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Thursday, May 6, 2021
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‘Stunning moment in history’

Demonstrators in New York’s Times Square on Tuesday (April 20) said “this is a stunning moment in history,” after former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in the arrest of George Floyd.

“While this is not justice because it won’t bring George Floyd back, it is the start of accountability on the part of the police,” said Eliza Orlins, a candidate for Manhattan district attorney. “And this shows a real willingness on the part of jurors in Minnesota and prosecutors to bring these types of cases. And it’s absolutely crucial in this next step towards really bringing about the transformational changes we need to see.”

A 12-member jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty of all charges including second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter after considering three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses, including bystanders, police officials and medical experts. Deliberations began on Monday (April 19) and lasted just over 10 hours.

In a confrontation captured on video, Chauvin, who is white, pushed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020, as he and three fellow officers arrested Floyd, who was accused of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a grocery store.

Chauvin had pleaded not guilty to the charges of second-degree unintentional murder involving “intentional infliction of bodily harm,” third-degree unintentional “depraved mind” murder involving an “act eminently dangerous to others,” and second-degree manslaughter involving a death caused by “culpable negligence.”

While the U.S. criminal justice system and juries have long given leeway and some legal protection to police officers who use violence to subdue civilians, the jurors in this case found that Chauvin had crossed the line and used excessive force.

Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, Chauvin faces 12-1/2 years in prison for his murder conviction as a first-time criminal offender. Prosecutors could, however, seek a longer sentence up to the maximum of 40 years if Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over the trial, determines that there were “aggravating factors.”

(Production: Roselle Chen, Andrew Hofstetter)

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