Chauvin, wearing a mask inside the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, had no apparent reaction to the guilty verdict. Afterward, his bail was revoked and he was placed in handcuffs and removed from the court through a side door.
Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for manslaughter. However, Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend about 12.5 years in prison for each murder charge and about four years for the manslaughter charge. His sentencing is set for eight weeks from now.
His final moments illustrated in clear visuals what Black Americans have long said about the ways that the criminal justice system dehumanizes Black people, setting off mass protests across the country as well as incidents of looting and unrest.
Over about three weeks of testimony in court, Minnesota prosecutors have repeatedly told jurors to “believe your eyes” and rely on that video.
“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. It is exactly that. You can believe your eyes,” prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher said in closing arguments. “This wasn’t policing. This was murder.”
Tears of joy in and out of court
In a first for Minnesota, the trial was broadcast live in its entirety to accommodate Covid-19 attendance restrictions, giving the public a rare look into the heart of the legal system.
But the all-guilty verdict led to cries of joy and sighs of relief among those in Minneapolis, including outside the Cup Foods store where Floyd took his final breath.
Inside court, Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s younger brother, clasped his hands over his head in prayer as the verdict was read, according to pool reporters, including CNN’s Josh Campbell. During the third guilty verdict, his hands shook back and forth and he kept his head down and eyes closed as his head nodded up and down, the report said.
After court concluded, Philonise Floyd was seen crying as he hugged all four prosecutors.
“I was just praying they would find him guilty,” he explained. “As an African American, we usually never get justice.”
In a statement, attorney Ben Crump and the Floyd family praised the verdicts.
“Painfully earned justice has arrived for George Floyd’s family and the community here in Minneapolis, but today’s verdict goes far beyond this city and has significant implications for the country and even the world,” Crump said in a statement. “Justice for Black America is justice for all of America. This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message we hope is heard clearly in every city and every state.”
President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he was praying for the “right” verdict in the case, noting that the evidence was “overwhelming.” After the verdict, he and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke on the phone with the Floyd family and their attorneys, according to video posted by Crump.
“Nothing is going to make it all better,” Biden told them, but “at least now there’s some justice.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, cautioned that the verdict was not the end of the road.
“I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice,” he said.
Prosecutor says trial is ‘pro-police’
Prosecutors called 38 witnesses over the course of three separate phases of the trial.
Finally, five separate medical experts explained that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen when Chauvin restricted his ability to breathe in what’s known as “positional asphyxia.”
“He was not going to let these bystanders tell him what to do. He was going to do what he wanted, how he wanted, for as long as he wanted. And there was nothing, nothing they can do about it because he had the authority. He had the power, and the other officers, the bystanders were powerless,” he said. “He was trying to win, and George Floyd paid for it with his life.”
He contrasted Chauvin’s “ego-based pride” with the proper feelings of pride in wearing a police badge and praised policing as a noble profession. He insisted the state was prosecuting Chauvin individually — not policing in general.
“This is not an anti-police prosecution; it is a pro-police prosecution,” he said. “There is nothing worse for good police than bad police.”
In response, Nelson said Chauvin acted as a “reasonable officer” would in that situation and said there was no evidence he intentionally or purposefully used force that was unlawful.
“You have to look at it from the reasonable police officer standard. You have to take into account that officers are human beings, capable of making mistakes in highly stressful situations,” Nelson said. “In this case, the totality of the circumstances that were known to a reasonable police officer in the precise moment the force was used demonstrates that this was an authorized use of force, as unattractive as it may be. This is reasonable doubt.”
CNN’s Josh Campbell, Steve Almasy and Brad Parks contributed to this report.
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