Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that touched off worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades.
The jury of six white people and six Black or multiracial ones came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. Chauvin was found guilty on all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
His face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom.
His bail was immediately revoked and he was led away with his hands cuffed behind his back.
The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest—not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.
The jurors identities were kept secret and will not be released until the judge decides it is safe to do so.
Three other former Minneapolis officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death will stand trial in August.
Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.
The centerpiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Floyd gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was 9 1/2 minutes. Floyd slowly went silent and limp.
Prosecutors played the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, with Jerry Blackwell telling the jury: “Believe your eyes.” And it was shown over and over, analyzed one frame at a time by witnesses on both sides.
Earlier in the day Tuesday, President Joe Biden weighed in by saying he believes the case is “overwhelming.”
He said that he had spoken to Floyd’s family on Monday and “can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling.”
“They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is,” Biden said. “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. I think it’s overwhelming, in my view. I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now.”
The president has repeatedly denounced Floyd’s death but previously stopped short of commenting on the trial itself.
Other politicians and ordinary citizens also offered their opinion as the jury was deliberating.
“It shouldn’t be really even questioned whether there will be an acquittal or a verdict that doesn’t meet the scale of the crime that was committed,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, said in Brooklyn Center. The congresswoman said the Chauvin case looks open-and-shut.
Guilty verdicts could mark a turning point in the fight for racial equality, she said.
“We are holding on to one another for support. Hopefully this verdict will come soon and the community will start the process of healing,” Omar said.