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Guilty verdict closes Floyd murder trial

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-22 10:52

George Floyd's brother Philonise (from left), Floyd family attorney Ben Crump and the Reverend Al Sharpton celebrate in Minneapolis, Minnesota, following Tuesday's verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty on all three charges in the death of George Floyd on May 25 last year. NATHAN HOWARD/AFP

Tears of joy follow findings against ex-officer who sparked global protests

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter on Tuesday for killing George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by putting a knee on his neck for more than 9 minutes in a case that sparked worldwide condemnation and protests.

The 12 members of the jury-four of whom are black, six white and two of mixed race-reached a unanimous verdict of guilty on three charges after nearly 10 hours of deliberation over two days.

Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, which carries a maximum 40-year prison sentence; third-degree murder, which has a 25-year maximum; and second-degree manslaughter, which has up to a 10-year sentence.

Judge Peter A. Cahill read the verdict just after 4 pm local time.

Chauvin, 45, wearing a gray suit and blue face mask, looked stunned while listening to the verdict and his eyes darted toward the jury in disbelief. His bail also was immediately revoked.

An officer later handcuffed him and led him out of the courtroom. Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed them without comment.

Chauvin will spend his first night in jail on Tuesday. Cahill said his sentencing will be in eight weeks.

The jury heard testimony from 45 witnesses over three weeks.

Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, caught on video camera, went viral after the footage showed Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Chauvin appeared calm in the video, with his hands in his pockets and sunglasses on his head as a crowd implored him to get off Floyd, 46, who lay face down on the pavement during the arrest over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill.

The video captured Floyd's final minutes as he pleaded for his life and repeatedly told Chauvin "I can't breathe". The killing led to a summer of protests in the United States and worldwide.

After the verdict was announced, crowds of various races gathered outside the courthouse and at the location where Floyd died; they had listened on cell phones to the verdict.

Yells of "justice" erupted from the crowd. Many people cried and jumped with joy. A few chanted "yes!". Others held their fists in the air and applauded.

Ben Crump, the Floyd family attorney, said after the verdict: "America, let's pause for a moment to proclaim this historical moment not just for the legacy of George Floyd but for the legacy of America."

Crump appeared with Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd and civil rights activist Al Sharpton after the verdict.

Sharpton said: "This is the first time in the history of this state that a white police officer has been found guilty."

Philonise Floyd, who was in the courtroom with the family's attorneys while the verdict was being read, said he sobbed uncontrollably after hearing it. He added: "I think I can finally get some sleep.… We can breathe again."

Terrence Floyd, also a brother of George Floyd, held back tears as he spoke after the verdict.

"I'm going to miss him," he said. "What a day to be a Floyd."

Earlier on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden told reporters that he was "praying" for the "right verdict".

After the verdict was announced, Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris called the Floyd family, saying "they were all so relieved".

Biden and Harris later addressed the nation from the White House.

"Today we feel a sigh of relief. But it cannot take away the pain," the vice-president said. "A measure of justice isn't the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer. And the fact is we still have work to do. We still must reform the system."

Biden said: "It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice-president just referred to. It's a stain on our nation's soul.

"The murder of George Floyd launched a summer of protests we haven't seen since the civil rights movement in the 1960s … it said enough, enough, enough of these senseless killings. … This can be a giant step forward toward justice in America. No one should be above the law. … Today's verdict sends that message."

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at a Congressional Black Caucus news conference after the Chauvin verdict.

"Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice," she said.

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