Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all three counts of murder and manslaughter in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, whose death touched off protests across the globe and a reckoning over systemic racism and police brutality in the United States.
“I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. “But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.” Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump said after the verdict that “we are finally starting to, as a country, live up the promise of equal justice under the law for all people.”
The verdict, handed down by the jury Tuesday afternoon, was met with cheers on the streets of Minneapolis and capped an emotionally charged, closely watched trial.
“It is gratifying,” civil rights leader Jesse Jackson told Vanity Fair, adding that the verdict sends a message to police that “there is a price to be paid” for violence against Black people. Jackson, who was with Floyd’s family as the verdict was read, described the mood after the conviction as one of “relief.” “They know it’s bigger than George,” Jackson said. “George is a symbol of the crisis.”
Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more. Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, and we stand with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied. pic.twitter.com/mihZQHqACV
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 20, 2021
The three-week trial featured testimony from bystanders and fellow police officers—including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who told jurors that Chauvin’s use of force against Floyd was “not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.” The defense team had argued that Chauvin’s use of force was appropriate and necessary, and that Floyd’s pre-existing conditions and drug use were the main factors in his death. But pulmonologist Martin Tobin, a key witness for the prosecution, countered that “a healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died.”
“Believe your eyes,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said in his closing arguments Monday, referring to the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes that sparked international outrage last year. “What you saw, you saw.” Prior to the verdict, Crump told Vanity Fair that it was “one of the best prosecutions I have ever seen for the unjust killing of a Black person,” while Chauvin’s defense team tried “to assassinate the character of George Floyd… throwing things on the wall to see if they could get something to stick.”
With his convictions, Chauvin now faces potentially decades in prison: His second-degree unintentional murder charge carries up to a 40-year sentence; his third-degree murder charge carries up to 25 years; and his manslaughter charge carries up to 10.
“While justice landed Derek Chauvin behind bars for murdering George Floyd, no amount of justice will bring Gianna’s father back,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson. “We will not rest until all in our community have the right to breathe.”
This article has been updated.
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