Derek Chauvin has been found guilty by a jury on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter for his role in the death of George Floyd last May.
The jury's verdict came in under 24 hours, signaling little disagreement by the 12 men and women on whether the former Minneapolis police officer murdered Floyd when placing him under arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill at a gas station.
"No family in history ever got this far. We were able to get a guilty charge on all counts ... This right here is for everyone that's been in this situation," George Floyd's brother, Rodney Floyd said.
Chauvin was found guilty on all charges he faced, handing a major win to prosecutors who promised the public justice in a case that fundamentally changed how the country discussed race and policing. The verdict sparked celebrations outside the courthouse.
“Painfully earned justice has arrived for George Floyd’s family and the community here in Minneapolis, but today’s verdict goes far beyond this city and has significant implications for the country and even the world. Justice for Black America is justice for all of America," said Floyd family attorney Ben Crump in a statement. "This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message we hope is heard clearly in every city and every state. We thank Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and his team for their fierce dedication to justice for George. But it does not end here. We have not forgotten that the other three officers who played their own roles in the death of George Floyd must still be held accountable for their actions, as well.”
Chauvin, 45, faces up to 40 years in prison. His sentencing hearing will take place in eight weeks.
"We were watching every second of this … We’re all so relieved. Not guilty on one verdict, but all three … We’re going to get a lot more done. We're going to do a lot. We’re going to stay at it until we get it done," President Joe iden told the Floyd family in a phone call shortly after court adjourned.
Following Floyd's murder, protests around the world led and influenced by Black Lives Matter broke out. Many turned violent with those on the political Left and Right debating the very nature of justice as well as law and order.
"I finally have the opportunity to finally get some sleep ... It's been a long journey," Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's other brother said at a Tuesday evening news conference. "Today we are able to breathe again."
Rioting in Minneapolis resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, with many buildings destroyed never replaced.
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Complaints from the Left about police tactics resulted in the "defund the police" movement, with cities around the country slashing law enforcement budgets.
Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that Floyd's death was due to a toxic combination of fentanyl and a preexisting heart condition.
Chauvin placing his knee on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes, Nelson argued, was an ugly but necessary part of policing. No arrest is the same, he said, and officers must take dramatic measures to subdue suspects like Floyd.
"This was an authorized use of force, as unattractive as it may be," Nelson said in his closing arguments. "And this is reasonable doubt."
But the prosecution called dozens of witnesses to the stand who all said they had never seen an officer act like Chauvin before. The Minneapolis police chief said his officers are never taught the kind of restraint Chauvin used and that the incident, caught on tape, looked like a murder.
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"You were told that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big," prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said on Monday. "And the truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small."
After a day of deliberation, the jury reached a unanimous decision. Chauvin was responsible for Floyd's death.
In anticipation of the decision, the state sent thousands of National Guard troops to keep the peace. Concerns about violence spread to cities such as Washington, D.C., where the Army approved a request to deploy 250 members of the National Guard to patrol the streets.
Schools in Minneapolis closed, and the governor declared a "state of emergency" prior to the verdict.
Last weekend, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters caused controversy when she told a crowd of protesters in Minneapolis that "we're looking for a guilty verdict" and demanded the jury say the same.
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Judge Peter Cahill, who oversaw the trial, sharply criticized her remarks.
"I'll give you that congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned," he said.
House Democrats on Tuesday defeated a move to censure Waters. The motion was brought by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who called her comments “dangerous.”
Shortly after the verdict was announced, Waters told reporters that "I'm not celebrating. I'm relieved."