Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of all charges on Tuesday in the killing of African American resident George Floyd during his arrest in May 2020.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Jury deliberations lasted just over ten hours, making for a relatively speedy verdict. The jury members were kept anonymous during the trial to protect their safety.
The charge of second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, while third-degree murder carries up to 25 years in prison and second-degree manslaughter up to ten years in prison. Chauvin was remanded into custody of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office with bail revoked.
Judge Peter Cahill, who oversaw the trial, told jurors that sentencing will occur in roughly two months.
Media and demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse in the hour before the verdict was proclaimed. Demonstrators also converged outside the convenience store where Floyd was arrested, with local media reporting elation among the crowds.
Video of Floyd’s arrest went viral last year, sparking riots in cities across the country and resulting in Chauvin’s dismissal from the Minneapolis police department. The video showed Chauvin using his knee to pin Floyd to the ground for more than nine minutes, persisting even after Floyd lost consciousness.
Floyd was pronounced dead at the scene of his arrest. The trial largely focused on the degree to which Chauvin’s actions caused Floyd’s death in combination with other factors, such as a history of hypertension and Floyd’s ingestion of a fentanyl/methamphetamine combination sometime before the arrest.
The video of the incident sparked massive riots in Minneapolis that spread to cities across the U.S. The damage from nationwide rioting was estimated by insurers at $1 to $2 billion, and demonstrations protesting Floyd’s death continued throughout the summer.
Bracing for potential civil unrest following the verdict on Wednesday, Minnesota officials initiated an effort to secure Minneapolis dubbed “Operation Safety Net,” coordinating local law enforcement to protect the city. The Minnesota National Guard activated 3,000 troops to assist in the effort, and guardsmen could be seen outside government buildings and on the streets.
“It’s going to be a week that we can prove that our justice system works and there’s a place for peaceful, and vocal, and emotional expression of your First Amendment rights,” Governor Tim Walz said on Friday. “But we can’t allow and we won’t allow what happened in May to happen again.”
However, it was unclear if civil unrest would occur following the guilty verdicts on Wednesday.
“George Floyd died because Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck and stopped him from breathing for more than nine minutes,” Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.), said in a statement immediately following the verdict. “There is no question in my mind that the jury reached the right verdict.”
Judge Cahill said on Monday that remarks by Representative Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) could result in the trial being “overturned” on appeal. Waters had pushed for demonstrators to “get more confrontational” if the jury did not hand down a guilty verdict.
“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Cahill told Chauvin’s defense attorney. However, Cahill added that Waters’s remarks did not constitute sufficient reason to declare a mistrial.