By Whitney Gresham
Derek Chauvin, the fired and disgraced Minneapolis police officer, arrested and then kneeled with his knee on the neck of a prone and handcuffed George Floyd for nearly ten minutes until he was dead, was found guilty of murder Tuesday by an integrated Minneapolis jury.
In a verdict that took less than a day to render after a three-week trial, the jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He now faces a possibility of being sentenced to 40 years in prison at his sentencing hearing in about three weeks.
After the verdict was read, Chauvin, 45, had his bond revoked, was handcuffed, and led off to the county jail.
The much-anticipated verdict was announced less than 12 hours after the jury received the case following the closing statements by Chauvin’s defense lawyers and state prosecutors late Monday afternoon.
Although most legal experts conceded the prosecution presented a robust case backed up by graphic video evidence of the crime, the entire state of Minnesota and the nation waited with bated breath as the jury of three Black men, one Black woman, and two women who identified themselves as multiracial, along with two white men and four white women started their deliberations.
Never in the history of the Minnesota criminal justice system had a white police officer been convicted of murdering a Black citizen, despite the city of Minneapolis had a notorious reputation for police violence against Black citizens, including murder.
However, Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, set off national and international outrage after a videotape surfaced showing Chauvin casually kneeling with his hand in his pocket and knee on the neck of Floyd as he choked, gasped for air, and cried out he could not breathe – and for his dead mother – while a small crowd of onlookers begged the officer to get off of him.
The sheer cruelty and inhumanity of the moment sparked worldwide protest against police brutality, racism, the over-policing of the Black community, implicit bias, structural racism, and an unjust criminal justice system in America Blacks and their allies have been protesting against for years.
Tuesday verdict brought a small measure of justice and relief for the Floyd family, who had to endure nearly a year of daily replays of the videotaped lynching of their family member. This made all the more painful during the trial as Chauvin’s lawyer tried their best to put Floyd on trial for his death. They engaged in a defense strategy that relied heavily on the character assassination of the dead man and even racist tropes about dangerous Black men in general.
Eric Nelson, the lead defense lawyer, repeatedly suggested to the jury Floyd’s cause of death was due to illicit drugs and other substances found in his system. And that Chauvin had little choice but to use that technique because Floyd was a large man capable of breaking loose from his handcuffs, and harming him as well as the two other officers holding him face down on the pavement as he begged for his life.
And for good measure, Nelson even suggested Chauvin feared for his safety from the small crowd of onlookers who stood on the corner pleading for Floyd’s life. This included teenagers, an elementary school child, an older man, an EMT, and a few other spectators.
And if neither of those excuses passed the smell test, Nelson went as far as to suggest another possibility; that Floyd may have died from inhaling carbon dioxide emitted from the patrol car where he laid prostrate and handcuffed near the exhaust pipe of the running vehicle.
But the jury wasn’t buying any of it and choosing to believe their own eyes and use common sense; they quickly convicted Chauvin of all charges.
President Biden praised the guilty verdict calling it a “too rare” step to deliver “basic accountability” for Black Americans who have been killed during interactions with the police during a national press conference.
“It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” Mr. Biden said. “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”