Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with the murder of George Floyd. The jurors of the historical trial reached a verdict almost a month before the anniversary of Floyd’s untimely end on May 25, 2020.
On Monday, April 19, closing remarks were left by Special Assistant Attorney General Steve Schleicher. He went on for almost two hours, followed by an additional three-hour response from defense attorney Eric Nelson.
Swinging the gavel on the case was Judge Peter Cahill; he interrupted the assembly for a 30-minute intermission. Nelson finished his statement after the break. Judge Cahill prepared instructions for the Jurors on how to take in the extended arguments.
On April 19, Schleicher left the jurors with sentiments of Floyd’s family who knew and loved him; highlighting his mother, Larcenia “Sissy” Floyd. Imagery of different ages of Floyd filled the courtroom, ending with a picture of him “face down on the pavement” with the accused officer’s knee on his neck.
“All it would have taken for Floyd to have survived that Memorial Day, was a little compassion and oxygen—two things that Chauvin deprived him of,” reported by Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.
The previously mentioned news source captured a statement from Schleicher, “Nine minutes and 29 seconds. During this time, George Floyd struggled, desperate to breathe to make enough room in his chest to breathe.”
He continued, “But the force was too much. He was trapped by the unyielding pavement underneath him, as unyielding as the men who held him down, pushing him with a knee to the neck, a knee to the back, twisting his fingers, holding his legs for nine minutes and 29 seconds.”
There was a testimony from a pulmonologist, Dr. Martin Tobin, who described the physical struggle that Floyd experienced to simply take in air. Schleicher went on to paint the scene for the jurors to deliberate on. “George Floyd tried, he pushed his bare shoulder against the pavement to lift himself to give his chest and lungs enough room … the pavement tearing into his bare skin.
“So desperate to breathe,” he continued, “that he pushed with his face to lift himself to open his chest.” Although he fought hard for his life, Floyd’s strength ultimately gave out,’ said Schleicher this, whose statement was captured by MSR news.
Schleicher protested that Floyd was a man, not superman, responding to the theory that Floyd was experiencing “excited delirium” which would lend one the ability to have “superhuman” strength.
The oath of an officer was brought up in court, Schleicher repeated Floyd’s last words, “Please, I can’t breathe.” The special attorney general continued, “to someone he did not know by name but knew by the uniform he wore and the badge he wore, and he called him ‘Mr. Officer.’ He pleaded with Mr. Officer,” said Schleicher. But that officer failed him and the oath he took to protect and serve.
The special attorney general appealed to the jurors’ beliefs and standards for law enforcement, pointing out the Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and other departments spoke out against Chauvin’s actions.
The assumption on ‘why’ Chauvin used that level of force was charged to the officer’s ego, according to Scleicher. The special attorney general broke down Chauvin’s body language and posture in court; it was about having a level of control in public view.
Bystanders on that day had to watch the last moments of Floyd’s life take place; they played a critical role in recording and highlighting this repeated transgression happening within the Black community. Through the recording of Floyd’s death, birthed a global social awakening and exposed the institutionalized racism that has affected the quality of life for Black communities.
Moving into a thorough discussion in the courthouse, the defendant’s attorney, Nelson, did not discuss the use of force his client used, or the amount of time Chauvin’s knee was pressed on Floyd’s throat. He did ask the jurors to consider the “totality” of the case.
USA Today reported a statement from Judge Cahill in regards to the judgement of the case, “It is not necessary for the State to prove that the defendant intended to inflict substantial bodily harm, or knew that his actions would inflict substantial bodily harm, only that the defendant intended to commit the assault, and George Floyd sustained substantial bodily harm.”
The jurors deliberated for 10 hours over a span of two days. On Tuesday, April 20, Officer Chauvin was found guilty of the death of George Floyd. According to USA Today, Chauvin will face a max of 40 years but the more realistic number is 12.5 years or 150 months in prison. However, the prosecution is requesting a longer sentence due to additional “aggravating factors.”
The case was a national highlight, and its verdict weighed heavily on the country’s mind. President Biden was recorded, stating the case is “overwhelming.” Earlier on Tuesday, the U.S. President stressed what Floyd’s family might be feeling in regards to the case.
The Associated Press captured the president saying, “They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is,” Biden said. “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. I think it’s overwhelming in my view. I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now.”
Other politicians and community leaders have shared their thoughts in anticipation on this trial and its verdict. In retrospect of when the murder took place, the City of Los Angeles reacted in uprisings. County and City leaders shared their thoughts on the familiar topic of police brutality found within the law enforcement branch.
Pastor J. Edgar Boyd, Sr. minister and CEO First African Methodist Episcopal Church in L.A. said, “Today, twelve courageous men and women stood tall, and took a bold step in turning the tide of justice in America.”
The senior minister continued, “Their verdict was not so much a statement on the guilt or innocence of Derek Chauvin, as it was a clear a revelation of the consciousness and of where this nation should be headed in welcoming the equitable participation of Blacks and people of color, in pursuit of the ‘American Dream.’ “
Attorney Ricky Ivie, managing Partner of The Law Offices of Ivie, McNeill, Wyatt, Purcell and Diggs stated, “I hope this verdict signals a binary shift in our social construct where justice for Black people is the rule and not the exception.”
U.S. Representative Karen Bass stated, “Today, the jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of the charges against him for the murder of George Floyd. A guilty verdict is only step one, because what we have seen in too many cases is officers walking away from guilty verdicts with minimal sentences. Chauvin must be punished to the full extent of the law to ensure that justice is served.”