Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter on Tuesday April 20th.
After the verdict was read, Chauvin was taken into the custody of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. It’s unclear when Chauvin will be sentenced. Per The New York Times, a defendant like Chauvin with no criminal history could face 12-and-a-half years for both murder charges, though the second-degree charge carries a max of 40 years in prison, while third-degree carries a max of 25 years. The manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of four years.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Floyd’s family, issued a statement saying, “Painfully earned justice has arrived for George Floyd’s family and the community here in Minneapolis, but today’s verdict goes far beyond this city and has significant implications for the country and even the world. Justice for Black America is justice for all of America. This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message we hope is heard clearly in every city and every state.”
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
The jury reached a verdict one day after closing arguments were delivered on Monday, April 19th. The trial began at the end of March and lasted just over three weeks. During that time, the prosecution called 38 witnesses, including several bystanders who watched and recorded Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck, police officials who testified that Chauvin’s actions qualified as an excessive use of force, and medical experts who said Chauvin deprived Floyd of oxygen, which caused to Floyd’s death.
The defense, in turn, called just seven witnesses, including police officials who argued Chauvin acted reasonably, and medical witnesses who suggested other factors may have contributed to Floyd’s death, such as drug use or a heart condition.
Following the verdict, President Biden said he’d spoken with Floyd’s family, said the verdict was just, and called on Congress to pass legislation aimed at broader policing reforms.
“Such a verdict is also much too rare. It seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors … for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability,” Biden said. “It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that a tragedy like this will ever occur again.”
Floyd’s death, and especially the graphic video of it, helped kicked off yet another nationwide reckoning with systemic racism and police brutality as protests swept across the country last summer. One year later, though, numerous problems with policing in America remain, as evidenced by the fact that two prominent police killings occurred during the trial’s three-week span.
On March 29th, the same day as opening statements in the Chuavin trial, a Chicago cop killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo; bodycam footage released weeks later showed Toledo with his hands up when he was shot, casting doubt on official claims that he was brandishing a gun at the time. And on April 11th, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota — just outside Minneapolis where Chauvin was on trial— a police officer killed 21-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop after allegedly mistaking her Taser for her gun.