Following the arrest and murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man from Minneapolis, nationwide protests and international anger ensued starting May 25, 2020. Floyd was arrested for using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes from a convenience store. After his arrest, he was brutally killed when an officer, identified as Derek Chauvin, placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd’s brutal death sparked police accountability and brutality protests across the country and revived the Black Lives Matter movement.
Eleven months after his death, many would say justice was finally served with former police officer Chauvin being convicted for murder. “This is a victory for those who champion humanity over inhumanity, those who champion justice over injustice, those who champion morals over immorality,” George Floyd’s family attorney Ben Crump said in a press conference on Tuesday, after the jury reached their guilty verdict decision for Chauvin’s trial, according to CNN.
After deliberating for 10 hours over two days, the jurors came to their decision of convicting Chauvin of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
“I was just praying they would find him guilty,” Philonise Floyd, Floyd’s younger brother, told CNN. “As an African American, we usually never get justice.”
Although Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend about 12.5 years in prison for each murder charge, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder and up to 25 years for third-degree murder per CNN. For the manslaughter charge, Minnesota guidelines recommend four years. Though, Chauvin can serve up to 10 years for manslaughter. Judge Peter Cahill, the judge in the trial, revoked Chauvin’s bail and noted that Chauvin will be sentenced in eight weeks.
According to NPR, while the defense attorney Eric Nelson argued during the case that Chauvin followed his training and questioned whether Floyd’s heart condition and drugs in his system played a role in his death, the prosecution argued that Chauvin’s restraint amounted to unreasonable, excessive force and that Floyd died of a resulting lack of oxygen due to Chauvin kneeling on him for more than nine minutes.
In the three weeks that the trial lasted, the jury was presented medical expert statements, testimonies from dozens of witnesses, as well as video footage, to help with their verdict.
The trial for the three other former police officers on the scene during Floyd’s arrest is set to begin this summer.
Although April 20 was the day justice prevailed for the wrongful death of Floyd, demanding police accountability remains an active cause. Per a statement by NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson on the NAACP website: “While justice landed Derek Chauvin behind bars for murdering George Floyd, no amount of justice will bring Gianna’s father back. The same way a reasonable police officer would never suffocate an unarmed man to death, a reasonable justice system would recognize its roots in white supremacy and end qualified immunity. Police are here to protect, not lynch. We will not rest until all in our community have the right to breathe.”