Former Police Officer Derrick Chauvin has been found guilty of murdering George Floyd. Deliberating just nine hours the jury voted unanimously to convict Chauvin on three counts of second and third degree murder, and manslaughter.
The convictions sent a wave of relief across large parts of a city that was badly hit by riots and looting in the days after Floyd’s death alongside peaceful protests. Hundreds of national guard troops had been deployed in preparation for an acquittal.
Chauvin, wearing a grey suit with a blue tie, was immediately taken into custody to await sentencing. He faces up to 40 years in prison but is likely to receive a shorter sentence according to legal guidelines.
The conviction does not put an end to the highly charged case, which reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement, as three other officers face trial later this year accused of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
The speed of the verdicts, on just the second day of deliberation, suggests that the nine minutes and 29 seconds of video footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck – which sparked the protests that swept the US – was decisive in persuading the jurors a murder had been committed.
But many activists remain sceptical about the significance of Chauvin’s prosecution, in part because the case was built around accusing the officer of failing to follow procedure and training rather than examining the fundamental issues around policing in the US, including the use of force.
The second-degree murder charge required the jury to find that Chauvin committed a crime by kneeling on Floyd’s neck, which in turn led to his death.
The prosecution put a persuasive case to the jury as a string of witnesses – including Chauvin’s former police colleagues, medical experts and bystanders – built a picture of an officer who exceeded his authority and training in pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Medical specialists described how the combined weight of Chauvin and two other police officers pinning Floyd to the street in a prone position would have had the effect of “grinding and crushing him until the very breath, the very life, was squeezed out of him”.
Let’s hope that this the beginning of holding police who violate the law accountable for their actions. This case was painful, not just the Floyd family, but for this country being forced to confront the racism that is rampant throughout the police and law enforcement community. It no longer can be ignored or tolerated.