Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on three counts of murder for the death of George Floyd in May of 2020. Chauvin pleaded not guilty, but was ultimately found guilty and will be charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin faces a minimum sentence of 12 years and a maximum of 40 if he serves for each charge he was found guilty of. He could be facing up to 75 years in prison if the final verdict decides he will serve terms for each charge.
Last May, a video of Chauvin kneeling on the neck of 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, as he gasped for breath sparked outrage around the world. With the death of George Floyd circulating and the phrase used “I can’t breathe,” uproar of protests for Black Lives Matter circulated in major cities everywhere. Chauvin still denies it was abuse of power with, and is showing no remorse according to many, and continues to say he was just doing his job as a police officer. The police were called on Floyd by a grocery store clerk that accused him of buying a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. The bill was later proven to in fact be a real bill. Floyd was unarmed and didn’t resist police force, but he was still held to the ground for nine minutes until he was unconscious and brain dead. The death of George Floyd was heartbreaking and eye-opening for many.
The Chauvin trial testimony ran for three weeks consisting of video footage and dozens of witnesses speaking on the stand. Lawyers on the case made their concluding arguments on Monday before the jury deliberated their concluding decision. Eric Nelson represented Chauvin in court, as he has been known to be part of the legal counsel for many Minneapolis police officer’s trials. Two of the most important lawyers on the prosecution team consisted of Steve Schleicher and Jerry Blackwell who many believe made the most memorable statements. The whole prosecution team had a strategy that ultimately led them to justice. The appeal made in closing statements on Monday that represented their strategy was, “Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw.”
Jurors didn’t make their final decision until after 27 hours of deliberation spanning the course of five days. The 12 jurors were very diverse. The juror team consisted of 6 white people, 4 black, and 2 of mixed race, with five of the jurors being men and seven being women. Not only was the juror selection racially diverse, but also diverse in opinions. One man stated, “I support the message that every life should matter equally. I don’t believe that the organization, Black Lives Matter necessarily stands for that.” He then stated how he however does believe that the criminal justice system is biassed against racial and ethnic minorities. Another juror had an uncle in the Minneapolis police force, and another said they were in support of Blue Lives Matter (in support of police officers) and Black Lives Matter. No matter what, based on all the interviews of the jurors, none of them were leaning very far in either direction, but had neutral opinions. To read about all 12 jurors, click here.
Chauvin’s sentencing will proceed in eight weeks with a precise date yet to be determined. Chauvin will not be in the general population of the Minneapolis prison system, but rather in protective custody. This was decided based on the popularity of the case and how many believe sending him into the general population is basically a death sentence. The only way he will not end up in protective custody is if he personally requests not to be. Many would consider this a suicide wish. However, many have strong opinions on this stating things like he will never get the “real prison experience,” and that full justice won’t be served with him in protective custody. Putting Derek Chauvin in the general prison population was trending on Twitter as of Tuesday night soon after his fate was named, with many big names chiming in.
Shortly after the verdict on Chauvin being found guilty was announced, President Joe Biden made a statement 10 minutes long. He said that the guilty verdicts in the trial of Derek Chauvin were “a step forward,” but he also said the nation still has to reckon with systemic racism in all walks of life, including policing. He quotes that “Systemic racism is a stain on our nation’s soul.” He also gave credit to the activists who protested and the “brave young woman” who recorded Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Not only did President Biden make a statement, but Vice President Kamala Harris as well. She said, “America has a long history of systemic racism. Black Americans and black men, in particular, have been treated as less than human. Because of smartphones, so many Americans have now seen the racial injustice that Black Americans have known for generations.”
A closing statement made by a prosecutor in the case reads “You were told Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big. After seeing the evidence, you know Mr. Floyd died because Derek Chauvin’s heart was too small.” The case of Derek Chauvin was not the case of George Floyd. However, the death of George Floyd brought attention to the way people of color are treated under the law and the Black Lives Matter movement. The death of George Floyd was the catalyst for the greater realization of racism in America.