Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday afternoon on murder and manslaughter charges in connection with the death of George Floyd.
The verdicts come one day after the jury began deliberations.
Chauvin, 45, faced three charges in connection with the death of 46-year-old George Floyd. The charges included second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Minneapolis police officers arrested him on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a store. Bystanders recorded video of the arrest, showing Chauvin with his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Chauvin was fired just days later and was arrested on May 29. He posted a $1 million bond and was released on conditional bail on Oct. 7.
During the three-week-long trial, the prosecution called 38 witness including eyewitnesses to the arrest, the Minneapolis police chief and outside experts in policing and medicine. The defense called its own experts in medicine and policing – seven witnesses in all. Chauvin did not testify, claiming 5th Amendment privilege.
In closing arguments, Defense Attorney Eric Nelson argued Chauvin acted as a reasonable and lawful officer would because Floyd’s resistance during the first 16 minutes of the arrest justified the use of force. He also claimed Floyd died from a number of factors including an underlying heart condition, illegal drug use and possibly because he inhaled fumes from the police vehicle’s exhaust near where Floyd was on the ground.
The prosecution argued Floyd died largely because Chauvin’s weight on his back and neck for more than nine minutes restricted Floyd’s breathing, causing a lack of oxygen and eventually death. Prosecuting Attorney Jerry Blackwell told jurors Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck was a substantial cause of death, which is all that’s required for a guilty verdict. He said other factors were incidental. Blackwell also told jurors to believe what they saw in the video and to use their common sense.
Following closing arguments, Defense Attorney Nelson laid the groundwork for a possible appeal, in part on the basis of massive news coverage of the trial, which he feared the jurors may have seen because they were not sequestered until deliberations began. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill rejected the call for a mistrial, saying jurors had been instructed to avoid watching the news.
The judge did acknowledge that comments made by California Rep. Maxine Waters may be grounds for an appeal of a potential guilty verdict. Waters called on protestors to “get more confrontational” if the verdict is anything but “guilty.”