By Shereen Siewert and The Associated Press
Jurors on Thursday found former officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all charges in the death of George Floyd, in a case that set off a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
The jury, made up of six white people and six Black or multiracial people, weighed charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, with convictions on some, none or all of the charges possible.
The most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.
The verdict, which arrived at after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days, was read late in the afternoon in a city teetering on the brink. The courthouse was ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire, and thousands of National Guard troops and law enforcement officers were brought in ahead of the verdict. Some businesses boarded up with plywood.
Floyd died last May after Chauvin, a 45-year-old now-fired white officer, pinned his knee on or close to the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for about 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd gasped that he couldn’t breathe and onlookers yelled at Chauvin to get off.
The city has been on edge in recent days — not just over the Chauvin case but over the deadly police shooting of a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, in the nearby Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center on April 11.
In a prepared statement, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said no jury verdict can bring Floyd back, but the decision can lead to accountability and healing.
“As I said last year, what we saw on the video of the events leading to George Floyd’s death was not law enforcement,” said Attorney General Kaul. “Derek Chauvin was not protecting or serving the residents of Minneapolis. He was committing a horrific crime.”
Sentencing for Chauvin is expected in eight weeks. Bail was revoked and Chauvin was immediately taken into custody.
Explanation of charges
For all three charges, prosecutors had to prove that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death and that his use of force was unreasonable.
Prosecutors didn’t have to prove Chauvin’s restraint was the sole cause of Floyd’s death, but only that his conduct was a “substantial causal factor.” Chauvin is authorized to use force as a police officer, as long as that force is reasonable.
To convict on any of these counts, jurors were required to find that Chauvin used a level of force that would be considered unreasonable to an objective officer in his position. Hindsight can’t be a factor.
The charges differ when it comes to Chauvin’s state of mind — with second-degree murder requiring some level of intent — not an intent to kill but that Chauvin intended to apply unlawful force to Floyd — all the way down to manslaughter, which requires proof of culpable negligence.
WHAT’S SECOND-DEGREE UNINTENTIONAL MURDER?
It’s also called felony murder. To prove this count, prosecutors had to show that Chauvin killed Floyd while committing or trying to commit a felony — in this case, third-degree assault. They didn’t have to prove Chauvin intended to kill Floyd, only that he intended to apply unlawful force that caused bodily harm.
Prosecutors called several medical experts who testified that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because of the way he was restrained. A use of force expert said it was unreasonable to hold Floyd in the prone position for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, handcuffed and face-down on the pavement.
“No reasonable officer would have believed that that was an appropriate, acceptable or reasonable use of force,” prosecution witness Seth Stoughton testified.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson tried to raise doubts about Floyd’s cause of death — saying underlying heart issues and drug use were to blame. He also argued that Chauvin’s actions were reasonable, saying Floyd was big, under the influence of something, could start fighting and that nearby bystanders presented a threat.
“It’s easy to sit and judge … an officer’s conduct,” defense witness Barry Brodd testified. “It’s more of a challenge to, again, put yourself in the officer’s shoes to try to make an evaluation through what they’re feeling, what they’re sensing, the fear they have, and then make a determination.”
WHAT ABOUT THIRD-DEGREE MURDER?
For this count, jurors were required to find Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through an action that was “eminently dangerous” and carried out with a reckless disregard for and conscious indifference to the loss of life.
Mark Osler, a professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law, said prosecutors tried to prove the elements of this count through testimony about the dangers of subduing a handcuffed person in the prone position.
Dr. Martin Tobin, a lung and critical care specialist, testified for the prosecution that any healthy person subjected to this restraint would have died. Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force instructor, testified that officers are trained to “stay away from the neck when possible.” Osler said Police Chief Medaria Arradondo was also effective in showing that Chauvin was not trained to use such a hold.
“They wanted to have a lot of evidence showing that what Chauvin did is not what he was trained to do and that the reason they don’t train people to do that is because it’s eminently dangerous,” Osler said.
AND SECOND-DEGREE MANSLAUGHTER?
Prosecutors successfully showed that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through culpable negligence that created an unreasonable risk, and that he consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death.
Testimony that revealed Chauvin should have known to put Floyd in a side recovery position, that he should have provided medical care before paramedics arrived and that he stayed in his position after he was told Floyd didn’t have a pulse could all point to negligence, said former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger.
WHAT DOES CHAUVIN FACE?
Each count carries a different maximum sentence: 40 years for second-degree unintentional murder, 25 years for third-degree murder, and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.
But under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, for a person with no criminal history, each murder charge carries a presumptive sentence of 12 1/2 years in prison, while manslaughter has a presumptive sentence of four years.
Prosecutors are seeking a sentence that goes above the guideline range. They cited several aggravating factors, including that Floyd was particularly vulnerable, that Chauvin was a uniformed police officer acting in a position of authority, and his alleged crime was witnessed by multiple children — including a 9-year-old girl who testified that watching the restraint made her “sad and kind of mad.”
Chauvin has waived his right to have a jury decide if aggravating factors exist. Judge Peter Cahill will make that decision and would sentence Chauvin at a later date. In Minnesota, defendants typically serve two-thirds of their penalty in prison, with the rest on parole.
Timeline of events
A timeline of key events that began with George Floyd’s arrest on May 25, 2020, by four police officers in Minneapolis:
May 25 — Minneapolis police officers respond to a call shortly after 8 p.m. about a possible counterfeit $20 bill being used at a corner grocery and encounter a Black man, later identified as George Floyd, who struggles and ends up handcuffed and face down on the ground. Officer Derek Chauvin uses his knee to pin Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes while bystanders shout at him to stop. Bystander video shows Floyd crying “I can’t breathe” multiple times before going limp. He’s pronounced dead at a hospital.
May 26 — Police issue a statement saying Floyd died after a “medical incident,” and that he physically resisted and appeared to be in medical distress. Minutes later, bystander video is posted online. Police release another statement saying the FBI will help investigate. Chauvin and three other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — are fired. Protests begin.
May 27 — Mayor Jacob Frey calls for criminal charges against Chauvin. Protests lead to unrest in Minneapolis, with some people looting and starting fires. Protests spread to other cities.
May 28 — Gov. Tim Walz activates the Minnesota National Guard. Police abandon the 3rd Precinct station as protesters overtake it and set it on fire.
May 29 — Chauvin is arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. President Donald Trump tweets about “thugs” in Minneapolis protests and warns: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Protests turn violent again in Minneapolis and elsewhere.
May 30 — Trump tries to walk back his tweet. Protests continue nationwide and some turn violent.
May 31 — Walz says Attorney General Keith Ellison will lead prosecutions in Floyd’s death. The nationwide protestscontinue.
June 1 — The county medical examiner finds that Floyd’s heart stopped as police restrained him and compressed his neck, noting Floyd had underlying health issues and listing fentanyl and methamphetamine use as “other significant conditions.”
June 2 — Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights launches a civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department.
June 3 — Ellison files a tougher second-degree murder chargeagainst Chauvin and charges the other three officers who were involved in Floyd’s arrest.
June 4 — A funeral service for Floyd is held in Minneapolis.
June 5 — Minneapolis bans chokeholds by police, the first of many changes to be announced in coming months, including an overhaul of the police department’s use-of-force policy.
June 6 — Massive, peaceful protests happen nationwide to demand police reform. Services are held for Floyd in Raeford, North Carolina, near his birthplace.
June 7 — A majority of Minneapolis City Council members say they support dismantling the police department. The idea later stalls but sparks a national debate over police reform.
June 8 — Thousands pay their respects to Floyd in Houston, where he grew up. He’s buried the next day.
June 10 — Floyd’s brother testifies before the House Judiciary Committee for police accountability.
June 16 — Trump signs an executive order to encourage better police practices and establish a database to track officers with excessive use-of-force complaints.
July 15 — Floyd’s family sues Minneapolis and the four former officers.
July 21 — The Minnesota Legislature passes a broad slate of police accountability measures that includes bans on neck restraints, chokeholds and so-called warrior-style training.
Oct. 7 — Chauvin posts $1 million bond and is released from state prison, sparking more protests.
Nov. 5 — Judge Peter Cahill rejects defense requests to move the officers’ trials.
Jan. 12 — Cahill rules Chauvin will be tried alone due to courtroom capacity issues. The other officers will be tried in August.
Feb. 12 — City leaders say George Floyd Square, the intersection blocked by barricades since Floyd’s death, will reopen to traffic after Chauvin’s trial.
March 9 — The first potential jurors are questioned for Chauvin’s trial after a day’s delay for pretrial motions.
March 12 — Minneapolis agrees to pay $27 million settlementto Floyd family.
March 19 — Judge declines to delay or move the trial over concerns that the settlement could taint the jury pool.
March 23 — Jury selection completed with 12 jurors and three alternates.
March 29 — Opening statements are given.
April 11 — Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, is fatally shot by a white police officer during a traffic stop in suburban Brooklyn Center, sparking successive days of protest.
April 12 — Judge declines request to sequester Chauvin jury immediately due to Wright shooting.
April 15 — Testimony ends.
April 19 — Closing arguments. Jury begins deliberations.
April 20 – Jury reaches verdict.