BY BODE GBADEBO with AGENCY REPORT
A jury on Tuesday returned a guilty verdict in former Minneapolis Police officer, Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd.
Chauvin was charged with two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in Floyd’s death. The video of Floyd pleading for help as Chauvin knelt on him was seen around the world last year, igniting a wave of protests over police brutality in the US especially against Blacks.
All eyes were on the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police officer, Chauvin, as Americans awaited the reading of the jury’s verdict on whether Chauvin bears responsibility for Floyd’s death.
The jury, made up of seven women and five men, was sent into deliberations Monday evening and took roughly 10 hours to inform the court that they had reached a decision on the three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The second-degree murder charge carries the largest potential penalty, up to 40 years in prison. To meet the burden of proof, prosecutors needed to prove that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death “while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense,” in this case assault.
The lesser charge of third-degree murder carries a penalty of up to 25 years. Minnesota statute requires proof that the defendant committed an “act eminently dangerous to others.”
The final charge, second-degree manslaughter, which has the lowest burden of proof, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.
Prosecutors had proved that Floyd’s death was caused by Chauvin’s negligence in creating “an unreasonable risk” and “consciously (taking) chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.”
The jurors have decided that prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt via unanimous decision.
Prosecutors presented extensive video showing officers’ interaction with Floyd from a variety of angles and perspectives, including multiple bystander videos and police body camera video and security video. The state’s team argued Floyd died because Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9½ minutes as he was handcuffed on the ground.
But Chauvin’s defense, led by attorney Eric Nelson, argued that Floyd died because of a drug overdose and underlying health conditions and that Chauvin acted as he was trained to.
While prosecutors offered the jury emotional testimony from witnesses, some of whom said their lives were forever changed by watching Floyd’s arrest, the defense sought to portray the onlookers as a distraction and a potential threat that led the responding officers to worry for their safety and diverted their attention from Floyd.
Since Monday, the city of Minneapolis has been on the edge as residents awaited the final verdict.