Taking less than a day to return its verdict, the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial on Tuesday returned a guilty verdict on all charges. Chauvin’s racist defense painting George Floyd as a rage-induced big Black drug addict failed.
Cries and shouts of celebration erupted from supporters gathered outside of the courthouse in Minneapolis. The prosecution moved to revoke Chauvin’s bail and asked that he remain in custody until sentencing.
Chauvin was found guilty of second and third-degree murder, as well as the lesser included offense of second-degree manslaughter. A Minnesota Post explainer indicates Chauvin could face up to 40 years for second-degree murder.
CBS 4 in Minnesota reported that as the verdict was read, Floyd’s brother prayed. “I was just praying they would find him guilty,” Philonise Floyd told the CBS affiliate. “As an African American, we usually never get justice.”
As Floyd’s family celebrates and processes, the fight for justice and broader demands of police accountability continue. Ahead of the verdict, organizers held a press conference demanding the Biden administration take action on policing in a meaningful way, including abolishing the controversial 1033 program that allows state and local law enforcement agencies to purchase surplus military-grade weapons and equipment. Recorded by independent journalist Georgia Fort, the press conference also centered on calls for the passage of police accountability legislation in Minnesota.
Del Shea Perry, the mother of Hardel Sherrell and founder of Be Their Voices, called for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to come to Minnesota to learn firsthand about the need for accountability. Sherrell died in 2018 after Beltrami County Jail officials ignored his pleas and cries for help.
A recent report by Vox found that 139 officers have been arrested in police killings since 2005, with only 42 convicted of charges before Chauvin’s conviction Tuesday. That is only 1-2% of officers ever facing legal repercussions. Instead, officers were often found guilty only of lesser charges, according to the report.
A former president of the Minneapolis NAACP, civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong, reflected on the mixed feelings in the current moment, noting that Floyd’s death happened partly because Chauvin was permitted to return to duty after other instances of abuse.
“In addition to this being a moment of celebration, it should also be a sobering moment for people across the state of Minnesota, across the country, and across the world,” Armstrong told Minnesota Public Radio.
Armstrong said Tuesday’s verdict reflected the will of one jury in a single trial, representing a moment in history where an officer was found to not be above the law.
“Step by step by step, the people played a significant role in the outcome of this case; if we had sat back and waited for someone else to do it, justice would not be served,” she explained.
“This moment didn’t happen because the system works,” Armstrong continued. “This moment happened because the people put in the work. We had to demand justice and accountability. We had to demand that those officers be fired.”
Miski Noor, co-executive director of the Minnesota-based Black Visions, said in a statement that while Chauvin is going to jail, the system that allowed him to murder remains intact. Pointing to nearby Brooklyn Center, where 20-year-old Daunte Wright was recently killed by a police officer, Noor said the use of Operation Safety Net continued to brutalize community members even as this verdict was being deliberated.
“As the people of Minneapolis and greater Minnesota have been calling for justice, healing, and care, Governor Walz and Minneapolis Mayor Frey, in particular, have responded by spending millions of dollars on more police, military-style weapons, and fencing, preparing to go to war with protestors and the community,” Noor said.
“It is both individuals and institutions that bear responsibility for the loss of George’s life and the pain his family experiences, so we feel a guilty verdict is an important step for the community, and we know that Chauvin is not the exception but the rule,” Noor added. “No one conviction, training, or reform can interrupt the rotten foundation of the institution of police and policing.”