Former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder yesterday in Minneapolis, MN. The jury found him guilty on all three counts, including second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He will return to the courtroom in eight weeks for sentencing and could face up to several decades in jail.
The video of Chauvin pinning George Floyd to the ground with his knee on the streets of Minneapolis led to a national reckoning on racial justice and police brutality. Protests erupted in outrage across the country and abroad after Mr. Floyd audibly screamed, “I can’t breathe,” moments before losing his life from asphyxiation.
Leaders of Minneapolis’ black community say the verdict is a sign of accountability, but it doesn’t equal justice for Floyd or his family. Let’s take a closer look at who was on the jury and why this outcome is considered so historic.
Proving Murder Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
The trail of Derek Chauvin has one of the most closely watched in recent history. Prosecutors and the defense went to great lengths to find 12 men and women who they believed would issue a fair ruling. That was easier said than done considering the video of Floyd’s death was seen around the world. Finding an impartial jury meant finding individuals who hadn’t yet made up their minds about the incident.
Prospective jurors received a 16-page questionnaire regarding their personal views towards Floyd, the Minneapolis police, and even the Black Lives Matter movement. After a lengthy two-week process, the court finally settled on 12 jurors, including five men, seven women. Of those, six were white, four were black, and two were multiracial.
All the jurors were from Hennepin County. They were a mix of professionals, including a chemist, auditor, IT specialist, as well as one woman who works as a nurse. Almost all the jurors said they had at least heard of Derek Chauvin and George Floyd before being selected, but that they had not made up their minds about the case. The nurse added that the police in her neighborhood help her feel safe, but that she believes black and brown people are often treated unfairly.
The case involved testimony from 45 witnesses over the course of three weeks. The prosecution had to prove without a doubt that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, while the defense tried to raise doubts in their argument.
Most of the testimony came from some of Chauvin’s former colleagues, nearly all of whom said that Chauvin used “excessive force” when arresting Floyd. Medical experts were also on hand to testify that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen, while the defense tried to pin the cause of death on Mr. Floyd’s drug problem.
The trial wrapped up at the end of the last week as the jurors went into deliberation. After just 10 hours, they announced their verdict: Guilty on all three counts.
History Being Made
The African American community was relieved to hear the outcome of the trial. Many leaders and advocates were on hand to discuss their emotions now that Chauvin will remain behind bars.
U.S. Representative Angie Craig, D-Minn, was on hand to share her reaction: “George Floyd’s death represented yet another chapter in a long history of our nation’s failure to stand up for the basic human rights of every American, particularly those of black men. It is my sincere hope that today’s verdict can one day be understood as a turning point in our nation’s history — and that this decision will bring a long overdue sense of peace to George Floyd’s family and friends.”
The trial was also notable in the way that Chauvin’s former colleagues testified against him, breaking the so-called blue wall of silence. It may change the way officers think about themselves, their colleagues, and the African American community, so black and brown people don’t have to worry as much about being killed by the police.
President Joe Biden also called the family of George Floyd to share his condolences and thoughts on the outcome, promising a more just future for all Americans.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis also issued a statement: “There are no winners in this case and we respect the jury’s decision. We need the political pandering to stop and the race baiting of elected officials to stop. In addition, we need to stop the divisive comments and we all need to do better to create a Minneapolis we all love. To all the residents of Minneapolis, the POFM stands with you, and not against you. Looking forward to working together for a safer, better tomorrow.”
It’s unclear if the outcome will change the nature of policing in this country. During the trial, another black man, Daunte Wright, was shot and killed by police after a routine traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, just a few miles from where the jury was deliberating. According to the Washington Post, at least 262 people have already been killed by the police since the year began.