Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Jury finds Chauvin guilty of murder, manslaughter in Floyd killing

Apr 20, 2021 04:34PM ● By Editor
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is being handcuffed after guilty verdicts were read in his murder trial on Tuesday.  Photo: Screenshot of Court TV video

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 20, 2021

A Hennepin County jury on Tuesday found ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.

In one of the most consequential verdicts in Minnesota history, Chauvin was found guilty on all counts, including second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s killing last May.

Chauvin was led away in handcuffs following the reading of the verdicts.

Chauvin was one of several officers called to a south Minneapolis street corner May 25 on a report of a man allegedly using a counterfeit $20 to buy cigarettes at a corner store. He arrived to find other officers struggling to arrest Floyd and get him in a squad car as Floyd pleaded that he was claustrophobic. 

The encounter turned fatal as officers pulled Floyd to the ground to subdue him during the arrest. 

Bystander video captured Chauvin with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the man lay pinned to the street, handcuffed and face down, pleading that he couldn’t breathe while people shouted from the curb that Floyd was dying. 

Weeks of trial testimony revolved around a basic question: Who or what was responsible for Floyd’s death? The defense pointed to Floyd’s health conditions and the drugs in his system. The prosecution put the blame on Chauvin’s actions and his knee on Floyd’s neck.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired over the incident. The other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting. They’re expected to go on trial this summer.

Tensions remained high in the Twin Cities and across the country during the trial and the jury’s deliberations. Floyd’s killing sparked worldwide outrage when the video of the police subduing him went viral on social media. It drove peaceful mass demonstrations that sometimes spasmed into violence.

The image of a white police officer who appeared indifferent to the suffering of a Black man under his knee begging for mercy made race an inescapable part of the story.

State and local leaders appealed for calm prior to the verdict. Minnesota is deploying National Guard troops and bringing state troopers from Nebraska and Ohio to supplement an already historically large law enforcement presence.

‘He betrayed the badge’

In closing arguments, prosecutors painted the ex-officer as a cop who disregarded his training, his department’s use of force rules and Floyd’s suffering. “What the defendant did was not policing. What the defendant did was an assault,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher told jurors. “He betrayed the badge.”

Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker ruled Floyd’s death a homicide last year, saying Floyd went into cardiopulmonary arrest as then-officer Chauvin kept his knee pressed on the neck of the prone, handcuffed man. 

On the stand in early April, Baker stood by his findings and described Floyd’s health problems and the drugs in his system as contributing — not direct — causes of his death. Chauvin’s actions, he said, “tipped (Floyd) over the edge” from life to death.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson worked to sow doubt in the jurors’ minds as he recounted Chauvin’s actions and Floyd’s health problems, including compromised arteries and an enlarged heart, and the drugs in his system.

He suggested that Chauvin’s concern about the tensions with bystanders watching Floyd’s arrest distracted Chauvin and kept him from rendering CPR as Floyd lost consciousness. Prosecutors pushed back, noting that despite their panic at what was happening to Floyd, the half dozen or so bystanders, including several teens and a 9-year-old girl, obeyed police commands not to interfere.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell emphasized that Chauvin and the officers were in complete control of the situation. “He had the bullets, the guns, the Mace that he threatened bystanders with,” Blackwell told jurors Monday. “He had the backup. He had the badge — all of it.”

The defense also urged jurors not to focus on the nine-plus minutes that Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck but to think about the prior 17 minutes as officers struggled to get Floyd to comply with orders and get in the back of the squad car as Floyd resisted, saying he was claustrophobic.

“Human behavior is unpredictable, and nobody knows it better than a police officer,” Nelson told jurors.

‘Blue wall of silence’ falls

Nelson argued over and again that Chauvin was just doing his job to subdue a suspect within the bounds of Minneapolis police policy and training. But that argument took repeated hits during the trial from a line of officers, including Chauvin’s bosses.

Minneapolis Police Department trainers said they’ve never trained the knee-on-neck technique. The head of the homicide unit testified the use of force officers used on Floyd was “totally unnecessary.” Lt. Richard Zimmerman told jurors that after reviewing the body camera footage of the fatal encounter with Floyd, he concluded the officers went too far.

“Pulling him down to the ground, face down, and putting your knee on the neck for that amount of time — it’s just uncalled for,” Zimmerman said. “I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”

Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that once Floyd stopped resisting and then stopped responding, “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. It’s not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or values.”

These were extraordinary moments. Police often rally around fellow officers accused of killing people on the job. The reluctance of officers to speak out against another officer is often called the “blue wall of silence.” 

Not this time.

Chauvin declined to testify in his own defense, but he did leave a clue to his mindset at the scene. Prosecutors played footage during the trial from Chauvin’s body camera showing a man at the scene criticizing the officer afterward for the way he restrained Floyd.

“That's one person's opinion,” Chauvin can be heard responding to the man on the video. “We gotta put force, gotta control this guy because he's a sizable guy. Looks like he's probably on something.”

They were the only remarks heard during the trial from an officer in an MPD uniform justifying the level of force used against Floyd.

To read such more on this breaking story, follow this link to the MPR News website.

Upcoming Events Near You
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here