Chauvin verdict: Guilty on 3 charges in George Floyd’s death

People in George Floyd Square, Minneapolis, celebrate the guilty verdict of former police officer Derek Chauvin on April 20, 2021. (Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer)

MINNEAPOLIS — The jury has spoken, and found Derek Chauvin guilty in the death of George Floyd. The former Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes while he was handcuffed and face down on the pavement last May. 

Chauvin was taken into custody and will be sentenced in eight weeks.

The incident was filmed by a teenager and set off a national racial reckoning after decades in which police killed Black men and were rarely punished.

Iowans respond to the verdict

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne:

“… Today, our nation took an important step forward … proving that accountability is possible for such unmistakable abuses of power like those exhibited by Derek Chauvin last summer.

“And while justice was served today, the efforts undertaken in George Floyd’s name — efforts to combat injustice and systemic racism — are unfinished. For the sake of all those whose justice is still unwritten, we must continue to demand the reforms that will protect people of color in this country from discrimination, bias, and abuse.”

State Rep. Liz Bennett:

State Auditor Rob Sand:

ACLU of Iowa:

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement:

Black Liberation Movement leader Jaylin Cavil:

Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder; guilty of third-degree murder; and guilty of second-degree manslaughter. The jury deliberated for 10 hours. 

After the verdict was read, Floyd’s relatives held a news conference with their attorney Ben Crump, who won an unprecedented $27 million settlement in the family’s civil lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis for Floyd’s death.

George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd said he felt relieved. The footage of his brother’s death was a “motion picture” played over and over again during the trial, “the world seeing his life be extinguished,” Philonise Floyd said — and he could do nothing but watch.

Philonise Floyd said he’s going to keep fighting for change, not just for George Floyd but for “everybody around this world.”

“I get (messages) from around the world … They’re all saying the same thing: ‘We won’t be able to breathe until you’re able to breathe,’” Philonise Floyd said. “Today, we are able to breathe again.”

Minnesotans reacted with relief and satisfaction that justice was done.

“I’m overjoyed. i feel like we can finally start doing the work that we need to do,” said the Rev. Lawrence Richardson of Linden Hills United Church of Christ. “My hope is that we can be an example for communities around the nation and around the world of what racial reconciliation can look like.” Richardson joined others in George Floyd Square, the area in south Minneapolis near where Floyd was murdered and has become a place of collective grief and celebration since his death.

Richardson joined others in George Floyd Square, the area in south Minneapolis near where Floyd was murdered and has become a place of collective grief and celebration since his death.

Prosecutors laid out a case over the course of 15 days that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen, or asphyxiation, after Chauvin, a 19-year veteran on the Minneapolis police force, knelt on Floyd, 46.  

In the video taken by then-17-year-old Darnella Frazier, Floyd’s face is pinned to the pavement, with Chauvin casually atop him, grinding his knee into Floyd’s neck until he went unconscious in 4 minutes and 45 seconds, had no pulse after 5 minutes and died on the street, according to a breathing expert.

Frazier testified during the trial that she’s stayed up nights “apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting — not saving his life.”

Attorney General Keith Ellison thanked George Floyd’s family and the community for their patience before the trial. He also thanked the witnesses who testified after watching Chauvin press his knee into Floyd’s neck. They performed “simple yet profound acts of courage” in telling the truth, Ellison said.

“Why did they stop? They didn’t know George Floyd,” he said. “They stopped and raised their voices, and they even challenged authority because they saw (Floyd’s) humanity.”

Ellison said a verdict can’t end the pain Floyd’s family is experiencing, but he hopes it helps them heal. He called on community members to continue working toward criminal justice reform, saying “it’s in your hands now.”

“The work of our generation is to put unaccountable law enforcement behind us,” Ellison said. “One conviction like this one can create a powerful new opening to shed old practices and reset relationships.”

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listened to closing statements on April 19, 2021, in his trial for killing George Floyd. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Reformer)

Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson argued Floyd died from a toxic mix of fentanyl and methamphetamine and health problems ranging from heart disease to hypertension, noting the county medical examiner found no evidence of injury to Floyd’s neck or back.

After closing arguments, Nelson moved for a mistrial, saying the overwhelming media coverage of the case — including comments from elected officials — was impossible to ignore. (Jurors were not sequestered until they began deliberating Monday afternoon). 

The three other officers who were on the scene — Thomas Lane, who held down Floyd’s legs; J. Alexander Kueng, who knelt on Floyd’s back and Tou Thao, who kept onlookers at bay — are scheduled to go on trial in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin.

The maximum sentence is 40 years for second-degree unintentional murder, 25 years for third-degree murder and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. But Minnesota sentencing guidelines recommend a much shorter sentence — 12 ½ years — for murder for a person with no criminal history. Manslaughter has a presumptive sentence of four years for someone with no criminal history.

“Today’s verdict is an important step forward for justice in Minnesota,” said Gov. Tim Walz in a statement released shortly after the verdict. “The trial is over, but our work has only begun.”

Max Nesterak and Ricardo Lopez contributed reporting. 

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