MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted on felony charges stemming from the death of George Floyd, a Black man, who died under Chauvin’s knee last May as he pleaded “I can’t breathe”. Floyd’s death sparked protests worldwide, some of which were chaotic, and helped catapult a surge in popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement.
A 12-person jury found Chauvin, who was represented by criminal defense attorney Eric J. Nelson, guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The jury deliberated for around 10 1/2 hours, before reaching a verdict in the early afternoon hours of Tuesday.
Chauvin will be sentenced in eight weeks, Judge Peter Cahill said. The court revoked Chauvin’s bond as he was led away in handcuffs, trailed silently by attorney Eric Nelson. He faces up to 40 years, 25 years, and 10 years on all three of his respective counts. Legal experts have said Chauvin’s sentence may be lesser than maximum due to his lack of a criminal record.
Ultimately, Judge Cahill will decide Chauvin’s sentence, as well as whether the sentences will be served concurrently or not.
Eric Nelson presented various arguments in Chauvin’s defense, including theories that Floyd died from carbon monoxide inhalation from a police car, a drug overdose, or his various underlying health conditions including heart disease and sickle cell trait.
On Tuesday, shortly before the guilty verdict, Nelson asked Judge Cahill for a mistrial due to off-color comments made by U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, which Nelson characterized as calls for violence. Cahill, though being visibly upset, denied Nelson’s request for a mistrial.
State prosecutors working under Attorney General Keith Ellison told jurors to “trust their eyes” in Floyd’s death and presented testimony by various law enforcement officials and medical experts. The state’s witnesses said Floyd died of asphyxia due to Chauvin’s restraint for approximately 9 1/2 minutes.
Following the announcement of Chauvin’s guilty verdict, cheering erupted outside of the Hennepin County Government Center as well as “George Floyd Square” 38th and Chicago, where the 46-year-old died.
“We’re not finished. This is just the beginning,” civil rights activist Shaun King wrote in an Instagram post. King has worked in tandem with the Floyd family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, in an effort to spread awareness of Floyd’s death.
Various figures including President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, who heads the Justice Department under the Biden administration, offered condolences to Floyd’s family and reflected on the verdict.
“The jury in the state trial of Derek Chauvin has fulfilled its civic duty and rendered a verdict convicting him on all counts,” Garland said. “While the state’s prosecution was successful, I know that nothing can fill the void that the loved ones of George Floyd have felt since his death.”