After about 11 hours of deliberation, on Tuesday, the jury in a Minnesota court found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts—second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter—in the death of George Floyd.
The most serious charge, second-degree murder, carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
A stoic Chauvin watched the proceedings, then was handcuffed and taken into custody, after Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill revoked his bail.
Members of George Floyd’s family, who watched the reading of the verdict from their home in Houston, showed a mix of emotions, cheering at each guilty verdict and eliciting a cathartic cry at the end. “This is what we wanted!”
President Joe Biden, who earlier on Tuesday said he was “praying” for the right verdict, said he called Floyd’s family after the jury had been sequestered on Monday, as he could imagine the “pressure and anxiety” they were feeling. He also called family members after the verdict was read to congratulate them.
Anxiety and Hope
In homes, workplaces, schools, and the streets, people speculated whether the jury of 12 men and women—six Black and six white—would deliberate for a long time before coming to a decision. Many, including experienced attorneys, believed the prosecution presented a solid case and that a short deliberation would likely mean a guilty verdict—but none of them was completely sure how the jury would vote.
Florida House Minority Leader Bobby DuBose, expressed a similar sentiment, posting on Twitter, “Why was I holding my breath and praying when the facts and evidence were clear? Although justice was served today, the next time I will still sit holding my breath and praying until systemic racism is eradicated from society.”
Miami attorney, Miquel Blake, who recently started his practice as a criminal attorney, said he was “pretty much confident” that Chauvin would be found guilty, but “paradoxically, I still had lingering doubts. America just has not been in the habit of convicting cops. But thank God, justice has prevailed. This case opened and closed, and the verdict was based on that video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 39 seconds.”
In addition to anxiety around the verdict, there were also fears that an acquittal for Chauvin would have led to an explosion of violence. Instead, there were scenes of grand celebration as the guilty verdict on the three charges was read.
The Right Verdict
Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness in his statement said, “The power of a badge should not protect anyone from doing evil. This history-making verdict should bring positive changes in America and could mark the start of a truly serious effort to eliminate racism and create greater racial equity.
“We must remain vigilant in confronting the racial inequities that exist in our nation.”
Last year, following Floyd’s death, Holness created the Broward County Racial Equity Task Force and the Broward County Police and Criminal Review Board to, among other objectives, address unfair treatment in the criminal justice system.
For former Miami police officer Alex Peterson, what Chauvin did was a “very poor example of policing. His actions cannot be condoned by any law enforcement officer sworn to protect and serve the people. The verdict is just, and I hope it will serve to improve the relationship between police and the community going forward.”
Other Florida elected officials to weigh in include U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando and U.S. Rep Frederica Wilson.
Demings, who served as a police officer for 27 years, tweeted, “Today’s verdict signals that we can be the America we are supposed to be. I hope that the Senate sees today as a springboard to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“We deserve it, good law enforcement officers deserve it, America deserves it.”
Wilson’s post was directed at the witnesses and the Floyd family. She posted on Twitter, “Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to all of the brave people who witnessed #GeorgeFloyd‘s murder, some of whom were so very young, yet found the courage to testify, and the officers who knocked down the blue wall of silence to stand up for Mr. Floyd and his family.”
Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020, after he was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner store. Floyd, who pled with three arresting police officers that he was claustrophobic and resisted being placed in the back of a police van, was pulled to the ground beside the van, and Chauvin knelt on his neck to restrain him. Chauvin kept his knee on his neck even as Floyd struggled for air, saying over and over “I can’t breathe.” He would eventually die as Chauvin continued kneeling on his neck.
A video of the killing went viral and sparked massive protests across the nation and around the world.