Former police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty by a Minneapolis jury for the murder of George Floyd.
Guilty on all three counts, the end of deliberations came one day after the closing arguments and rebuttals in the three-week trial were presented by defense lawyers and the prosecution on April 19 in Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill’s courtroom. Along with CNN Fox News and MSNBC, broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC all covered the more than six hours of the end of Chauvin’s trial in almost its entirety.
Facing a decade or more behind bars, Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter. Ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s, the 12-person jury was made up of three Black men, two white men, one Black woman, four white women, and two women who referred to themselves as mixed race. Seeking a unanimous conclusion, jurors could have convicted the accused Chauvin of all of the charges or none at all.
Now with the guilty verdict in, the amount of time Chauvin will actually serve will be determined in the coming weeks after a pre-sentencing report, other processes, and possible special circumstances are presented to Judge Cahill. After the verdict was announced, Chauvin’s bail was revoked and he was taken into custody immediately.
Today, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and BBC America all covered the reading of the verdict and the lead up live. Even before the jury’s decision was made public, NBC News bumped Days of Our Lives on the West Coast and went live with a Lester Holt hosted special report. ABC and CBS stayed with regularly scheduled programming until the jurors actually returned to the Gopher State courtroom.
Arrested under suspicion on May 25, 2020, of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a store in the Minnesota city’s Powderhorn Park neighborhood, 46-year old Floyd died soon after screaming for “Mama” as Chauvin thrust his knee into the handcuffed ex-security guard’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds in the street. Seemingly unconcerned with the public response to the situation as it tragically unfolded, Chauvin was caught on multiple cell phone cameras committing the act as two other junior officers helped hold Floyd down and a third prevented onlookers from intervening.
Fired by the MPD on May 26, 2020 as the videos went viral and outrage over Floyd’s killing and institutionalized injustice intensified, 20-year department vet Chauvin was arrested three days later. Initially charged with second-degree murder, the spotlight on Chauvin saw the coronavirus-battered nation erupt in protests and anger in what was the latest egregious and fatal attack on a person of color by police in an America almost numb to the occurrence.
With much of the country anxious about what could be the fallout from the verdict, the trial did see the traditional blue wall of silence crack somewhat as Chauvin’s conduct was condemned by fellow cops on the stand. Also, lies and slanted perspective that the much complained about officer told his superiors over what really went down were exposed during the trial.
Still, after failing to get the case dismissed last summer, defense lawyer Eric Nelson’s primary tactic was to create doubt about the cause of Floyd’s death. Insisting that Chauvin used reasonable measures, which has been countered by fellow cops and others, Nelson cited drug use and heart condition as likely culprits instead of his client’s use of apparent excessive force.
Out on $1 million conditional bail bond, Derek Chauvin did not testify at his own trial. Amidst pledges of police reform and up against a wrongful death suit from the Ben Crump represented Floyd family, the city of Minneapolis agreed on March 12 this year to pay out a settlement of $27 million. Chauvin’s crew of MPD newbies James Alexander Kueng, Thomas Kiernan Lane, and Tou Thao are penciled in to go to trial on August 23 for their role in Floyd’s death.
Worried of what could happen on the streets of cities and communities across America from another verdict that saw another cop get off in the Chauvin case, the realpolitik of race, racism and police brutality in America has been never far from the surface since the eagerly awaited trial and its near gavel-to-gavel coverage on much of cable news started on March 29.
President Joe Biden is expected to address the nation on the verdict later today.
Far beyond remarks from the president himself, the administration has been preparing for the verdict and has been in touch with local authorities, including governors and mayors, “to ensure there is a space for peaceful protest,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki earlier this week.
“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. Which is – I think it’s overwhelming in my view,” Biden said on Tuesday. He said that he phoned Floyd’s family after the jury was sequestered and that they were “calling for peace and tranquility.”
In the aftermath of the police shooting death of 20-year old Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center on April 11, the president stated last week that the “anger, pain and trauma that exists in the Black community that that environment is real, serious and consequential. But that does not justify violence.”
What is not immediately clear is whether the verdict will trigger much-promised action on police reform.
After House passage, the Senate has yet to act on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban racial profiling, create a registry of police misconduct and create a higher threshold for permissible use of force by federal officers. It also would restrict the use of chokeholds by federal law enforcement. In the months after Floyd’s death, half of the largest police departments in the country placed new restrictions on the practice, according to The Washington Post.
Even before the verdict, there was a political furor. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) faced harsh backlash from Republicans, and the judge in the Chauvin trial for remarks she made last weekend. The outspoken California politician said that she hoped for a guilty verdict. Asked what she thought protesters should do, she said, “We have got to stay on the street. We have got to get more active. We have got to get more confrontational. We have got to make sure that they know we mean business.”
On Monday, Judge Cahill rejected a defense call for a mistrial in the wake of Congresswoman Waters’ remarks but said that they could serve as the basis for an appeal.