After deliberating for 10 hours, jurors in the trial of Derek Chauvin returned a guilty verdict Tuesday, convicting the former Minneapolis police officer of murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who struggled to breathe while pinned under Chauvin’s knee.
The trial’s conclusion capped tumultuous months of national protests over the issue of race and policing following Floyd’s death last May, and the jury’s decision became a moment of reckoning, particularly for Black Americans disillusioned with racial progress.
But the case isn’t over yet.
Chauvin, 45, must still be sentenced, while three other former officers who were at the scene face their own trials. Chauvin’s defense might also choose to appeal the verdict.
How did the jury reach its conclusion?
Jurors considered three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The second-degree murder charge required the jury to agree that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death, without intent, while committing or attempting to commit an assault.
For the third-degree murder charge to stick, jurors had to agree that Chauvin unintentionally caused Floyd’s death with reckless disregard for human life. The charge doesn’t indicate intent.
Finally, the second-degree manslaughter charge needed jurors to conclude that Chauvin was guilty of creating an unreasonable risk by consciously taking a chance of causing Floyd’s death or injuring him.
The defense argued that Chauvin followed his training when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, an act caught on bystander video and shown at the trial.
Prosecutors asked jurors to “use your common sense” to determine that what Chauvin did was ultimately criminal, and were backed by police officers’ testimony that admonished Chauvin’s use of force.
What has the jury said about its decision?
The 12 jurors and two alternates were anonymous during the televised trial and the jury was sequestered during deliberations.
It’s unclear whether any of the jurors plan to come forward publicly, but their identities could be released now that the trial is over.
How much prison time could Chauvin receive?
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office oversaw the prosecution, said Tuesday that prosecutors will seek a “fair” and “just” sentence.
While the charges against Chauvin collectively amount to 75 years in prison, the judge must focus on the most serious charge of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum of 40 years behind bars.
But Minnesota has sentencing guidelines that allow defendants like Chauvin with no criminal history to receive far less time.
According to the guidelines, Chauvin need only be sentenced for the most serious charge since all the charges stem from the same act. But prosecutors have already signaled they will seek a harsher sentence, known as an “upward departure.” They plan to ask Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to consider “aggravating factors,” including that Floyd was treated with “particular cruelty” and his death occurred in front of children, as part of the sentencing decision.
“If the judge finds that those conditions have been met, then he may depart from the sentencing guidelines and sentence Mr. Chauvin to a term higher than the recommended sentence,” John Stiles, a spokesman for Ellison, said. “This will all play out over the next several weeks.”
In another case, former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor received a 12-1/2-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting a woman in 2017. He was acquitted of second-degree murder.
Defendants in Minnesota must typically serve two-thirds of their prison sentence before being eligible for parole.
No exact date for Chauvin’s sentencing hearing has been set, but is expected in about eight weeks.
Can the verdict be appealed?
Chauvin’s attorneys will have 60 days to appeal the outcome.
It’s unclear on what grounds the appeal could be made, but the defense had tried to force a mistrial in response to recent comments by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who said protesters in Minnesota should “get more confrontational” if Chauvin is not convicted.
Cahill denied the request, but told the defense that Waters’ comments were “abhorrent” and “I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
Where is Chauvin being held?
After the verdict, a handcuffed Chauvin was taken to Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights, a maximum-security prison outside Minneapolis.
According to the state Department of Corrections, “Oak Park Heights is the highest custody level … the majority of inmates housed here are maximum and close custody, as some of the inmates need a higher level of security.”
Could Chauvin face other charges?
Federal prosecutors have the ability to consider civil rights charges against Chauvin. A federal investigation is ongoing, and several witnesses were subpoenaed earlier this year in front of a grand jury, according to The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday it has launched a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department to determine whether it engages in a pattern or practice of policing that violates the Constitution or federal civil rights laws.
In March, the city of Minneapolis agreed to pay $27 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit from Floyd’s family. The suit alleged that the city allowed for a culture of excessive force and racism in the department to thrive.
What about the other former officers involved in the case?
Three other Minneapolis police officers — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — were at the scene outside a convenience store where Floyd was detained after a call to police about an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. Those officers, along with Chauvin, were fired after the incident, and prosecutors accuse the three men of failing to intervene and assist Floyd.
The trio will face trial together in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. The aiding and abetting murder charge carries up to 40 years in prison, although if found guilty, they could see no more than 15 years under sentencing guidelines.
All three remain out on bail.
Janelle Griffith contributed.