MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – After three weeks of testimony, the trial of the former police officer accused of murder George floyd ended quickly: just over a day of jury deliberation, then a few minutes for the verdicts to be read – guilty, guilty, and guilty – and Derek chauvin was handcuffed and taken to prison.
Chauvin, 45, could face decades in jail when sentenced in about two months in a case that has sparked global protests, violence and a furious re-examination of racism and the police in the United States
The verdict sparked jubilation mingled with grief across the city and across the country. Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some crossing traffic with banners. The drivers sounded their horns in celebration.
“Today we can breathe again,” Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said at a cheerful family press conference where tears rolled down his face as he compared Floyd to the lynching victim of the Mississippi from 1955, Emmett Till, except this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.
The jury six whites and six black or multiracial returned with their verdict after about 10 hours of two-day deliberations. The now dismissed white officer was found guilty of unintentional second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
Chauvin’s face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes rushing into the courtroom. His bail was immediately revoked. Sentencing will be in two months; the most serious charge can go up to 40 years in prison.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed Chauvin out of the courtroom without commenting.
President Joe Biden hailed the verdict, saying Floyd’s death was “a murder in broad daylight, and he ripped the blinders off for the whole world” to see the systemic racism.
But he warned, “It’s not enough. We cannot stop here. We will make real changes and reforms. We can and must do more to reduce the likelihood of such tragedies happening again. “
The jury’s decision has been hailed nationwide as justice by other political and civic leaders and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and California Governor Gavin Newsom, a white man, who has said on Twitter that Floyd “would still be alive if he looked like me.” It has to change.
In a park next to the Minneapolis courthouse, silence fell over a crowd of around 300 as they listened to the verdict on their cell phones. Then a great roar arose, with many people hugging, some shedding tears.
At the intersection where Floyd was stuck, a crowd chanted: “One down, three to go!” – a reference to the three other dismissed officers from Minneapolis who are on trial in August for complicity in murder in Floyd’s death
Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt grateful and relieved.
“I feel anchored. I can feel my feet on the concrete, “she said, adding that she looked forward to the” next case with joy, optimism and strength. “
Jamee Haggard, who brought his biracial 4-year-old daughter to the intersection, said: “There is a form of justice coming.”
The verdict was read in a courthouse surrounded by concrete fences and barbed wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a town plagued by another wave of unrest – not only because of the Chauvin affair but because of the fatal shooting of a young black man, Daunte Wright, in a suburb of Minneapolis on April 11.
The identities of the jurors have been kept a secret and will not be released until the judge decides it was safe to do so.
It is unusual for police to be prosecuted for killing someone on the job. And convictions are extraordinarily rare.
Of the thousands of deadly police shootings in the United States since 2005, fewer than 140 police officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter, according to data maintained by Phil Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. Before Tuesday, only seven had been convicted of murder.
Juries often give police officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim they had to make life and death decisions in a split second. But it was not an argument that Chauvin could easily make.
Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a fake $ 20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a local market. He panicked, pleaded he was claustrophobic, and struggled with the police when they tried to put him in a police car. They knocked him down instead.
The centerpiece of the case was the excruciating video of a Floyd bystander repeatedly panting, “I can’t breathe” and bystanders yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer rested his knee on or near the Floyd’s neck for what the authorities say is 9 1/2 minutes, including several minutes after Floyd stopped breathing and he had no pulse.
Prosecutors released the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, and told the jury, “Believe your eyes.” From there it was repeatedly shown, analyzed one frame at a time by witnesses on both sides.
In the wake of Floyd’s death, protests and scattered violence erupted in Minneapolis, across the country and beyond. The fury also led to the removal of Confederate statues and other offensive symbols such as Aunt Jemima.
In the months that followed, many states and cities limited the use of force by police, reorganized disciplinary systems, or brought police departments under closer scrutiny.
The “blue wall of silence” that often protects police officers accused of wrongdoing collapsed after Floyd’s death. The Minneapolis Police Chief quickly called it “murder” and fired the four officers, and the city rose to a staggering level $ 27 million settlement with the Floyd’s family while the jury selection was in progress.
Police procedural experts and law enforcement veterans inside and outside the Minneapolis Department, including the Chief, have testified to the charge that Chauvin used excessive force and was going to against his training.
Prosecution medical experts said Floyd died of asphyxiation or lack of oxygen as his breathing was hampered by the way he was held on his stomach, hands cuffed behind him, one knee on his neck and his face stuck to the ground. .
Chauvin’s attorney called a police use of force expert and forensic pathologist to try to show that Chauvin acted reasonably against a troubled suspect and that Floyd died of heart disease and of his illegal drug use. Floyd had high blood pressure and narrowed arteries, and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.
Under the law, police officers have some leeway to use force and are judged based on whether their actions were “reasonable” in the circumstances.
The defense also attempted to argue that Chauvin and the other officers were hampered in their duties by what they perceived to be a growing and hostile crowd.
Chauvin did not testify, and all that the jury or the public heard by way of an explanation from him was from a police body camera video after an ambulance took Floyd from 6 feet 4 inches and 223 pounds. Chauvin told a viewer, “We have to control this guy because he’s a big guy … and it looks like he’s probably on to something.”
The prosecution’s case also included tearful testimony from bystanders who said police held them back when they protested what was going on.
Darnella Frazier, 18, who shot the crucial video, said Chauvin gave viewers a “cold” and “heartless” look. She and others have said they felt a lingering sense of helplessness and guilt after witnessing Floyd’s slow-motion death.
“I had been awake for nights, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, not interacting physically and not saving his life,” she said. .
Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press video reporter Angie Wang in Atlanta and writers Doug Glass, Stephen Groves, Aaron Morrison, Tim Sullivan and Michael Tarm in Minneapolis; Mohamed Ibrahim at the Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed.
Find full AP coverage of George Floyd’s death on: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd