Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, faces a potential jail sentence of 40 years if convicted of the most serious crime, second-degree murder.
Chauvin was captured on tape lying on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old Black man laid handcuffed facedown in the driveway, screaming that he “can’t breathe.”
The harrowing video, which was regularly shown to the jurors during Chauvin’s three-week trial, triggered worldwide demonstrations against racial inequality and police brutality.
At the start of the trial, Chauvin’s counsel, Eric Nelson, said that there was “no political or social cause” in the courtroom, but it has coincided with escalating tensions after two other high-profile police shootings.
Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot dead by a white policewoman who allegedly mistook her rifle for her Taser in a Minneapolis suburb on April 11, and a 13-year-old boy was killed by police in Chicago.
Wright’s death sparked several nights of demonstrations in Minneapolis, and National Guard troops have been stationed in the Minnesota region ahead of a decision in Chauvin’s case, where shop windows have been boarded up as a precaution.
Two guard members were slightly injured early Sunday in Minneapolis when at least one suspect opened fire from a vehicle on a squad of troops and officers, officials said. Tensions are heavy as a potential verdict approaches.
“The outcome that we pray for in Derek Chauvin is for him to be held criminally liable for killing George Floyd,” said Ben Crump, an attorney for the Floyd and Wright families.
“Killing unarmed Black people is unacceptable,” Crump told ABC News on Sunday. “We have to send that message to the police.
“Hold police officers accountable.”
‘It wasn’t right’
Among the 38 witnesses who testified for the prosecution were some of the bystanders who watched Floyd’s May 25, 2020 arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Darnella Frazier, the teenager who took the video that went viral, said Floyd was “scared” and “begging for his life.”
“It wasn’t right. He was suffering,” Frazier said.
Genevieve Hansen, a 27-year-old off-duty firefighter, said Chauvin and other officers turned down her attempts to help Floyd with medical care.
Donald Williams, 33, said he called 911 after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance to witness a “murder”
Chauvin was clad in a suit and took notes on a yellow legal pad every day of the courtroom.
He only spoke once, and it was outside of the jury’s presence, when he exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to speak in his own defence.
Chauvin’s decision did not surprise David Schultz, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and Hamline University.
“The chances of him helping himself probably weren’t going to be too good,” Schultz said.
“I could imagine a scenario where the prosecution would play that nine minute and 29 second tape and ask Derek Chauvin what he was thinking when George Floyd said he can’t breathe.”
The facts process of the trial was dominated by testimonies from medical professionals on Floyd’s cause of death and whether Chauvin used fair or unnecessary force.
Floyd died of cardiac arrest caused by heart attack and the synthetic narcotics opioid and methamphetamine, according to a former forensic pathologist called to testify by the prosecution.
The prosecution’s medical experts testified that Floyd died from hypoxia, or a loss of oxygen, caused by Chauvin’s knee on his stomach, and that medications were not a consideration.
‘Strong legal authority’
The defence also called a former cop who testified that Chauvin’s use of force against Floyd was “justified.”
It was unreasonable and needless, according to police officials testifying for the defence, including the city police chief.
The ministry, according to law professor Schultz, made a good argument.
“They had to overcome the barrier of being able to prosecute police officers,” he said. “Police officers have strong legal authority to use force.”
A conviction on any of the charges — second-degree murder, third-degree murder or manslaughter — will require the jury to return a unanimous verdict.
Schultz said the defense, which called only seven witnesses, “may be hoping to persuade just one juror to get a hung jury.”
Six white women, three Black men, three white men, two mixed race women, and one Black woman make up the racially divided jury.
Judge Peter Cahill will excuse two members of the jury after closing statements, and the remaining 12 will be sequestered for deliberations.
Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng, three other former police officers, are all charged in Floyd’s murder.
They will be prosecuted individually later this year.