MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on the neck of George Floyd during his fatal arrest last year, was convicted of all charges, including second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on April 20 and faces up to 40 years in prison, according to the Star Tribune.
The trial, one of the highest profile in recent history and Minnesota's first televised criminal case, began in March and stretched weeks into April. Jurors debated for more than 10 hours over the span of two days before reaching a verdict. Following the verdict, Judge Peter A. Cahill said that sentencing would be announced in eight weeks.
The prosecution, made up of a rotating team of assistant attorneys general and outside lawyers, sought to emphasize the widely-seen bystander video of Floyd’s death in their case against Chauvin.
“You can believe your eyes that it’s a homicide, it’s murder,” Jerry Blackwell, one of four prosecution lawyers, told the jury during his opening statement.
The prosecution’s case against Chauvin consisted mainly of dispelling theories of his death that blamed pre-existing heart conditions or opioid use — theories that were pivotal for the defense’s argument that Chauvin’s actions were not a direct cause of Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors began the trial by interviewing the bystanders who watched as Chauvin and two other Minneappolis police officers pinned Floyd to the ground. Witnesses included Donald Williams II, an MMA fighter who had identified Chauvin’s restraint as dangerous, and Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty firefighter and EMT who identified herself and pleaded for officers to allow her to render medical aid to Floyd.
“Check his pulse!” both witnesses could be heard saying on a video taken by Hansen at the scene.
Eric J. Nelson, the defense attorney representing Chauvin in the trial, sought to portray the crowd as an angry mob, arguing that the bystanders’ actions had caused officers “to divert their attention from the care of Mr. Floyd.” In his cross-examinations of many of the witnesses, including Hansen, he asked if the crowd seemed angry or upset.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen anybody be killed, but it’s upsetting,” Hansen said in response.
The prosecution also called on experts to testify about proper use-of-force techniques, including Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who described Chauvin's actions as defying the department's policy.
"To continue to apply that level of force to a person, proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy," Arradondo said. "It's not part of our training and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values."
The defense called their own use-of-force expert witness who defended Chauvin's actions, as well as a pulmonologist who identified other potential causes of Floyd's death and ultimately classified it as "undetermined."
Chauvin declined to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right which protects a defendant from self-incrimination.
Liam DeBonis is the Copy Chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @LiamDebonis