© Reuters. The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis
By Jonathan Allen and Nathan Layne
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of the murder in the arrest of George Floyd, a milestone in the troubled racial history of the United States and a reprimand of the treatment of black Americans by law enforcement.
The 12-person jury found the 45-year-old chauvin guilty of guilty of all charges, including second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter, after three weeks of testimony by 45 witnesses, including bystanders, police officers and medical experts. The deliberations began on Monday and lasted a little over 10 hours.
In a videotaped confrontation on May 25, 2020, the white chauvin put his knee on the back of the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes as he and three other officers arrested Floyd, who was accused of Buying cigarettes in a grocery store with a fake $ 20 bill.
Chauvin, wearing a gray suit with a blue tie and white shirt and a light blue pandemic face mask, nodded and stood up quickly when the judge ruled that his bail would be revoked after the verdict was read.
He was handcuffed from the courtroom and placed in the care of the Hennepin County Sheriff.
In front of the courthouse, a crowd of several hundred cheered as the verdict was pronounced. Cars honked and chants of "George Floyd" and "All Three Counts" broke out.
Chris Dixon, a 41-year-old resident of Black Minneapolis, had tears on his face.
"I was hoping we'd get justice and it looks like we did," he said. "I'm just very proud of where I live right now."
In Minneapolis' George Floyd Square, the intersection where Floyd was killed and now named after him, people shouted, applauded, and some tossed dollar bills in celebration. The site has since become a rallying point for protests against racial justice.
"Justice for Black America is justice for all of America," Floyd family lawyer Benjamin Crump said in a statement. "This case marks a turning point in American history for law enforcement accountability and sends a clear message that we hope will be heard clearly in every city and state."
Chauvin pleaded guilty not to have committed an accidental second degree murder involving "willful assault", an unintentional third degree "corrupt spirit" with an "act extremely dangerous to others" and a second degree manslaughter resulting in death caused by " culpable negligence ".
While the U.S. criminal justice system and juries have long provided leeway and protection to law enforcement officers who use force to subdue civilians, the jury found in this case that chauvin had crossed the line and used excessive force.
Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, Chauvin faces 12 1/2 years in prison for his first-time murder conviction. However, prosecutors could seek a longer sentence of 40 years maximum if Hennepin District Judge Peter Cahill, who led the trial, determines that there are "aggravating factors".
In Minnesota, convicted criminals typically leave prison after supervised release after completing two-thirds of their sentences. Chauvin has had no previous criminal convictions.
According to court records, the jury consisted of four white women, two white men, three black men, one black woman and two multiracial women.
Earlier on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said he had spoken to members of Floyd's family by phone.
"They are a good family and they demand peace and quiet no matter what that judgment is. I pray the judgment is the right one, that is – I think it is overwhelming in my opinion. I would not do it." I wouldn't say I wouldn't say this if the jury wasn't confiscated now, "Biden told reporters at the White House.
The interface between race and law enforcement has long been controversial in the United States, underscored by a number of fatal incidents involving white cops and blacks in a number of American cities in recent years.
Floyd's death last year sparked protests against racism and police brutality in many cities in the United States and around the world.
Minneapolis police released Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd was arrested. The other three will be tried later that year for an accessory to Floyd's death.
A cardiologist, pulmonologist, toxicologist, and forensic pathologist were medical experts called by prosecutors to testify that videos and autopsy results confirmed that Chauvin killed Floyd by pushing his body onto the street in a way that which starved him for oxygen.
The defense argued that Chauvin behaved like any "reasonable cop" under the circumstances and tried to cast doubt on the cause of Floyd's death. Heart disease or even the fumes from the nearby police car could have been factors.
Darnella Frazier, a teenage girl who told the jury that she was taking her 9-year-old cousin to the Cup Foods grocery store that evening for snacks, was among the witnesses called by prosecutors after the jury broke on March 29 heard testimony.
Frazier had made a video on her cell phone showing Floyd's excruciating ordeal, images that catalyzed the protests that followed. On the video, Floyd can be heard screaming for his mother and telling officers he can't breathe. Finally, Chauvin raised his knee so paramedics could lay Floyd's limp body on a stretcher.
Other eyewitnesses described the horror and continuing trauma of seeing Floyd die in front of him. Courteney Ross, Floyd's nearly three-year-old friend, remembered their first kiss and their struggle against opioid addiction together.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo appeared as a prosecutor's witness to testify that Chauvin's actions during the arrest were a gross violation of his education.
Throughout the process, Chauvin wore a suit and took notes on yellow notepads while sitting next to defense attorney Eric Nelson. Members of Floyd's family took turns attending the trial, though some tried to avert their gaze when the multi-angle video of Floyd's death was played back on the jury.
The judge ordered the jury to be confiscated after the deliberations began.