The Daily Beast
Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office/GettyMINNEAPOLIS—Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on George Floyd for more than nine minutes in an arrest that spurred a worldwide reckoning on race, has been convicted of murder.After about 10 hours of deliberations, jurors in Hennepin County court found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for the unarmed Black man’s death after the May 25, 2020, arrest, in which the former officer was filmed pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck as he cried out for help. The 12 jurors, who were sequestered and deliberated at a nearby hotel, did not have any questions for the court.As Judge Peter Cahill read the verdict, Chauvin remained unemotional, staring at the judge from the defense table with a blue mask covering most of his face. The ex-officer, who was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, now faces up to 40 years in prison. His sentencing will take place in two months.The guilty verdict was greeted with an eruption of gleeful cheers outside the Hennepin County Government Center and George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, where dozens had gathered ahead of the monumental announcement. “As a Black woman, I heard the verdict, but for so long we have not been seen or heard,” Rachel Washington, a Minneapolis resident, told The Daily Beast after admitting the guilty verdict still feels “unreal.” “I’m watching the celebration, but it hasn’t sunk in yet...but I feel like Black lives today matter. Justice was served today.”Floyd’s final pleas of “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry, bringing energy to the Black Lives Matter movement and renewed scrutiny of Black deaths at the hands of police. The verdict comes just days after a white police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, apparently firing her service weapon by accident instead of a Taser during the traffic stop. Wright’s death sparked sometimes violent protests in a city already on edge, with hundreds of residents taking to the streets.“We are pleased that the individual who senselessly killed George Floyd in cold blood and for the world to see has been held accountable for his reprehensible actions. While nothing can bring George back, we are thankful that a jury of Derek Chauvin’s peers recognized that what he did was criminal,” Jacari Harris, executive director of the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, said in a statement. Ahead of the Chauvin verdict and possible further civil unrest, Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz declared a peacetime emergency in seven counties in the state. Minnesota National Guard soldiers joined local law enforcement in guarding the courthouse, which is surrounded by a chain-link fence and concrete barriers. As the city braced for the verdict, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) over the weekend called for protesters to “get more confrontational” if Chauvin is cleared—which Cahill warned could put a guilty verdict in danger of being tossed on appeal.Even President Joe Biden chimed in on Tuesday, suggesting the evidence against Chauvin was “overwhelming.” “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict,” he said.Prosecutors Say Floyd Died Because Chauvin’s ‘Heart Was Too Small’ as Case Heads to JuryOver the four-week watershed trial, prosecutors argued Chauvin, 45, “betrayed” his badge on May 25 when he ignored Floyd’s dozens of pleas for help as he knelt on his neck for a total of “9 minutes and 29 seconds.” Chauvin’s defense insisted the former cop was just doing what any other “reasonable officer” would do during a “dynamic” arrest.“George Floyd didn’t have to die that day; shouldn’t have died that day. But for the fact that the defendant decided not to get up and not to let up, George Floyd died,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher told jurors in Hennepin County court during closing arguments on Monday.Schleicher insisted the Chauvin heard Floyd’s pleas for help “but he just didn’t listen” and “chose pride over policing.” Schleicher added that while Floyd repeated he couldn’t breathe 27 times in the first four minutes and 45 seconds of his arrest, all Chauvin did “was mock him,” telling him, “It takes a lot of oxygen to complain.”“He knew better. He just didn’t do better. What [Chauvin] did is not policing. What [Chauvin] did is assault,” the prosecutor added. “That day, his badge wasn’t in the right place. He’s not on trial for who he was. He’s on trial for what he did.”To make that point, prosecutors called several of Chauvin’s former peers, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo who claimed the ex-cop “absolutely” violated department protocol. Three medical experts also testified that Floyd died of low oxygen from the cop’s actions during the arrest. In the gut-wrenching video, Floyd can be heard repeatedly asking for help, calling out for his mother, and saying he could not breathe.Veteran Cop Who Killed Daunte Wright Charged With Second-Degree ManslaughterChauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, offered his own narrative to the jury. With seven of his own witnesses, Nelson argued that Floyd’s death could have been caused by several other factors, including carbon-monoxide poisoning or his history of drug use, and not necessarily his client’s forceful knee restraint. At least two law-enforcement officers who also assisted the Minneapolis police department during Floyd’s arrest testified that the crowd that surrounded the officer was “very aggressive”—which may have spooked him.“There is absolutely no evidence that Officer Chauvin intentionally, purposefully applied unlawful force,” Nelson insisted during his closing argument on Monday. “These are officers doing their jobs in a highly stressful situation. It’s tragic. It’s tragic.”Nelson urged jurors to look at the “totality” of Floyd’s arrest—and not just the nine minutes Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck. He also argued that several factors could have contributed to Floyd’s death and that Chauvin was distracted while dealing with the growing anger from bystanders and failed to notice that Floyd had stopped breathing.“Human behavior is unpredictable and nobody knows that better than a police officer. Someone can be compliant one second and fighting the next,” Nelson said. “Officers are human beings capable of making mistakes in highly stressful situations.”Three other officers involved in the arrest—Tou Thao, Thomas K. Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng—will now face trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.