Derek Chauvin is found guilty of murder and manslaughter following the death of George Floyd
— 3 minute read — by Sophia Grace
On 25th May 2020, Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on the neck of George Floyd for 9 minutes and 29 seconds during a brutal and fatal arrest. The incident sparked outrage and Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the globe.
Chauvin was fired and later charged with third degree murder and manslaughter, making him the first white police officer in Minnesota to be charged with the death of a black civilian. The charges were later amended and Chauvin was set to be trialled for second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. The trial officially began this 29th March with opening statements from both the prosecution and the defence.
A rest period was called on 13th April after 38 witnesses had testified – including two Hennepin County paramedics who were called to the scene of Floyd’s death and claimed they found no pulse. One of the two paramedics, Derek Smith, stated that he believed Floyd was ‘already dead’ when they arrived. An EMT-certified fire-fighter, Genevieve Hansen, stated that she was not allowed access to Floyd when she asked to treat him with the intention of giving chest compressions. Floyd’s girlfriend, Courtney Ross, also testified, revealing information about his opioid addiction that surfaced after treatment for back pain. She claimed that they were with a supplier at the time of the arrest.
The defence’s seven witnesses began testimony on April 13th and finished two days later. During the trial, the defence team mentioned Floyd’s previous arrests, despite Judge Cahill suggesting they were irrelevant to the case. The defence were able to show video evidence from his 2019 arrest; the footage depicted Floyd in a similar panicked frenzy, implying he faked his reactions during his fatal arrest.
A testimony from Shawana Hill, a passenger in Floyd’s SUV at the time of his arrest, told the jury that just before his arrest Floyd had fallen asleep whilst she took a phone call in the parked car. David Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist, said in his witness testimony that he believed Floyd had died from ‘sudden cardiac arrhythmia … due to his atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease’. He also stated that fumes from the exhaust of the police car could have contributed to his death. This evidence was similar to a report Fowler signed relating to the death of another black civilian in 2018 – the family of 19 year old Anton Black are currently suing for concealing evidence.
On 15th April, after Judge Cahill announced that the evidence for the case was complete, closing arguments were read.
The prosecution attorney, Steve Schleicher, stated that Chauvin’s actions towards Floyd were “not policing”, adding that “this was murder”. The prosecution ended their closing statement with the following remark: “the Defendant is guilty of all three counts. All of them. And there’s no excuse”.
The defence attorney, Eric Nelson, stated that a “reasonable police officer would understand this situation”. He went on to conclude that ‘Floyd was able to overcome the efforts of three police officers while handcuffed’, implying that the force administered by Chauvin was necessary.
The state’s rebuttal, read by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, ended the trial with a statement to the jury:
“You can believe your eyes, ladies and gentlemen. It was what you thought it was. It was what you saw. It was homicide.”
The jury, which consisted of six white, four black, and two multi-racial jurors, deliberated for ten hours before reaching a verdict. On 20th April, the jurors announced that they had found Chauvin guilty on all three counts, during a live reading that was broadcast across six different networks. Chauvin is currently awaiting sentencing at Oak Park Heights maximum security prison where he is held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for his own safety. He could face a maximum of 40 years and sentencing begins in June, eight weeks from the date of the verdict.