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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

State versus Derek Chauvin trial: What you need to know about the George Floyd murder

In May 2020, the incident happened when Floyd was arrested by four police officers for trying to pay with a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in Minneapolis.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 21, 2021 3:29:53 pm
Derek ChauvinVisitors pay their respects at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis.

A US Jury has found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty for the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man who was handcuffed and pinned to the ground under the knee of Chauvin for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

He has been found guilty on three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin can be sentenced for up to 40 years in prison.

In May 2020, the incident happened when Floyd was arrested by four police officers for trying to pay with a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in Minneapolis.

Floyd’s death led to widespread violent protests in Minneapolis and around the United against racism and targeted police brutality.

Chauvin’s bail was revoked and he will remain in police custody till his sentencing, which is eight weeks from now.

Attorney Tony Romanucci (centre left) hugs Donald Williams, a key witness in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, during a news conference after the guilty verdict was read on Tuesday (AP photo)

The verdict is historic for the US as the American justice and police system had long given leeway and protections to police officers after they have used excessive violence towards civilians, particularly Black people.

In March, the State of Minnesota approved a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family in a wrongful death suit in police custody.

What are the three charges?

The second-degree unintentional murder charge alleged that Chavin didn’t intend to kill Floyd while committing or attempting to commit third degree assault. And the third-degree murder charge alleged that Floyd’s death was caused by Chauvin by “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”

The second-degree manslaughter charge alleged that Chauvin’s culpable negligence created an unreasonable risk causing Floyd’s death.

The common element between all three charges was that Chauvin’s negligence in using force caused Floyd’s death.

The Trial

The trial, which began on March 29, was a highly emotional affair considering the rising tensions surrounding the death of Floyd.

The almost 10-minute-long video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck while he pleaded “I can’t breathe”, was shot by a teenage girl who appeared on the witness stand. There were also 45 other witnesses, including medical experts and former police officers.

Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross also took to the stand and described her and Floyd’s struggle with addiction and painkillers.

People rally outside the courthouse in Minneapolis on Tuesday after the guilty verdicts were announced in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. (AP photo)

The state attorneys argued that Floyd’s death was caused by excessive force used by Chauvin. They also brought in former police personnel who argued that Chauvin overstepped the line and was required to withdraw when Floyd was no longer resisting. Chauvin also did not adhere to his training to offer medical assistance to Floyd.

Medical expert witnesses on behalf of the state testified that Floyd died due to lack of oxygen due to the excessive restraint applied by Chauvin.

The defense justified Chauvin’s actions saying the officers were overwhelmed by the number of bystanders and Floyd’s size. They argued that Floyd’s heart condition and the presence of drugs in his body led to his death.

Medical experts stated that even a healthy person would have died from Chauvin kneeling on their neck for 10 minutes.

Chauvin himself did not testify and remained on bail throughout the trial.

Who was the jury?

Due to the sensitivity of the case, the fourteen jurors remained anonymous and unseen throughout the trial.

The jurors had been selected over a period of time and were questioned by both state and defense attorneys before being on the panel. On the final day of the trial, two jurors were told they were alternatives.

The final verdict was announced by twelve jurors who took less than a day to make their final decision.

NPR reported that the final jury was multiracial with six white individuals, four black and two identifying as multiracial. Out of these were five men and seven women.

Considering the high public coverage of the trial, the defense requested that the jury be sequestered to prevent their decision from being influenced by any third parties. The request, however, was denied and the jury was sequestered after the final day of the trail and before announcing their verdict.

What was the reaction?

During the trial, police and national guard troops had been stationed outside the court. Before the verdict, shop owners boarded up their windows in Minnesota fearing violence.

There were large crowds and media waiting outside the court to hear the verdict, after the verdict was announced, the crowd erupted in joy.

Reuters quoted Floyd’s brother Philonise saying, “We are able to breathe again.” He added their fight for justice is not yet over.

In his address to the nation, President Joe Biden said that the verdict was a big step in ensuring accountability and ensuring racial justice in America. Vice President Kamala Harris recognised the systemic racism in the United State and said that lives of Black Americans must be valued in the country’s criminal justice system.

Politicians and celebrities across the United States welcomed the verdict and said, “Justice has been served.” Public figures across the world have also commended the verdict.

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