The jury in the high-profile trial of the white former police officer Derek Chauvin found him guilty on Tuesday of second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter in the death of African-American George Floyd.
The jury deliberated less than 11 hours before finding 45-year-old Chauvin guilty of all three charges against him: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
A crowd gathered outside the heavily guarded downtown Minneapolis courtroom erupted in cheers, and some wept tears of relief, when the verdicts were announced after a three-week trial that had an entire nation on edge.
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, embraced prosecutors.
Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison on the most serious charge – second-degree murder. Sentencing will be at a later date.
“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".
Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man said repeatedly “I can’t breathe,” then died.
The 46-year-old Floyd’s death during his May 25, 2020 arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality around the world.
Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump hailed the conviction as a landmark victory for civil rights and a springboard to legislation currently before Congress to reform police forces in their dealings with minorities.
“This verdict is a turning point in history and sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement,” Crump tweeted.
“Justice for Black America is justice for all of America!”
Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, said “a jury did the right thing” but “true justice requires much more.”
Three other former police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest are to 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 a suburb of the Minnesota city on April 11 by a white policewoman.
In Washington, the National Guard said some 250 troops were being deployed “to support local law enforcement” in response to potential demonstrations.
Prosecutors, in closing arguments on Monday, showed excerpts from the harrowing bystander video of Floyd’s death that was seen by millions around the world.
“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher told the jury.
“You can believe your eyes,” Schleicher said. “It’s exactly what you knew, it’s what you felt in your gut, it’s what you now know in your heart.”
“This wasn’t policing, this was murder,” Schleicher said. “Nine minutes and 29 seconds of shocking abuse of authority.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)