Swift Verdict for Chauvin: Guilty 04/21 06:14

Swift Verdict for Chauvin: Guilty      04/21 06:14

   

   MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- After three weeks of testimony, the trial of the former 
police officer charged with killing George Floyd ended swiftly: barely over a 
day of jury deliberations, then just minutes for the verdicts to be read -- 
guilty, guilty and guilty -- and Derek Chauvin was handcuffed and taken away to 
prison.

   Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades when he is sentenced in 
about two months in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a 
furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.

   The verdict set off jubilation mixed with sorrow across the city and around 
the nation. Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some 
running through traffic with banners. Drivers blared their horns in celebration.

   "Today, we are able to breathe again," Floyd's younger brother Philonise 
said at a joyous family news conference where tears streamed down his face as 
he likened Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till, except 
that this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.

   The jury of six whites and six Black or multiracial people came back with 
its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. The now-fired 
white officer was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, 
third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

   Chauvin's face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be 
seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom. His bail was immediately 
revoked. Sentencing will be in two months; the most serious charge carries up 
to 40 years in prison.

   Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed Chauvin out of the courtroom without 
comment.

   President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying Floyd's death was "a murder 
in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world" to 
see systemic racism.

   But he warned: "It's not enough. We can't stop here. We're going to deliver 
real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood 
that tragedies like this will ever happen again."

   The jury's decision was hailed around the country as justice by other 
political and civic leaders and celebrities, including former President Barack 
Obama, Oprah Winfrey and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a white man, who said on 
Twitter that Floyd "would still be alive if he looked like me. That must 
change."

   At a park next to the Minneapolis courthouse, a hush fell over a crowd of 
about 300 as they listened to the verdict on their cellphones. Then a great 
roar went up, with many people hugging, some shedding tears.

   At the intersection where Floyd was pinned down, a crowd chanted, "One down, 
three to go!" -- a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis officers 
facing trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder in Floyd's 
death.

   Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt grateful and relieved.

   "I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete," she said, adding that 
she was looking forward to the "next case with joy and optimism and strength."

   Jamee Haggard, who brought her biracial 4-year-old daughter to the 
intersection, said: "There's some form of justice that's coming."

   The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor 
wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another 
round of unrest -- not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the 
deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis 
suburb April 11.

   The jurors' identities were kept secret and will not be released until the 
judge decides it is safe to do so.

   It is unusual for police officers to be prosecuted for killing someone on 
the job. And convictions are extraordinarily rare.

   Out of the thousands of deadly police shootings in the U.S. since 2005, 
fewer than 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter, 
according to data maintained by Phil Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green 
State University. Before Tuesday, only seven were convicted of murder.

   Juries often give police officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim 
they had to make split-second, life-or-death decisions. But that was not an 
argument Chauvin could easily make.

   Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a 
counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked, 
pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to 
put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.

   The centerpiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Floyd 
gasping repeatedly, "I can't breathe" and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop 
as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd's neck for what 
authorities say was 9 1/2 minutes, including several minutes after Floyd's 
breathing had stopped and he had no pulse.

   Prosecutors played the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening 
statements, and told the jury: "Believe your eyes." From there it was shown 
over and over, analyzed one frame at a time by witnesses on both sides.

   In the wake of Floyd's death, demonstrations and scattered violence broke 
out in Minneapolis, around the country and beyond. The furor also led to the 
removal of Confederate statues and other offensive symbols such as Aunt Jemima.

   In the months that followed, numerous states and cities restricted the use 
of force by police, revamped disciplinary systems or subjected police 
departments to closer oversight.

   The "Blue Wall of Silence" that often protects police accused of wrongdoing 
crumbled after Floyd's death. The Minneapolis police chief quickly called it 
"murder" and fired all four officers, and the city reached a staggering $27 
million settlement with Floyd's family as jury selection was underway.

   Police-procedure experts and law enforcement veterans inside and outside the 
Minneapolis department, including the chief, testified for the prosecution that 
Chauvin used excessive force and went against his training.

   Medical experts for the prosecution said Floyd died of asphyxia, or lack of 
oxygen, because his breathing was constricted by the way he was held down on 
his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him, a knee on his neck and his face 
jammed against the ground.

   Chauvin's attorney called a police use-of-force expert and a forensic 
pathologist to try to make the case that Chauvin acted reasonably against a 
struggling suspect and that Floyd died because of a heart condition and his 
illegal drug use. Floyd had high blood pressure and narrowed arteries, and 
fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.

   Under the law, police have certain leeway to use force and are judged 
according to whether their actions were "reasonable" under the circumstances.

   The defense also tried to make the case that Chauvin and the other officers 
were hindered in their duties by what they perceived as a growing, hostile 
crowd.

   Chauvin did not testify, and all that the jury or the public ever heard by 
way of an explanation from him came from a police body-camera video after an 
ambulance had taken the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Floyd away. Chauvin told a 
bystander: "We gotta control this guy 'cause he's a sizable guy ... and it 
looks like he's probably on something."

   The prosecution's case also included tearful testimony from onlookers who 
said the police kept them back when they protested what was happening.

   Eighteen-year-old Darnella Frazier, who shot the crucial video, said Chauvin 
gave the bystanders a "cold" and "heartless" stare. She and others said they 
felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt from witnessing Floyd's 
slow-motion death.

   "It's been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd 
for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life," 
she testified.

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