Derek Chauvin found guilty of murdering George Floyd
By Tim Arango, Shaila Dewan, John Eligon and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs
Derek Chauvin was found guilty of two counts of murder on Tuesday in the death of George Floyd, whose final breaths last May under the knee of Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, were captured on video, setting off months of protests against the police abuse of Black people.
After deliberating for about 10 hours over two days following an emotional trial that lasted three weeks, the jury found Chauvin, who is white, guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of Floyd, a Black man, on a street corner last year on Memorial Day.
Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced in the coming weeks but is likely to receive far less time.
The verdict was read in court and broadcast live to the nation on television, as the streets around the heavily fortified courthouse in downtown Minneapolis, ringed by razor wire and guarded by National Guard soldiers, filled with people awaiting the verdict.
For a country whose legal system rarely holds police officers to account for killing on the job, especially when the victims are Black people, the case was a milestone and its outcome a sign, perhaps, that the death of Floyd has moved the country toward more accountability for police abuses and more equality under the law.
The city has been on edge for weeks as the trial progressed and the city awaited the verdict, with many worrying that a not-guilty ruling would bring renewed social unrest and chaos to a city that saw buildings set ablaze and widespread looting last year following the death of Floyd.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris watched at the White House on Tuesday as the verdict was read in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was convicted on two charges of murder and one charge of manslaughter. Biden and Harris will give remarks later in the evening.
The guilty verdict came hours after Biden took the unusual step of weighing in on the trial’s outcome before the jury had come back with a decision. He told reporters earlier Tuesday that he had been “praying” for the “right verdict” in the trial but pointed out that he had only decided to comment because the jury had already been sequestered.
Biden, who watched the verdict from the television in his private dining room just off the Oval Office, has made several calls since the news broke: One was to Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota and the other was to Philonese Floyd, George Floyd’s brother. Biden had last spoken to Philonese on Monday night.
“They’re a good family, and they’ve called for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is,” Biden told reporters earlier Tuesday. “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. Which is — I think it’s overwhelming, in my view.”
How much prison time Chauvin will have to serve will not be decided until several weeks from now, after a pre-sentencing report about Chauvin’s background is produced. Judge Peter A. Cahill will also have to determine whether there were special circumstances of the crime that would justify a lengthier sentence than the prison terms laid out by Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines.
Because Chauvin has no criminal history, the sentencing guidelines for each of the murder charges is 12.5 years. But the maximum sentences for each charge differ: Second-degree murder could mean as long as 40 years in prison, while the maximum for third-degree murder is 25 years. Chauvin was also convicted of second-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, but under the guidelines he would most likely be sentenced to four years.
Before Chauvin was convicted, the state asked for a lengthier sentence should he be convicted of any of the charges — what is known as an “upward sentencing departure” — citing aggravating factors including, the state has said in court filings, that the killing of Floyd happened in the presence of children, that Floyd was treated with “particular cruelty” by Chauvin, and that Chauvin, as a police officer, “abused his position of authority.”
Chauvin had the option of having the jury rule on the aggravating factors or putting it in the hands of Cahill. At the end of closing arguments on Monday, Chauvin waived his right to have the jury decide, putting the decision on sentencing solely in the hands of Cahill.