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April 22, 2021

Jury’s swift verdict declares white cop guilty in Floyd death

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April 22, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS: After three weeks of testimony, the trial of a former police officer charged with killing George Floyd ended swiftly: barely over a day of jury deliberations, then just minutes for the verdicts to be read guilty, guilty and guilty and Derek Chauvin was handcuffed and taken away to prison. Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades when he is sentenced in about two months in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the US. The verdict set off jubilation mixed with sorrow across the city and around the nation. Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some running through traffic with banners. Drivers blared their horns in celebration.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said at a joyous family news conference where tears streamed down his face as he likened Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till, except that this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.

On Wednesday, Philonise Floyd described his thoughts while watching Chauvin being handcuffed. He recalled to ABC’s “Good Morning America” how it appeared “a lot easier” on Chauvin than when his brother was handcuffed before his death, but said it still represented “accountability.” “It makes us happier knowing that his life, it mattered, and he didn’t die in vain,” he said.

The jury of six whites and six blacks or multiracial people came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. The now-fired white officer was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin’s face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom. His bail was immediately revoked. Sentencing will be in two months; the most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.

Defence Attorney Eric Nelson followed Chauvin out of the courtroom without comment. Chauvin was booked soon after the verdicts were read into Minnesota’s only maximum-security prison, Oak Park Heights, about 25 miles (40 kilometres) east of Minneapolis. He is being held in a single cell under administrative segregation for his safety, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sarah Fitzgerald said.

President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying Floyd’s death was “a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world” to see systemic racism. But he warned: “It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again.”

The jury’s decision was hailed around the country as justice by other political and civic leaders and celebrities, including former president Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and California Governor Gavin Newsom, a white man, who said on Twitter that Floyd “would still be alive if he looked like me. That must change.”

At a park next to the Minneapolis courthouse, a hush fell over a crowd of about 300 as they listened to the verdict on their cellphones. Then a great roar went up, with many people hugging, some shedding tears. At the intersection where Floyd was pinned down, a crowd chanted, “One down, three to go!” a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis officers facing trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death. AP