- Floyd’s death in May 2020 sparked worldwide protests against racial injustice and calls for police accountability
- The former Minneapolis policeman could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder; sentencing will take place at a later date
Derek Chauvin, a white former police officer, was convicted of murdering George Floyd, a Black man, on Tuesday, following a racially charged trial seen as a test of police accountability in the United States.
The jury deliberated less than 11 hours before finding Chauvin guilty of all three charges against him: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The three-week trial in Minneapolis, in the US state of Minnesota, had an entire nation on edge. Crowds gathered outside the heavily guarded courtroom erupted in cheers, and some wept tears of relief, when the verdicts were announced.
Chauvin, who had been free on bail, was put in handcuffs after Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill read out the unanimous verdicts reached by the racially diverse, seven-woman five-man jury.
Wearing a facemask and displaying no visible emotion, Chauvin was escorted out of the courtroom by a deputy as one of Floyd’s brothers, Philonise Floyd, hugged prosecutors.
Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison on the most serious charge - second-degree murder. Sentencing will take place at a later date.
Angela Harrelson, George Floyd’s aunt, speaks to supporters at George Floyd Square after a guilty verdict was announced at the Derek Chauvin trial. Photo: AP
The 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force was seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he lay face down and handcuffed on the ground saying repeatedly “I can’t breathe.”
The 46-year-old Floyd’s death during his May 25, 2020 arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality around the world.
Ahead of the verdict, cities across the United States - especially in Minneapolis - had been braced for potential unrest.
George Floyd’s brother Rodney said Black people in America had been victims of deadly injustice at the hands of the authorities for hundreds of years.
“We needed a victory in this case, it’s very important, and we got it and hey, we might actually breathe a little bit better now,” he added.
President Joe Biden called members of the Floyd family to say he was “relieved” by the verdicts, then later he and Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the nation in televised remarks.
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother (left) and attorney Ben Crump raise their hands in triumph during a news conference after Chauvin’s murder conviction. Photo: AP
“This can be a giant step forward in the march towards justice in America,” Biden said, as he called on citizens to “unite” against racism and violence.
Harris, America’s first female and first Black vice president, told the family it was “a day of justice in America,” and that “history will look back at this moment.”
Three other former police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest will go on trial later this year.
Minneapolis has been tense awaiting the Chauvin verdict and the city has seen nightly protests since Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man , was shot dead in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center on April 11 by a white policewoman.