The jury has reached a verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, finding him guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The verdict comes after a three-week trial in which the prosecution and defence presented their arguments regarding Chauvin’s actions during Floyd’s arrest. The former police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck and held him to the ground despite protests that he could not breathe.
Jurors heard testimony from 45 witnesses, including doctors, police officers and bystanders at the arrest, before lawyers made their closing statements on April 19 and the jury retired to consider its verdict.
Following Floyd’s death, Chauvin was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. The maximum prison sentence for the most serious charge of second-degree unintentional murder is 40 years; the maximum sentence for third-degree murder 25 years, and the maximum sentence for second-degree manslaughter is 10 years and/or $20,000, CNN reports.
In defending the former officer, Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, claimed he did what ‘any reasonable officer’ would have done after finding himself in a ‘dynamic’ and ‘fluid’ situation such as Floyd’s arrest. He alluded to the fact Chauvin’s body camera and badge were knocked off during the arrest, and claimed this highlighted ‘the intensity of the struggle’, BBC News reports.
Nelson also made reference to Floyd’s drug use, and argued that Chauvin was unlikely to have intentionally violated use-of-force rules because he knew the altercation was being recorded by onlookers.
In contrast, prosecutor Steve Schleicher described Chauvin’s actions as ‘murder’, and urged the jury to use their ‘common sense’. He referred to video footage from Floyd’s arrest and told jurors to ‘believe your eyes’, adding, ‘What you saw, you saw.’
Ahead of the trial, Floyd’s family held a vigil in honour of their late loved one and expressed their hopes that there would be justice for his killing.
One of Floyd’s brothers, Terrence, commented, ‘We are [a] God-fearing family, we [are] church people. So, therefore, I’m just going to end it on this – we’re asking the system for the justice.’
Another of his siblings, Philonise, told reporters that he had a ‘big hole’ in his heart that ‘can’t be patched up’. He added, ‘I need justice for George. We need a conviction.’
Floyd’s death sparked widespread Black Lives Matter protests that continued for weeks after he lost his life.
Activists have continued to show support during the trial, with one telling BBC News they planned to take to the streets once again after the trial, regardless of whether they were expressing satisfaction or continuing to demand justice.
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