Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer on trial for George Floyd’s murder, has been found guilty of all three charges against him.
Outside, the crowd that had gathered to witness this historic moment cheered in celebration; some prayed, many cried. Floyd’s killing prompted a national and global reckoning with anti-Black racism and police brutality. Even so, a guilty verdict was never seen as a guarantee, not by the millions of activists and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement who have seen the system repeatedly protect police officers accused of unjustified killings.
Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. The bystander video of his death, in which Chauvin can be seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, sparked horror and outrage around the world. Chauvin pleaded not guilty to all three charges brought against him.
The most serious of these charges was for second-degree unintentional murder, for which the prosecution needed to prove that when Chauvin pushed his knee into Floyd’s neck, he committed or was attempting to commit an intentional third-degree assault, resulting in death.
That Chauvin was also found guilty of third-degree murder means the jury was convinced that Floyd’s action was “eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
Second-degree manslaughter was the least serious charge facing Chauvin. For that the prosecution had to provide evidence of “culpable negligence,” and that Chauvin chose to take chances of “causing death or great bodily harm.”
Chauvin’s lawyers had attempted to make the case that other factors, including Floyd’s medical history and use of drugs, had contributed to his death. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, urged the jury to consider all the minutes leading up to those featured in the devastating video when making their decision. The defense attorney argued that Chauvin had used reasonable force to safeguard other officers and civilians on the scene, and even the person under arrest. However, Floyd could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” several times in the video. He also called out for his late mother.
The jury heard from 45 witnesses and watched hours of difficult video of Floyd’s arrest over the course of the three-week trial, for which the judge thanked the five men and seven women for their “heavy-duty jury service.”
Chauvin could now face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for the third-degree murder conviction, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter, according to CNN.
Watch the judge read the verdict in the video below: