Chauvin convicted of murder in Floyd case

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VideoDerek Chauvin found guilty of George Floyd's death

Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin has been convicted of all three charges of murder and manslaughter in the deadly arrest of George Floyd, a milestone in the fraught racial history of the United States and a rebuke of law enforcement’s treatment of black Americans.

The 12-member jury found Chauvin, 45, criminally liable in Floyd’s death last year after considering three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses, including bystanders, police officials and medical experts. Deliberations began on Monday and lasted just more than 10 hours.

In a confrontation captured on video, Chauvin, who is white, pushed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020, as he and three fellow officers arrested Floyd, who was accused of using a fake $US20 bill to buy cigarettes at a grocery store.

Chauvin, wearing a grey suit as well as a light-blue pandemic-related face mask, nodded and stood quickly when the judge ruled his bail was revoked and he was taken into custody. Sentencing will be in two months.

Chauvin had pleaded not guilty to the charges of second-degree unintentional murder involving “intentional infliction of bodily harm”, third-degree unintentional “depraved mind” murder involving an “act eminently dangerous to others”, and second-degree manslaughter involving a death caused by “culpable negligence”.

Outside the courthouse on Tuesday afternoon, a crowd of several hundred people erupted in cheers when the verdict was announced.

Chants of “George Floyd” and “All three counts” broke out. At George Floyd square in Minneapolis, the intersection where Floyd was killed and is now named after him, people screamed, applauded and wept. The site has since become a rallying point for racial justice protests.

“Justice for black America is justice for all of America,” the Floyd family’s lawyer Benjamin Crump said 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.”

Floyd’s death prompted protests against racism and police brutality in many cities in the United States and around the world. In advance of the verdict, many downtown businesses boarded up their windows, bracing for possible violence.

Chauvin faces 12-1/2 years in prison for his murder conviction as a first-time criminal offender. Prosecutors could, however, seek a longer sentence up to 40 years if Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over the trial, determines there were “aggravating factors”.

The jury included four white women, two white men, three black men, one black woman and two multiracial women.

President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks on Tuesday evening.

Biden, Harris and first lady Jill Biden called members of the Floyd family moments after the verdict, according to Crump.

Biden told the family: “Nothing is going to make it all better, but at least now there is some justice.” He added, “We’re all so relieved.”

The intersection of race and law enforcement has long been contentious in the United States, underscored by deadly incidents involving white police officers and black people in recent years.

The Minneapolis Police Department fired Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd’s arrest. The three others are due to face trial later this year on aiding-and-abetting charges in Floyd’s death.

A cardiologist, a pulmonologist, a toxicologist and a forensic pathologist were called by prosecutors to testify that videos and autopsy results confirmed that Chauvin killed Floyd by compressing his body into the street in a way that starved him of oxygen.

The defence argued Chauvin behaved as any “reasonable police officer” would have and claimed heart disease or even the exhaust fumes from the nearby police car may have been factors in Floyd’s death.

Darnella Frazier, a teenager who told the jury she was taking her nine-year-old cousin to the Cup Foods grocery store that evening to get snacks, was among the witnesses called by prosecutors.

Frazier had used her mobile phone to make a video depicting Floyd’s ordeal, images that catalysed the subsequent protests. Floyd can be heard on the video crying out for his mother and telling officers he cannot breathe. Eventually Chauvin lifts his knee to allow paramedics to place Floyd’s limp body onto a stretcher.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo appeared as a prosecution witness to testify that Chauvin’s actions during the arrest represented an egregious breach of his training.

US networks’ live coverage of the trial was sometimes interrupted by new episodes of police violence caught on camera.

For example, black motorist Daunte Wright was fatally shot on April 11 during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb.

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