Cheers erupted in Minneapolis on Tuesday after a jury found the former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May.
The verdict capped a three-week trial that captivated America. With often-emotional testimony, prosecutors sought to highlight who Mr. Floyd was, repeatedly playing the widely viewed bystander footage of his death and arguing that Mr. Chauvin knew he was harming the man whose neck he was kneeling on, but did not stop.
During a news conference after the decision was announced, Mr. Floyd’s family and supporters celebrated but noted how rarely officers are convicted after using lethal force. Many mentioned Daunte Wright, a Black man who was fatally shot by a white officer during Mr. Chauvin’s trial.
“He should still be here,” Mr. Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd said of Mr. Wright. “We have to march. We will have to do this for life. We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle.”
The Times positioned photographers around the country to capture reactions to the verdict. Here’s what they saw.
— Aidan Gardiner
In Minneapolis, people watched a live feed of the courtroom on a phone.
In Minneapolis, demonstrators gathered outside the Hennepin Country Government Center, where the trial was held.
In Houston, where George Floyd grew up, television coverage of the trial drew viewers.
Hearing the News
In Minneapolis, the crowd outside the Hennepin County Government Center erupted with joy.
At George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, a sign was updated near the memorial at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue where Mr. Floyd was killed.
In Minneapolis, protesters celebrated the guilty verdict.
In Houston, Dennis Glenn and Greg Brown, alumni of Jack Yates High School, Mr. Floyd’s alma mater, comforted Ceci Munoz in front of the school.
In Minneapolis, Courteney Ross, Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend, cheered outside the Hennepin County Government Center after the verdict.
In Washington, members of the Congressional Black Caucus walked down the Capitol steps to address reporters.
In Minneapolis, Philonise Floyd, left, a brother of George Floyd, wiped a tear. At right, Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Floyd family, held the hand of Donald Williams, who witnessed the episode last May.
In Washington, Vice President Kamala Harris and President Biden addressed the nation from the White House.
Streets Filled With Relief and Joy
In Minneapolis, a band played at George Floyd Square.
In Los Angeles, demonstrators celebrated from a street corner.
In Minneapolis, onlookers embraced.
In Washington, the guilty verdict prompted dancing.
In Minneapolis, a demonstrator stood on top of a car.
In Minneapolis, even grills were taken to the area near George Floyd Square.
In Chicago, where last week officials released video of Officer Eric Stillman fatally shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo, a small group protested at the Richard J. Daley Center.
In New York, people consoled each other outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
In Minneapolis, demonstrators held picket signs with Mr. Floyd’s face outside the Hennepin County Government Center.
In San Francisco, protesters gathered at the 24th and Mission BART station to celebrate the verdict and protest police brutality.
In New York, demonstrators knelt in solidarity with Mr. Floyd in the glow of Times Square.
Produced by Heather Casey, Sarah Eckinger, Rebecca Halleck and Jennifer Mosbrucker
Lewis Hamilton was among those overjoyed at the verdict of Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty on all charges – second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter – in connection with the death of George Floyd in Minnesota last year. The jury deliberated for 10 hours before reaching their decision, something the F1 driver described as a “monumental” moment in history.
Taking to Instagram following the news, he penned: “JUSTICE for George! The emotions I feel right now are hard to describe.”
He went on to note that this is the first time that a white officer has been convicted for killing a black man in Minnesota.
“This is monumental, George’s death is not in vain,” he stated.
“The result of the Derek Chauvin trial today is the right one. Convicting him of all three charges marks a new dawn in the fight for racial justice.”
Hamilton believed the trial was an “opportunity for the justice system to hold Derek Chauvin accountable for his actions”, before saying: “We can now breathe a collective sigh of relief that the right decision has been met, and that justice has been served.
“Today’s outcome is a sombre victory for George and his family, but it shows that our efforts to promote justice are not in vain.
“Black voices have been heard and action is happening. When we stand together, we can make a difference.”
The racing World Champion has campaigned for equality throughout his career and he pointed out this moment “is just one step on the path towards a more equal society”.
Recently, Hamilton pledged to “keep pushing” in the fight against racism, saying it was important “to hold ourselves and others accountable”.
The racer, who led Formula 1’s pre-race demonstrations promoting equality last year, revealed he was “proud” of the fact the majority of drivers had taken the knee before races last year in solidarity.
But he added: “My question is, what’s next? The inequities within our sport and within the world persist.”
Writing in a post on social media, said: “Change is still needed. We have to keep striving for equality for all, in order to continue to see true and lasting change in our world.
“As long as I have air in my lungs, I will continue to fight for change in everything I do. I will work to create pathways and opportunities for kids of colour within sciences, engineering and creative disciplines.”
Last year, Hamilton set up his own commission to investigate the causes of the lack of diversity within the motorsport industry.
As part of his new, one-year contract signed with Mercedes, he and his team have created a joint foundation to support the cause.
MINNEAPOLIS — After three weeks of testimony, the trial of the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd ended swiftly: barely over a day of jury deliberations, then just minutes for the verdicts to be read – guilty, guilty and guilty – and Derek Chauvin was handcuffed and taken away to prison.
Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades when he is sentenced in about two months in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
The verdict set off jubilation mixed with sorrow across the city and around the nation. Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some running through traffic with banners. Drivers blared their horns in celebration.
“Today, we are able to breathe again,” Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said at a joyous family news conference where tears streamed down his face as he likened Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till, except that this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.
The jury of six whites and six Black or multiracial people came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. The now-fired white officer was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin’s face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom. His bail was immediately revoked. Sentencing will be in two months; the most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed Chauvin out of the courtroom without comment.
VIDEO: Biden, Harris react to Chauvin verdict
President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying Floyd’s death was “a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world” to see systemic racism.
But he warned: “It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again.”
The jury’s decision was hailed around the country as justice by other political and civic leaders and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a white man, who said on Twitter that Floyd “would still be alive if he looked like me. That must change.”
At a park next to the Minneapolis courthouse, a hush fell over a crowd of about 300 as they listened to the verdict on their cellphones. Then a great roar went up, with many people hugging, some shedding tears.
At the intersection where Floyd was pinned down, a crowd chanted, “One down, three to go!” – a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis officers facing trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death.
Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt grateful and relieved.
“I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to the “next case with joy and optimism and strength.”
Jamee Haggard, who brought her biracial 4-year-old daughter to the intersection, said: “There’s some form of justice that’s coming.”
The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest – not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.
The jurors’ identities were kept secret and will not be released until the judge decides it is safe to do so.
It is unusual for police officers to be prosecuted for killing someone on the job. And convictions are extraordinarily rare.
Out of the thousands of deadly police shootings in the U.S. since 2005, fewer than 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter, according to data maintained by Phil Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. Before Tuesday, only seven were convicted of murder.
Juries often give police officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim they had to make split-second, life-or-death decisions. But that was not an argument Chauvin could easily make.
Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $ 20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.
The centerpiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Floyd gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was 9 1/2 minutes, including several minutes after Floyd’s breathing had stopped and he had no pulse.
Prosecutors played the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, and told the jury: “Believe your eyes.” From there it was shown over and over, analyzed one frame at a time by witnesses on both sides.
In the wake of Floyd’s death, demonstrations and scattered violence broke out in Minneapolis, around the country and beyond. The furor also led to the removal of Confederate statues and other offensive symbols such as Aunt Jemima.
In the months that followed, numerous states and cities restricted the use of force by police, revamped disciplinary systems or subjected police departments to closer oversight.
The “Blue Wall of Silence” that often protects police accused of wrongdoing crumbled after Floyd’s death. The Minneapolis police chief quickly called it “murder” and fired all four officers, and the city reached a staggering $ 27 million settlement with Floyd’s family as jury selection was underway.
VIDEO: Closing, opening arguments in Chauvin trial
Police-procedure experts and law enforcement veterans inside and outside the Minneapolis department, including the chief, testified for the prosecution that Chauvin used excessive force and went against his training.
Medical experts for the prosecution said Floyd died of asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, because his breathing was constricted by the way he was held down on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him, a knee on his neck and his face jammed against the ground.
Chauvin’s attorney called a police use-of-force expert and a forensic pathologist to try to make the case that Chauvin acted reasonably against a struggling suspect and that Floyd died because of a heart condition and his illegal drug use. Floyd had high blood pressure and narrowed arteries, and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.
Under the law, police have certain leeway to use force and are judged according to whether their actions were “reasonable” under the circumstances.
The defense also tried to make the case that Chauvin and the other officers were hindered in their duties by what they perceived as a growing, hostile crowd.
Chauvin did not testify, and all that the jury or the public ever heard by way of an explanation from him came from a police body-camera video after an ambulance had taken the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Floyd away. Chauvin told a bystander: “We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy … and it looks like he’s probably on something.”
The prosecution’s case also included tearful testimony from onlookers who said the police kept them back when they protested what was happening.
Eighteen-year-old Darnella Frazier, who shot the crucial video, said Chauvin gave the bystanders a “cold” and “heartless” stare. She and others said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt from witnessing Floyd’s slow-motion death.
“It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she testified.
Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press video journalist Angie Wang in Atlanta and writers Doug Glass, Stephen Groves, Aaron Morrison, Tim Sullivan and Michael Tarm in Minneapolis; Mohamed Ibrahim in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed.
NBA star Draymond Green has said it was “really great” to see killer cop Derek Chauvin tried for the killing of George Floyd but warned that he sees a long road ahead before widespread social justice is achieved in the US.
Found guilty on all three charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the case, Chauvin is facing up to 75 years behind bars when he is sentenced in two months.
Despite justice seemingly being served at the conclusion of the high-profile case, three-time NBA champion Green has warned that there is still plenty of work to be done to see African-Americans treated fairly in society.
“I think it’s great that we finally saw a cop get tried,” Green told TMZ when he was asked if Chauvin’s conviction was positive news for the US.
“The challenge to the country now is to make sure [police officers are] being held accountable.”
“I think [the way police treat ethnic minorities] is a totally different story. When you look at the way these officers treat black people, we’re not treated as human.
“We’re treated as a threat by our skin color,” Green added, claiming that the US remains “a long way away” from equality when it comes to law enforcement.
Thank God…guilty! Justice has been served!!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 20, 2021
Great speech by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison describing George Floyd as a father, family man, and beloved member of his community. It was beautiful and sent chills down my body! If you didn’t see it, I encourage you all to watch it.
Green’s team, the Golden State Warriors, also released a statement on the verdict, stating that it was “encouraged” by the jury in Minneapolis “moving quickly to impose accountability where it is so often missing”.
The Warriors then echoed Green’s sentiments by calling the judgement “only the beginning” in “an effort to achieve racial justice in America”.
“Today was a step in the right direction but the long journey must continue,” they concluded.
Elsewhere, LA Lakers legend Magic Johnson celebrated the news by saying: “Thank God… guilty. Justice has been served.”
Back on the court, the Warriors shared a viral clip of Green celebrating a three-pointer from Steph Curry before it had even hit the net.
MINNEAPOLIS — As the guilty verdict was read during the Derek Chauvin trial in the death of George Floyd, the world reacted on social media and in the streets.The former Minneapolis officer was convicted of murder and manslaughter for pinning Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that touched off worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades.Hundreds flooded the streets in downtown Minneapolis, with cars blaring horns and people running through traffic, waving banners.
Meanwhile in the courtroom, Chauvin had little reaction as his face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask.
Before the guilty verdicts were read out, President Joe Biden said he was praying for “the right verdict” in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
Telephoning George Floyd’s family later, he said of himself and Vice President Kamala Harris: “We’re so relieved.”
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were huddled in a room inside the Capitol as all three verdicts were read in the case against Chauvin.
Clasping hands, huddling, and shushing one another as each verdict is read – the moment was quite heavy and incredibly powerful.
“The View” co-host Sunny Hostin became extremely emotional during an interview on ABC News, saying she is “so relieved that this is what justice finally looks like for my community.”
On social media, an outpouring of reactions from political to entertainment figures shared their thoughts on the guilty verdict.
Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more. Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, and we stand with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied. pic.twitter.com/mihZQHqACV
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 20, 2021
Ben Crump (Floyd’s attorney)
President Biden and VP Harris call the Floyd family after the GUILTY verdict! Thank you @POTUS & @VP for your support! We hope that we can count on you for the police reform we NEED in America! ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/cg4V2D5tlI
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) April 20, 2021
I was appalled by the death of George Floyd and welcome this verdict.
My thoughts tonight are with George Floyd’s family and friends.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 20, 2021
I’m thankful for George Floyd’s family that justice was served
America was forever changed by the video of Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd
However, a guilty verdict doesn’t mean the persistent problem of police misconduct is solved
George Floyd should be alive today. His family’s calls for justice for his murder were heard around the world. He did not die in vain. We must make sure other families don’t suffer the same racism, violence & pain, and we must enact the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act. https://t.co/tWln9NRg1g
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) April 20, 2021
The jury’s verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person. https://t.co/JyJFztQbDu
Praying for George Floyd’s family. He should still be alive. And we must continue working to root systemic racism out of our criminal justice system.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 20, 2021
That a family had to lose a son, brother and father; that a teenage girl had to film and post a murder, that millions across the country had to organize and march just for George Floyd to be seen and valued is not justice.
This verdict is just the first step in a long line of injustice against the Black community, often with no consequences. The work is not nearly done. While there are many more families waiting for justice, my heart is with George Floyd’s family right now. #PoliceReformNOW@NAACP
— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) April 20, 2021
Darnella Frazier (teen who shot video of Floyd’s arrest)
George Floyd’s death was a tragedy and although this conviction is a step toward accountability, it will not erase the pain felt by the Floyd family and Black Americans.
— Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (@SecMayorkas) April 20, 2021
Fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of murdering George Floyd. Here’s everything you need to know.
Derek Chauvin, 45, is facing 40 years in prison for the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whom he pinned to the ground by the neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, until he suffocated. The death of Floyd, an unarmed Black man, sparked outcry and demonstrations in all 50 states. Chauvin was charged with second-degree and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, and he was found guilty on all three counts when the verdict was read on April 20, 2021. Here’s what else you need to know:
1. Floyd Died After Chauvin Knelt On His Neck
While arresting Floyd for allegedly using a counterfeit bill in May 2020, Chauvin pinned the unarmed Black man, to the ground by kneeling on his neck. In footage of the arrest, Floyd can be heard pleading “please, please I can’t breathe… My stomach hurts… my neck hurts.” Chauvin remained kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes as bystanders begged him to stop. Three other officers stood by as Floyd fell unconscious. He died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Chauvin, along with his three former colleagues (J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao) were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department following Floyd’s death. “Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated. This is the right call,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Freytweeted at the time. He went on to call the death “completely and utterly messed up”.
2. Chauvin Was Charged With 2nd & 3rd Murder & Manslaughter
Since he’s now been convictof second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, Chauvin is facing up to 40 years in prison. His arrest complaint, obtained by HollywoodLife in 2020, argued that Chauvin acted “without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense” when Floyd died, but a jury found him to be guilty of all three charges.
3. Chauvin Had 18 Complaints On His Record
Chauvin racked up 18 misconduct complaints on his official record in his 19 years as an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department. Only two were closed with discipline. A Minneapolis woman, Melissa Borton, went on the record with the Los Angeles Times to say that she filed a complaint in August 2007. Borton said Chauvin and another officer pulled her over for going 10 miles over the speed limit. The officers reached inside her vehicle “without a word,” unlocked the door, pulled her out and put her in the back of their police cruiser.
Her infant was still in her car. Borton said that the officers released her 15 minutes later with no explanation. Chauvin was given a formal letter of reprimand after her complaint and was later told that he “did not have to remove complainant from car,” according to records from the Minneapolis PD.
4. Chauvin May Have Already Known Floyd
Both Chauvin and Floyd had worked security at El Nuevo Rodeo nightclub on Lake Street in Minneapolis.The former owner of the club, Maya Santamaria, told Buzzfeed News that she remembered Chauvin as “nice, but he would overreact and lash out quickly.” She claimed that Chauvin’s “face, attitude, [and] posture would change when we did urban nights.” She once had to reprimand him for using pepper spray on a patron. While the Floyd family attorney, Benjamin Crump, suggested publicly that Floyd and Chauvin may have known each other from the club, Santamaria doubts they ever crossed paths.
5. Chauvin’s Wife Filed For Divorce After Floyd’s Death
Kellie Chauvin filed for divorce on May 30, 2020, just days after Floyd died. “This evening, I spoke with Kellie Chauvin and her family. She is devastated by Mr. Floyd’s death and her utmost sympathy lies with his family, with his loved ones and with everyone who is grieving this tragedy. She has filed for dissolution of her marriage to Derek Chauvin,” her attorneys said in a statement.
MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — A jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd Tuesday.
The jury reached its verdict after deliberating about 10 hours over two days in a city on edge against another outbreak of unrest.
Chauvin, 45, was found guilty on all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The second-degree murder count, the most serious charge, carries up to 40 years in prison.
Chauvin’s bail was immediately revoked and he was led away with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Meanwhile, Floyd family members gathered at a Minneapolis conference room could be heard cheering from the next room as each verdict was read.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was declared dead after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes on May 25. Floyd was arrested on suspicion of using a fake $ 20 bill to buy cigarettes at a convenience store. His death sparked protests and civil unrest in Minneapolis and across the U.S. over police brutality, at points turning violent.
Watch NewsNation live special coverage in the player above.
Prosecutors argued that Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd even though he was not resisting, using excessive force in violation of police training, and even when one of the onlookers identified herself as a firefighter and pleaded repeatedly to check Floyd’s pulse, according to witnesses and video.
The defense argued that Chauvin did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s death was not caused by the officer’s knee, as prosecutors contend, but by Floyd’s illegal drug use, heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body.
The prosecution called 11 days worth of witness to the stand whereas the defense only used two days of testimony before resting its case.
The jury was sequestered at a hotel in a city whose downtown is filled with National Guard troops and boarded-up windows, preparing for potential unrest.
City, county and state officials are preparing for any sort of reaction that the verdict might elicit. Barbed and razor wire and concrete barriers surround the courthouse, and strict security was in place to protect trial proceedings. City and state leaders want to avoid a repeat of last year’s protests and rioting that destroyed dozens of businesses and a police station.
Judge Peter A. Cahill revoked Derek Chauvin’s bail on Tuesday after he was convicted of murdering George Floyd.
Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who has been free on bail since the fall, was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and remanded into the custody of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
Judge Cahill said he expected to begin a sentencing hearing in about eight weeks. Mr. Chauvin was convicted on all three counts he faced at trial — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Because Mr. Chauvin has no criminal history, the sentencing guidelines for each of the murder charges is 12.5 years. But the maximum sentences for each charge differ: Second-degree murder can result in a term as long as 40 years, while the maximum for third-degree murder is 25 years.
MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — Jurors are beginning deliberations Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis officer charged in the death of George Floyd, after three weeks filled with countless surveillance videos, emotional testimony and a myriad of medical experts.
Both the defense and prosecution wrapped up their closing arguments Monday.
The state reiterated its case that Chauvin killed Floyd by keeping his knee on his neck for more than nine minutes, failing to provide aid after he became unresponsive.
The jurors deliberated about four hours before retiring for the night to the hotel where they are being sequestered for this final phase of the trial. They were due to resume Tuesday morning.
“George Floyd’s final words on May 25, 2020, were ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ And he said those words to ‘Mr. Officer.’ He said those words to the defendant.” Schleicher said as he pointed to Chauvin. “He asked for help with his very last breath.”
The defense continued to argue Chauvin was following his training, acting as a “reasonable officer” would, while pointing to other factors including Floyd’s health as responsible for his death.
“[Chauvin] was following policy. he was trained this way. it all demonstrates a lack of intent,” Nelson said.
Before they began deliberations, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill gave the jury instructions drawn up by the court with input from prosecutors and the defense. Cahill explained legal definitions, went over different types of evidence and the elements required to prove guilt in each of the counts against Chauvin.
“The fact that other causes contributed to the death does not relieve the defendant of criminal liability,” Cahill said, reading from written jury instructions.
Jurors are normally allowed to take copies of the instructions with them to the deliberation room, where many jurors rely on them as a kind of roadmap to interpreting the evidence.
Chauvin’s brief defense wrapped up last week with Chauvin passing on a chance to take the stand. Chauvin informed the court that he would not testify Thursday, saying he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right.
Chauvin’s right not to testify “is guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions,” said Cahill before closing arguments. “You should not draw any inference from the fact that the defendant has not testified in this case.”
Chauvin is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25 death, following an arrest that happened on suspicion Floyd used a fake $ 20 bill to buy cigarettes at a convenience store. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was declared dead after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes. Bystander video footage shows Chauvin pressing his knee into a handcuffed Floyd’s neck, with Floyd repeatedly claiming that he could not breathe. Floyd’s death sparked protests and civil unrest in Minneapolis and across the U.S. over police brutality, at points turning violent.
The jury, along with two alternates, is comprised of six white women, two white men, three Black men, one Black woman and two multiracial women, according to court records. They will be sequestered in a hotel outside of deliberation hours.
Their verdict needs to be unanimous. If convicted on the most serious charge of second-degree murder, Chauvin faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Closing argumentS: prosecution
During his closing arguments, prosecutor Steve Schleicher repeated a phrase: “Nine minutes and 29 seconds,” — the length of time Chauvin was captured on video on May 25, 2020, with his knee pressed into the dying Floyd’s neck.
Schleicher and the prosecution hope to convince the jury that Chauvin “knew better” but did not follow police training and policies and his actions were reckless, unreasonable and warrant conviction.
“What the defendant did was not policing, it was assault,” said Schleicher, after reminding the jury that the trial was “not prosecution of the police” but of one defendant who chose “pride over policing.”
Schleicher described how Chauvin ignored Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe, and continued to kneel on Floyd after he stopped breathing and had no pulse — even after the ambulance arrived — saying he “had to know what was right beneath him.”
“The defendant heard him say that over and over. He heard him, but he just didn’t listen. He continued to push him down, to grind into him, to shimmy, to twist his hand for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. He begged. George Floyd begged until he could speak no more, and the defendant continued this assault,” said Schleicher, who repeatedly used the word “assault.”
Prosecutors need to prove underlying assault for most serious charge of second-degree murder.
It might be difficult to “imagine a police officer doing something like this,” said Schleicher, but reminded jurors that they were asked during jury selection to set aside any preconceived notions about police officers.
“George Floyd was not a threat to anyone. He wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. He wasn’t trying to do anything to anyone. Facing George Floyd that day did not require one ounce of courage. And none was shown on that day. No courage was required. All that was required was a little compassion and none was shown on that day.”
“Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw,” Steve Schleicher said, referring to the excruciating bystander video of Floyd pinned to the pavement with Chauvin’s knee on or close to his neck.
Portions of the bystander video and other footage were replayed during his closing, as Schleicher dismissed some of the defense theories as “nonsense,” saying Chauvin’s pressure on Floyd killed him by constricting his breathing.
He rejected the drug overdose argument, the contention that police were distracted by what they saw as hostile onlookers, the notion that Floyd had “superhuman” strength from a state of agitation known as excited delirium, and the suggestion that Floyd suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from auto exhaust.
The prosecutor referred to the idea that it was heart disease that killed Floyd as an “amazing coincidence.”
Schleicher concluded by reminding the jury: “You have the power” to convict and to trust the evidence they had seen throughout the trial. “It is exactly what you knew, it’s what you felt in your gut, what you know know in your heart… This wasn’t policing, this was murder.”
Closing arguments: Defense
Chauvin’s lead lawyer, Eric Nelson, later countered that Chauvin behaved as any “reasonable police officer” would, arguing that he followed his training from 19 years on the force.
He repeated a single phrase scores of times, saying Chauvin behaved as a “reasonable police officer” would in dealing with a man as “large” as Floyd, who was struggling against being put in a police car when Chauvin arrived, responding to a call for back-up.
Chauvin, dressed in a grey suit and dark blue shirt and tie, removed his face mask, worn as part of the coronavirus pandemic’s social-distancing requirements, and watched his lawyer defend him.
Nelson walked through the events of the day, moving step by step and saying what he believed Chauvin was seeing and learning after arriving on the scene, asking jurors to consider what a “reasonable officer” would do.
Nelson said jurors have to consider all the information Chauvin had from dispatchers, his arrival as two officers struggled to push Floyd into a patrol car and the increasingly upset people standing nearby and loudly pleading with them to get off the Black man.
Nelson said the prosecution has been focused on the time Chauvin had his knee on Floyd, arguing this disregards the behavior of both Floyd and the officers up until that point. Nelson said all the law enforcement witnesses testified the level of force was appropriate up until Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd.
“You have to take into account that officers are human beings, capable of making mistakes in highly stressful situations,” Nelson said. “In this case, the totality of the circumstances that were known to a reasonable police officer in the precise moment the force was used demonstrates that this was an authorized use of force, as unattractive as it may be, and this is reasonable doubt.”
Once Floyd was on the ground, Nelson said one of the witnesses said it is not uncommon for people to “pretend to have a medical emergency” to avoid being arrested, so a “reasonable officer” relies on their observations instead.
Nelson said Chauvin was also following police training in observing the bystanders on the scene, saying they were “in crisis” so he was actively watching for potential signs of aggression from the crowd.
He said a “very critical thing” happens at the “very precise moment” a witness said George Floyd took his last breath: Chauvin pulled his mace from his belt and was startled by someone coming up from behind him. Nelson said the distraction of the crowd kept Chauvin from noticing Floyd had stopped breathing.
Nelson used the same videos as the prosecution to try to prove an opposite point: The fact that Chauvin continued kneeling on Floyd even as he knew he was being filmed was evidence he believed he was responding to the scene in a reasonable way, Nelson said.
“In this case, the totality of the circumstances that were known to a reasonable police officer in the precise moment the force was used demonstrates that this was an authorized use of force, as unattractive as it may be,” Nelson said. “And this is reasonable doubt.”
CLOSING ARGUMENTS: PROSECUTION REBUTTAL
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell had the final word, offering the state’s rebuttal argument. The prosecutor, who is Black, said that the questions about the use of force and cause of death are “so simple that a child can understand it.”
“In fact, a child did understand it, when the 9-year-old girl said, ‘Get off of him,’” Blackwell said, referring to a young witness who objected to what she saw. “That’s how simple it was. `Get off of him.’ Common sense.”
Blackwell said prosecutors only have to prove that Chauvin’s actions were a substantial causal factor in his death, not the sole cause, questioning why the former officer continued to kneel on Floyd after he became unresponsive.
“How is that a reasonable exercise of the use of force?” Blackwell said. “Reasonable is as reasonable does – what you saw here today was not reasonable.”
Blackwell questioned another argument raised by Nelson, who said there was no bruising or other evidence of asphyxia in the autopsy of George Floyd, saying an expert testified that it was not uncommon.
NOTABLE MOMENTS FROM THE TRIAL
The prosecution called two weeks’ worth of witness to the stand whereas the defense only used two days of testimony before resting its case.
Law enforcement veterans inside and outside the Minneapolis department testified for the prosecution that Chauvin used excessive force and went against his training, while medical experts said Floyd died of asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, because his breathing was constricted by the way he was held down.
George Floyd’s brother broke down on the witness stand last week as he was shown a picture of his late mother and a young George during the trial.
“He was one of those people in the community that when they had church outside, people would attend church just because he was there,” Philonise Floyd said. “Nobody would go out there until they seen him. And he just was like a person that everybody loved around the community. He — he just knew how to make people feel better.”
Prosecutors used a legal doctrine called “spark of life” to call his brother to testify about Floyd’s life, and previously used it to call Courtney Ross, Floyd’s girlfriend to the stand. Ross testified about her romance with Floyd and how an addiction to painkillers took hold of their life together. Minnesota is a rarity in explicitly permitting such “spark of life” testimony ahead of a verdict. Defense attorneys often complain that such testimony allows prosecutors to play on jurors’ emotions.
The defense said Floyd put himself at risk by swallowing fentanyl and methamphetamine, then resisted officers trying to arrest him — factors that compounded his vulnerability to a diseased heart and hoped to raise sufficient doubt enough that Chauvin should be acquitted.
Lawyers for Chauvin began presenting their case at the start of the third week of testimony by calling to the stand a now-retired officer who pulled over a car in which Floyd was a passenger in 2019 – a year before his deadly encounter with Chauvin.
The testimony, accompanied by body camera video of the incident, was intended to show the jury what effects the ingestion of opioids may have had on Floyd.
Chauvin’s defense called a police use-of-force expert and a forensic pathologist to help make the case that Chauvin acted reasonably against a struggling suspect and that Floyd died because of an underlying heart condition and his illegal drug use. Floyd had high blood pressure and narrowed arteries, and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.
Barry Brodd, a private consultant in the use of force by law enforcement, said Chauvin was following his training, given that he was dealing with a tense and fluid situation.
“I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified, and was acting with objective reasonableness, following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement, in his interactions with Mr. Floyd,” he said.
Guilty verdicts must be unanimous, which means Nelson needs to raise doubt in the minds of just a single juror on the various counts.
DECISION IN JURY’S HANDS
The jurors will be sequestered at a hotel in a city whose downtown is filled with National Guard troops and boarded-up windows, preparing for potential unrest.
“If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short,” Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill told jurors on the question of how much to pack.
With the trial in session, Minneapolis has been bracing for a possible repeat of the protests and violence that broke out last spring over Floyd’s death.
Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered outside the heavily guarded Brooklyn Center police station in the days since the shooting. Protesters have shouted profanities, launched fireworks, shaken a security fence surrounding the building and lobbed water bottles at officers. Police have driven away protesters with tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and long lines of riot police.
In the three weeks of the trial of Derek Chauvin, dozens of witnesses have testified; hours of video of George Floyd’s arrest have been played, paused and replayed; and two sides of the courtroom have presented opposing narratives to a jury tasked with determining the guilt or innocence of a former police officer charged with murder in one of the most watched trials in decades.
Through witness testimony, several distinct themes have emerged as the most crucial points of contention: whether Mr. Chauvin violated policy when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes; what role, if any, drugs played in Mr. Floyd’s death; and what kind of impact the arrest may have had on the people who witnessed it.
These themes became clear almost immediately, in tearful testimony from bystander witnesses and criticism of Mr. Chauvin from experts called by the prosecution. In the final days of the trial, the defense brought the opposite account to the stand, giving the former police officer some support after more than two weeks of almost entirely critical testimony.
The trial, and its looming verdict, has attracted more attention than almost any other criminal proceeding in decades, and as it moves into the final phase — closing arguments on Monday, followed by jury deliberations — these key moments illustrate some of the themes that will be most important to jurors next week.
In the first week of the trial, many of the witnesses who were called by the prosecution had seen the arrest of George Floyd in person. Their testimony gave jurors a clearer view of the final moments of Mr. Floyd’s life, and demonstrated just how jarring seeing the arrest firsthand had been. Several witnesses cried as they recounted the arrest; some said they felt guilty for not intervening, and that they knew Mr. Floyd had been in grave danger. Their accounts set the tone for the rest of the trial and showed how widespread the impact of Mr. Floyd’s death has been.
Darnella Frazier was 17 when she took a video of the arrest that helped prompt a wave of protests across the country. Ms. Frazier was one of a handful of young witnesses who testified off camera. On May 25, she arrived at the Cup Foods convenience store with her 9-year-old cousin. “It seemed like he knew it was over for him,” she said of Mr. Floyd. “He was terrified.”
Charles McMillian, another bystander witness, talked with Mr. Floyd as he was being pinned by Mr. Chauvin. Mr. McMillian told the jury that he had urged Mr. Floyd to get up and get in the police cruiser. “Once the police get the cuffs on you, you can’t win,” he said during his testimony. Mr. Floyd, held to the ground by Mr. Chauvin, replied that he couldn’t.
Mr. McMillian, 61, broke down in tears on the stand, and the court took a short break as he recovered. His testimony, perhaps more than any other, showed just how painful it was to see the arrest in person. Particularly traumatic for Mr. McMillian was the fact that Mr. Floyd called out, “Mama,” in the few minutes before he lost consciousness.
Courteney Ross, who dated Mr. Floyd for nearly three years before his death, gave the jury and the public a rare glimpse into the life and personality of Mr. Floyd. Ms. Ross talked about their relationship, their first kiss, how Mr. Floyd loved to eat and how he helped her explore the city of Minneapolis. Both sweet and tragic, her testimony humanized Mr. Floyd in a way that jurors had not heard up to that point. Ms. Ross also talked about a primary issue in the case: Mr. Floyd’s drug use.
The defense has argued that Mr. Floyd died largely from complications of drug use, rather than as a result of being held down by Mr. Chauvin. Ms. Ross said the couple had struggled with opioid addiction. She said that, like many Americans, their drug use began with legal prescriptions for chronic pain. “We got addicted,” she said, “and we tried really hard to break that addiction many times.”
By the time paramedics arrived, Mr. Floyd had been unresponsive for several minutes, still pinned under the knee of Mr. Chauvin. Derek Smith, one of the paramedics who responded to the scene, testified that he looked for Mr. Floyd’s pulse almost as soon as he arrived, but found none. “In lay terms, I thought he was dead,” Mr. Smith said.
His testimony gave jurors a clearer understanding of what happened in the minutes after the arrest, and of the efforts made to save Mr. Floyd’s life on the way to the hospital. Despite his efforts, which included using a defibrillator and a machine that provides chest compressions, Mr. Smith said he could not revive Mr. Floyd. The police officers who arrested Mr. Floyd provided no medical care at the scene, even after one officer failed to detect a pulse.
In a rare condemnation of an officer by an acting police chief, Chief Medaria Arradondo of the Minneapolis Police Department testified that Mr. Chauvin violated police policy when he knelt on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes. “Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped,” the chief said.
Chief Arradondo said Mr. Chauvin also violated policy by not providing medical aid to Mr. Floyd once he became unresponsive. Whether Mr. Chauvin violated policy will most likely be a central question for the jury, and a rebuke from the acting police chief may prove a substantial blow to Mr. Chauvin’s defense.
Throughout the trial, Eric J. Nelson, the defense attorney for Mr. Chauvin, has suggested that the crowd of bystanders may have made it more difficult for Mr. Chauvin to render aid or to move Mr. Floyd from the prone position. Police Officer Nicole Mackenzie, who trains Minneapolis police officers on providing medical care, conceded during cross-examination that bystanders can make it harder for officers to see signs of distress in people who are in custody.
Officer Mackenzie’s testimony could lend support to the defense’s argument that other factors were at play, and that jurors should view the situation in context. The crowd of about a dozen people yelled at the officers and urged Mr. Chauvin to move his knee, though they were otherwise peaceful and did not attempt to intervene.
Several law enforcement officials testified that Mr. Chauvin acted outside the bounds of normal policing by restraining Mr. Floyd in a prone position for more than nine minutes. Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use of force expert with the Los Angeles Police Department, told jurors that Mr. Chauvin should have ceased using force once Mr. Floyd was restrained.
Sgt. Stiger said Mr. Chauvin may have been justified in using some force, like a Taser, earlier in the arrest, when Mr. Floyd resisted as officers tried to put him in a squad car. But once he was on the ground, the force should have stopped, the sergeant said, further bolstering prosecutors’ claim that Mr. Chauvin’s force was excessive. He added that being handcuffed and in a prone position can make it harder to breathe, and that the weight of an officer “just increases the possibility of death.”
Arguably the most important question in this case is what caused Mr. Floyd’s death. The prosecution has maintained that Mr. Floyd died from asphyxia, or the deprivation of oxygen, and has called several expert witnesses to support that notion. Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a pulmonologist and a world-renowned expert on breathing, agreed, saying that Mr. Floyd died from a lack of oxygen imposed by the restraint.
In his testimony, Dr. Tobin broke down the arrest in vivid detail, even identifying what he believed to be the exact moment that Mr. Floyd died.
Dr. Tobin said he saw no evidence of an overdose, striking a blow to the defense’s contention that drugs played a primary role in Mr. Floyd’s death. In nuanced testimony, Dr. Tobin counted Mr. Floyd’s breaths and said that he was breathing at a regular rate in the minutes before he died. Had he been suffering an overdose, Dr. Tobin said, the rate of breath should have slowed.
Though regular in interval, the breaths were not deep enough to sustain life, Dr. Tobin said. He was one of several expert witnesses who testified they saw no evidence of an overdose.
Dr. Bill Smock, a surgeon for the Louisville Metro Police Department, also testified that Mr. Floyd died from a lack of oxygen. “He gradually succumbed to lower and lower levels of oxygen till it was gone and he died,” Dr. Smock said.
Though a toxicology report found fentanyl and methamphetamine in Mr. Floyd’s system, Dr. Smock said Mr. Floyd’s behavior did not correspond with that of a typical fentanyl overdose victim. Had he overdosed on fentanyl, Dr. Smock said, Mr. Floyd most likely would have slipped out of consciousness without a fight. Instead, Mr. Floyd yelled and begged for air.
Mr. Nelson, the attorney leading Mr. Chauvin’s defense, has argued throughout the trial that other factors, including drug use and an underlying heart condition, led to Mr. Floyd’s death. But witness after witness called by the prosecution disputed that claim, saying they saw no evidence of a drug overdose and that Mr. Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd was potentially life-threatening.
One witness, called by the defense, said the opposite. Dr. David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland, said he saw no evidence that Mr. Chauvin’s knee hurt Mr. Floyd in any way. His testimony followed that of another expert witness for the defense, who testified that Mr. Chauvin acted within the bounds of normal policing when he held Mr. Floyd in the prone position for nine-and-a-half minutes.
Dr. Fowler and Barry Brodd, a use-of-force expert called by the defense, were the first and only witnesses to offer Mr. Chauvin such unequivocal support.
Both men faced tough cross-examination, though, and prosecuting attorneys scored several key points during their testimonies. Dr. Fowler admitted Mr. Floyd should have been given medical attention, and said that the sudden cardiac arrest that he believes killed Mr. Floyd could have been reversible.
The use-of-force expert called by the defense faced similar struggles during cross-examination. Mr. Brodd, a former police officer, at first said Mr. Chauvin’s restraint did not even qualify as a “use of force,” but then conceded that, under the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department, it did. He also agreed when prosecutors asked whether the level of force should change depending on how much a suspect is resisting; Mr. Chauvin continued to hold his knee on top of Mr. Floyd for several minutes after he became unresponsive.
One of the most important questions in the trial was answered on Thursday, when Mr. Chauvin said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Though his actions set off a national reckoning over the intersection of race and policing, the public has heard little from the former officer.
Testifying could have been a risk for Mr. Chauvin. Prosecutors showed their prowess during cross-examinations of Mr. Brodd and Dr. Fowler, the two expert witnesses called by the defense. Had he taken the stand, Mr. Chauvin could have opened himself up to a similar level of criticism.
During opening arguments, the defense told jurors that this case was about much more than the videos. Yet, witness after witness returned to the videos as they recounted their experiences, debated the details of Mr. Floyd’s last moments, and weighed the question of what caused his death. In closing arguments on Monday, both sides will have one final chance to persuade the jury of their version of the story.