Derek Chauvin trial: The witnesses that made America weep
Five big moments from Derek Chauvin’s trial
Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder after kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes until he died, in a landmark trial heralded as a turning point for police accountability in the US.
The former officer was on trial for second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder.
Mr Chauvin showed little emotion as the verdict was read out in the courtroom in downtown Minneapolis. His sentence will be determined in eight weeks.
A member of the Floyd family, younger brother Philonise was in court as the verdict was handed down.
It followed just 11 hours of deliberations from an ethnically diverse panel of jurors who ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s.
Footage of Mr Floyd’s death led to a resurgence in the “Black Lives Matter” movement, with protesters across the nation demanding for more accountability for police killings.
Watch the verdict being read out in the video player at the top of this blog.
Reaction on the streets
These are just some of the emotional images from outside the courthouse.
Outside Cup Foods store, the site where Mr Floyd was killed, people threw $20 and other denomination bills, in reference to the counterfeit money Mr Floyd had been arrested for trying to use.
Floyd family lawyer speaks
Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer said:
“GUILTY! Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd’s family.
“This verdict is a turning point in history and sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement.
“Justice for Black America is justice for all of America!
“It does not end here. We still have work to do!
“We must pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to hold police accountable and prevent unjustified killings of marginalised people of colour.”
Reaction to the verdict
US President Joe Biden said he was “praying for the right verdict” earlier today.
Now that Mr Chauvin has been led away in handcuffs, other prominent figures have expressed their relief that he was found guilty of all charges.
Update your settings here to see it.
Bernie Sanders said: “The jury’s verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person.
“The trauma and tragedy of George Floyd’s murder must never leave us. It was a manifestation of a system that callously devalues the lives of Black people.
“Our struggle now is about justice—not justice on paper, but real justice in which all Americans live their lives free of oppression. We must boldly root out the cancer of systemic racism and police violence against people of colour.”
In the UK, Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Justice.”
What this means
The conviction marks a significant moment for the US, where officers are rarely convicted of on-duty killings.
Minnesota has only ever convicted one police officer of muder for an on-duty incident – Mohamed Noor, a black officer who fatally shot a white woman, Justine Damond, in 2017.
The verdict triggered an outpouring of emotion on the streets of Minneapolis, where protesters have gathered for days on end to demand sweeping reforms to policing.
Speaking ahead of the verdict, Michelle Gross, from the non-profit Communities United Against Police Brutality, said: “We’ll never be able to actually achieve full justice in this case, but what will give some measure of justice is for him to [be sentenced] to the fullest extent of the law”.
Ms Gross said a coalition of social justice groups would next turn their attention to the trial of the three other officers involved in Mr Floyd’s arrest, who are scheduled to go on trial in the summer.
The intensive three-week trial was one of the most closely-watched in US history, with the proceedings broadcast live by cable networks to millions of Americans each day.
Cheers in Minneapolis
The streets outside the courtroom filled with cheers as the verdicts were read out.
Sentencing in eight weeks
Derek Chauvin, guilty of all three counts, has had his bail revoked, will be remanded in custody and will be sentenced in eight weeks.
Chauvin has been placed in handcuffs and taken out of the courtroom.
Mr Chauvin is found guilty on all counts
Second degree unintentional murder – guilty
Third degree murder – guilty
Second degree manslaughter – guilty
The judge is in the courtroom
Judge Peter Cahill is in court, as is Derek Chauvin.
The jury is entering.
Verdict expected on the hour
The Washington Post is reporting that a verdict will be read out at 10pm GMT.
That’s 4pm in Minneapolis.
A reminder that you can watch it live in the video player at the top of this blog.
When would Chauvin be sentenced?
If Mr Chauvin is found guilty, he will not be sentenced today.
A pre-sentencing investigation will assess Mr Chauvin’s background and character before making recommendations for his sentence.
Given his clean record, he is unlikely to be handed the maximum possible sentence. However, the prosecution has indicated it will seek a more severe sentence than the guidelines recommend, known as an aggravated sentence.
One possible argument for an aggravated sentence is when a crime is committed in front of a child. It is likely that prosecutors had this in mind when they called a nine-year-old girl who witnessed Mr Floyd’s death to the stand. The nine-year-old was referenced again in the prosecution’s final words to the jury.
Typically a jury must make a finding that there were aggravating factors in order for a judge to grant an aggravated sentence, but Mr Chauvin waived his right to a jury decision on the matter on the final day of the trial. Instead, it will be up to Judge Peter Cahill to decide.
‘A guilty verdict will mean change’
Mr Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross was on the streets of Minneapolis as the city prepared for the verdict to come in, Rozina Sabur reports.
“This isn’t a time to separate. This isn’t a time to blame or hurt each other. I know this verdict is coming back guilty, and when it does I hope that his heart will really come through in everybody,” she told CNN.
“A guilty verdict will mean change. It’s a first step in a long road to recovery. This is a sacred, sacred land… Floyd was attached to this city, was attached to the lakes.”
Ms Ross told the court about Mr Floyd’s devotion to his family as well as his struggle with an addiction to prescription painkillers during emotive testimony.
Hundreds descended on the streets around the courthouse last night, preparing barbecues for a long night in anticipation of a guilty verdict.
How Minneapolis is preparing for trial verdict
The Telegraph’s Rozina Sabur has been in Minneapolis throughout the trial and is there now for the verdict.
This video shows how the city has been preparing for the result.
Joe Biden postpones speech
Joe Biden was due to be giving a speech about now on his proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan, Nick Allen in Washington reports.
He has postponed the speech which was due to take place at a factory in South Carolina.
The White House said: “Because of the announcement that a verdict will soon be announced in the Chauvin trial, the president’s remarks have been rescheduled.”
State of Emergency declared in Portland
The mayor of Portland, Oregon has declared a state of emergency ahead of the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Update your settings here to see it.
What to expect
Friends and family of George Floyd have been speaking to CNN, saying they are optimistic that a quick deliberation – just 11 hours – is a positive sign that there may be a unanimous guilty verdict on all three counts.
But caution has been urged. OJ Simpson was acquitted after a four hour jury deliberation following an 11-month trial.
George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012, was acquitted after 16 hours of deliberations in another highly controversial case.
America braces for verdict
Police and the National Guard have been deployed in Minneapolis, Washington DC and elsewhere ahead of this verdict.
Last May, violence spiralled across America over the death of George Floyd after a video showed him gasping for breath as Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground.
Within a week, protests in Minneapolis had spread to Chicago, New York, Denver, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Florida, New Mexico, Texas and California.
Now, there are fears that there could be more, serious unrest if Mr Chauvin is acquitted.
In anticipation of potential violence, most of the businesses surrounding the courthouse have boarded up their doors and windows. Armed National Guard troops flank street corners at night.
The tensions between protesters and law enforcement have already spilled into clashes just 10 miles away in Brooklyn Center, where another black man was killed by a white officer just last week.
Hundreds of protesters have gathered for consecutive nights outside the police department’s headquarters, furious that officers have not altered their behaviour despite the national spotlight on Mr Chauvin’s trial.
White House does damage control on Biden comments
Nick Allen in Washington reports: The White House sought to downplay Joe Biden’s extraordinary intervention.
Earlier, Mr Biden said he was praying for the “right verdict” and that the evidence was “overwhelming”.
At a briefing straight after Mr Biden spoke, his press secretary Jen Psaki said the president was “certainly not looking to influence” proceedings.
She said: “I don’t think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict.
“As he also noted the jury is sequestered, which is why he spoke to this.
“But I would expect he will weigh in more further once there is a verdict and I’m not going to provide additional analysis on what he meant.”
She added: “We’re not going to get ahead of an outcome. I expect when there is a verdict he will have more to say.”
Chauvin in the court building
Derek Chauvin has arrived at the Hennepin County Government Centre with his attorney Eric Nelson, according to a pool report.
George Floyd’s brother Philonise will be in the courtroom when the verdict is annonced.
Who is the judge?
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill has a reputation as a bold, no-nonsense but fair judge. He worked as a prosecutor for 10 years and became a judge in 2007. He previously served as top advisor to the county’s top prosecutor, Amy Klobuchar, who is now a Democratic senator in Congress.
Judge Cahill is known for being decisive, and he held firm on his decision to allow TV cameras into the trial – a first in the state of Minnesota – over the prosecution’s objections.
He also denied the defence’s attempt to delay or move the trial out of Minneapolis, after the city reached a $27 million settlement with Mr Floyd’s family.
“I do not think that that would give the defendant any kind of a fair trial beyond what we are doing here today. I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case,” he told the defence.
On Monday, he said that there may be grounds for Mr Chauvin to appeal the verdict after California congresswoman Maxine Waters said protesters should “get more confrontational” if Mr Chauvin was acquitted.
Judge Cahill called Ms Waters’s comments “abhorrent” as he exhorted elected officials to stop disrespecting “the rule of law”.
Who is on the jury?
More than 70 potential jurors were screened and questioned extensively on their views on police, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The selection process was complicated by the intensive pre-trial publicity surrounding the case and all but one of the jurors said they had seen at least some of the arrest video.
Some prospective jurors were excused after saying they feared for their safety if they were involved in the trial. Others were excused after telling the judge they could not be fair or impartial.
The identities of the jurors will not be revealed until after the trial but some details are known.
They range in age from their 20s to their 60s and include a chemist, a banker and a nurse. Two are immigrants to the United States.
The panel is much more diverse than the average jury in the city and is made up of four white women, two white men, three black men, one black woman and two mixed race women.
Get up to speed
The Telegraph’s Rozina Sabur is in Minneapolis ahead of the verdict, expected within the hour.
In the meantime, get up to speed with everything you need to know about the trial and its fallout with these stories:
Eyes of the world on ‘unusually diverse’ jury ahead of verdict
How the charges against Derek Chauvin hold the key to unrest in America
Five big moments the jury are now considering at Derek Chauvin’s trial
What are the charges?
Derek Chauvin is facing three charges:
Second-degree unintentional murder
Prosecutors must prove Mr Chauvin caused Mr Floyd’s death while committing a crime – in this case, assault. Jurors were told to “cause” a person’s death means to be a “substantial causal factor” in the incident. They must consider whether Mr Chauvin used excessive force and assaulted the 46-year-old while kneeling on his neck. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Prosecutors must prove Mr Chauvin’s actions were “eminently dangerous” and evinced a “depraved mind”, with no regard for human life. Legal experts have noted that defining a “depraved mind” is complex. Third-degree murder is typically used to describe the deaths of more than one person, for instance drug dealers who unintentionally caused the deaths of their customers. However another Minneapolis police officer was convicted of the charge in 2019, and upheld on a recent appeal, setting a precedent that allowed prosecutors to bring the charge in this case. It carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. However, given Mr Chauvin’s clean record, he would be more likely to receive 12.5 years if convicted of either murder charge.
The least serious of the three charges, this count requires jurors to believe that Mr Chauvin caused Mr Floyd’s death through negligence. The police officer must have consciously taken the chance of causing severe injury or death to be found guilty. It carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Joe Biden ‘praying for right verdict’
Joe Biden has appeared to call for a guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin over the killing of George Floyd, weighing in on a highly sensitive case that has America on edge.
Mr Biden, in an unusually direct intervention by a sitting president in a criminal case, said he was making a public statement now as the jurors had been sequestered and were unable to hear his comments.
“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is… I think (the evidence) is overwhelming in my view,” he told reporters.
He said that he called Mr Floyd’s family on Monday and said he “can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling.”