A United States jury on Tuesday found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of African-American man George Floyd in May, the AP reported. His sentencing will take place in eight weeks, according to CNN.
Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He could face up to 40 years in prison for the first charge, 25 for the second and 10 for the third.
Ben Crump, Floyd’s family’s lawyer, said the verdict was a turning point in history and “sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement”. He added that Floyd’s family finally got “painfully earned justice”.
One of Floyd’s younger brothers, Philonise, said at a press conference in Minneapolis that the family was able to breathe again. “Justice for George means freedom for all,” the brother said.
US President Joe Biden described Floyd’s death as “a murder in full light of day” and said it “ripped the blinders off for the whole world” to see racism, according to the AP. The president in a televised address praised the verdict but urged protestors to steer clear of violence. Floyd’s death ignited nationwide protests last year, demanding police reform to the US criminal justice system and its treatment of minorities.
“There are those who will seek to exploit the raw emotions in the moment – agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice,” Biden warned. “We can’t let them succeed.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who spoke before Biden, vowed to work with the president to urge the Senate to pass “long overdue” legislation on police accountability. “A measure of justice is not the same as equal justice,” she added. “This verdict brings us a step closer. We still have work to do. We still have to reform the system.”
Former US President Barack Obama said that while the jury did the right thing, true justice requires much more to be done. “If we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial,” he said in a statement. “True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day. While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest.”
During Chauvin’s trial, which began in March, medical experts had said that he died of a lack of oxygen.
On May 25, four police officials detained Floyd after he had allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a store in Minnesota. Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck as the others watched and did nothing to stop him, though passersby stopped to question the officers. Floyd was unarmed.
Protests grew after a widely shared video showed Chauvin kneeling for almost nine minutes on Floyd, as the African-American was seen pleading with the officials saying: “I can’t breathe”. He died on the spot.
An autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family had also found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression. The autopsy showed that the compression cut off blood to Floyd’s brain, and that the pressure of other officers’ knees on his back made it impossible for him to breathe.