Minneapolis, MN – A Hennepin County jury on Tuesday afternoon found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts less than 24 hours after attorneys gave closing statements.
The jury began deliberations on Monday evening and notified the judge that they had reached a verdict early on Tuesday afternoon.
The jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill revoked his bail and remanded Chauvin to the custody of the court.
Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, had argued that Floyd’s death could have been the result of an overdose or a number of other complicating health factors but maintained it was not the fault of the officers who were arresting him.
Defense expert witnesses testified that Chauvin used the appropriate amount of force for the situation and followed generally accepted police procedures.
But the jury must have put more stock into the testimony of expert prosecution witnesses and Chauvin’s own supervisors at the Minneapolis Police Department who said his use of force was unwarranted and over-the-top.
The officers had responded to a call about a counterfeit $20 that Floyd had allegedly used to make a purchase at a deli on May 25, 2020.
Store employees pointed out the suspect to police and they arrested him.
The complaint used to charge Chauvin said Floyd actively resisted arrest and then fought being put in the back of a police car once he had been handcuffed.
Viral cell phone video showed then-Officer Chauvin and three other officers holding Floyd on the ground.
The video showed Officer Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, during which time the suspect lost consciousness.
Chauvin remained on Floyd’s neck for almost three minutes after he was unresponsive.
The jury was shown the cell phone video and multiple bodycam videos, as well as surveillance videos from poles and nearby businesses, of Floyd’s arrest ad nauseam throughout the trial.
Chauvin’s attorneys are expected to appeal the verdict quickly and argue, among other things, that the environment surrounding the trial made it impossible to have a fair, impartial, unprejudiced jury in Hennepin County because they had not been sequestered during the very public trial.
After the jury left the courtroom to begin deliberations on April 19, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that U.S. Representative Maxine Waters’ call for a verdict of “guilty guilty guilty” could have prejudiced the jury and therefore merited a mistrial.
The judge warned Monday that an appeals court might find it constituted grounds for a mistrial and result in the entire verdict being overturned.
Nelson raised concerns that Cahill’s instructions to avoid news weren’t strong enough and were impossible for the jurors to follow given the “sum total of this trial happening in such a public context.”
He pointed out that even the most popular police television shows had covered Chauvin’s trial in recent days.
The defense attorney told the judge that one of the defense’s expert witness’ former home was targeted and vandalized on April 17 after he testified on behalf of Chauvin.
“We have U.S. representatives threatening acts of violence in relation to this specific case. It’s mind-boggling to me judge,” Nelson told the judge.
“Well, I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” the judge said.
But then he denied the defense attorney’s motion for a mistrial and said “a congresswoman’s opinion doesn’t really matter a whole lot.”
“This goes back to what I’ve been saying since the beginning,” Cahill told the attorneys. “I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function.”
“I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so… in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution and to respect a co-equal branch of government. Their failure to do so is abhorrent,” the judge ranted, showing the most emotion he has ever displayed during the trial.
Protesters have been gathered outside the Hennepin County courthouse and city buildings since jury selection began in early March.
Rioting in Minneapolis and nearby Brooklyn Center in response to an officer-involved shooting by a veteran cop who thought she was deploying her Taser has heightened tensions surrounding Chauvin’s trial in the same county.
The Minnesota National Guard and law enforcement officers from other states were deployed to the Minneapolis area to assist local law enforcement before the verdict was handed down.