of presenting evidence.
The jury was sequestered during their deliberations, however they were able to return home each night during the trial.
After the jury had been given the case on April 19, the defense made a motion for a mistrial following statements from a congresswoman about the trial, reports of tv shows with fictional storylines that appeared to reference the trial, and other media coverage the jury may have been exposed to.
Rep. Maxine Waters on April 17 told protesters in Minneapolis to get “more confrontational” if there was no guilty verdict.
While the judge said the statements from lawmakers were “abhorrent,” he did not think they “mattered that much” and “did not unfairly prejudice the jury.” He denied the motion, however he admitted that the situation may be material for a possible appeal.
Three other officers who were at the scene when Floyd died are also facing charges. The trials for Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao will be held later this summer. Each face two charges: aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Reposted with permission from WCPO 9 Cincinnati.