A jury on Tuesday convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder in the death of George Floyd, ending a three-week trial that has become the focus of a national movement for racial justice.
The jury deliberated for about 10 hours before reaching the verdict. Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charges carry maximum sentences ranging from 10 to 40 years in prison.
After reading the verdicts, Judge Peter Cahill revoked Chauvin’s bail and ordered him detained. Chauvin stood and placed his hands behind his back, and the bailiff put him in handcuffs. Cahill said sentencing would be held in about eight weeks.
“I have to thank you on behalf of the people of the state of Minnesota for not only jury service, but heavy duty jury service,” Cahill told the panel.
A large crowd had gathered outside the Hennepin County courthouse. A cheer of jubilation was heard when the guilty verdicts were read.
President Joe Biden addressed the verdict from the White House on Tuesday evening, alongside Vice President Harris.
“It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” Biden said. “This can be a giant step forward in the march towards justice in America.”
Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general, oversaw the prosecution. At a press conference, Ellison extended thanks to the Floyd family, to the bystanders who shot video of the death, to the witnesses who testified, and to everyone who worked on the case. He noted that such cases are often difficult to win.
“I would not call today’s verdict justice, however. Justice implies true restoration,” Ellison said. “But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice.”
Biden and Harris called the Floyd family after the verdict to express their support.
“We’re all so relieved,” Biden said, “not just the one verdict, but all three: guilty on all three counts.”
Floyd died on May 25, after Chauvin pinned him to the ground for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Bystander video showed that Floyd repeatedly cried out that he could not breathe, while Chauvin’s knee pressed down on his neck. The medical examiner’s office ruled that Floyd’s death was a homicide.
“This wasn’t policing. This was murder,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said in his closing argument. “There’s no excuse.”
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, had urged the jury to find that the officer’s use of force was justified. The defense suggested that other factors, including car exhaust and Floyd’s history of drug use, contributed to his death.
Schleicher called the defense arguments “nonsense,” and asked the jury to apply common sense.
“Believe your eyes,” Schleicher said. “What you saw happen, happened.”
Floyd’s death sparked a wave of protests across the country last summer, and renewed emphasis on racial justice issues in many arenas. Biden cited racial equity as one of the “four crises” that defined his campaign, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy and climate change.
National guard troops were activated in Minneapolis in anticipation of civil unrest and police departments throughout the country made preparations for the fallout.