Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all charges Tuesday in the death of George Floyd nearly a year ago.
After hearing closing arguments Monday, the 12-member jury — comprising six white people and six people who are Black or multiracial — spent about six hours discussing information from the three-week trial before coming to a decision.
Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Little reaction could be seen on his face, which was partially obscured by a COVID-19 mask. His bail was revoked, and he was led away with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Sentencing in the case will be held in two months, officials said.
Floyd was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner market last May. As Chauvin and three other officers attempted to arrest him, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes.
Bystander video of the scene was widely shared, and Floyd’s death sparked protests against racism and police brutality in many U.S. cities and in other parts of the world.
Since the trial began, crowds had gathered near the Hennepin County Government Center where the trial was held, and at the spot where Floyd died. They cheered when the verdict was announced.
Near the intersection where Floyd was pinned, Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she was grateful and relieved.
“I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete,” she told The Associated Press, adding that she was looking forward to the “next case with joy and optimism and strength.”
In a growing traffic jam, Whitney Lewis leaned out of a car window waving a Black Lives Matter flag. “Justice was served,” the Minneapolis resident told the AP. “It means George Floyd can now rest.”
Floyd’s brother Philonise told reporters he had been receiving messages from all over the world saying, “We won’t be able to breathe until you’re able to breathe.”
“Today, we are able to breathe again,” Philonise Floyd said.
A few hours after the verdict was announced, the White House said President Joe Biden had called Floyd’s family.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to the nation a short time later from the White House, and Harris urged the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“Today, we breathe a sigh of relief,” she said. “A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. … We still must reform the system.”
Biden called systemic racism in the U.S. a “stain on our nation’s soul.”
“Today’s verdict is a step forward,” but it’s all too rare, Biden said. “But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice.”
Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, objected to Biden’s comments.
“It was a verdict against one officer based on individual facts in one case,” Cornyn tweeted. “I accept the verdict. No need to slander law enforcement generally, and the vast majority of police officers that risk their lives to protect public safety.”
Senator Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, welcomed the verdict and said it is time to “help repair the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and Black and minority Americans.”
“While this outcome should give us renewed confidence in the integrity of our justice system, we know there is more work to be done to ensure the bad apples do not define all officers — the vast majority of whom put on the uniform each day with integrity and servant hearts,” Scott said in a statement.
The National Fraternal Order of Police, which has more than 350,000 members in the United States, said the justice system “worked as it should.”
“The trial was fair and due process was served. We hope and expect that all of our fellow citizens will respect the rule of law and remain peaceful tonight and in the days to come,” the group said in a statement.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, said true justice in the case “would be George Floyd, alive today, at home with his fiancé, children, and siblings.”
“We can’t bring George Floyd back, but we can & we must legislate to dismantle the systems that create the conditions for police brutality & instead secure resources for the trauma-informed, community-based solutions our people demand, deserve & require,” Pressley tweeted.
After dismissing the jury Monday, Judge Peter Cahill criticized California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters for recent remarks regarding the trial. Waters told protesters Saturday in Minnesota to “stay on the street” and to become “more active” and “more confrontational” if Chauvin is found not guilty. Cahill called her comments “abhorrent” and that and they could lead to a verdict being appealed and overturned.
“I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that’s disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function,” Cahill said.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday narrowly defeated a resolution brought by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to censure Waters.