Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd on Tuesday in a trial that marked the culmination of ongoing protests since Floyd’s death last year on May 25.
On that date, Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, for nine minutes and 29 seconds while Floyd was handcuffed and lying on the ground. The widely-circulated bystander video of the incident ignited a series of Black Lives Matter protests that have continued throughout the past year.
While the prosecution in the case originally only brought two charges against Chauvin: 3rd degree murder and 2nd degree manslaughter, a higher charge of 2nd degree murder (often referred to as felony murder) was added later after pressure from protestors. After a relatively short 10-hour deliberation by the jury, Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts. Chauvin now awaits sentencing by the judge, which will occur in eight weeks.
Chauvin’s defense attempted to argue that other factors, such as Floyd’s pre-existing heart condition and illegal drug use, were to blame for his death instead of the officer’s actions. The prosecution, on the other hand, emphasized to the jurors that they could believe what they saw in the video and brought in experts, including Chauvin’s own police chief, to testify that Chauvin’s use of force was not reasonable.
Given the disproportionate rate of police killings against Black Americans and the low number of those officers arrested for their actions, this trial was symbolic for many. Significant public outcry was anticipated if a guilty verdict was not reached, but that has largely been replaced with celebration in wake of the verdict. Still, many emphasise that, for them, this is only a first step towards justice.
In her email to the campus, the new Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Consuelo Grier, concluded that “There is still work ahead to advance social justice, but today let’s breathe in honor and remembrance of George Perry Floyd. Let’s breathe a little easier knowing that we have finally seen a glimpse of the accountability that our communities have demanded and deserve.”
The legacy of this trial and its impact on American policing going forward remains to be seen. The Watchdog will continue to cover this story as it develops over the next week.