“George Floyd mattered,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said during a press conference after the verdict was announced. “He was loved by his family and his friends … But that isn’t why he mattered. He mattered because he was a human being. And there is no way we can turn away from that reality.”
Over three weeks of testimony, prosecutors argued that Chauvin’s method of restraint had hindered George Floyd’s ability to breathe as he was pressed facedown on the street outside a convenience store called Cup Foods. A small group of bystanders ― several of them minors at the time ― took the stand to explain why they were so concerned for Floyd’s safety as they witnessed him fighting to breathe underneath Chauvin.
Throughout the trial, defense attorney Eric Nelson worked to sow reasonable doubt among jurors, trying to convince them that Floyd’s preexisting health conditions mattered more to the final outcome than Chauvin’s actions. The officers, Nelson suggested, were simply following police training and doing their best to make decisions under pressure while facing a possible threat from the small group of onlookers, several of whom were filming the incident on their phones. Nelson used the drugs in Floyd’s system and his documented heart disease to substantiate the argument.
Outside the courtroom were scenes of resistance: Protesters carrying Black Lives Matter signs and flags rallied, at one point observing 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence led by the Rev. Al Sharpton ― the amount of time it was initially reported that Chauvin had knelt on top of Floyd. (The trial subsequently revealed the restraint to have lasted nearly 10 minutes.)
“This has to end,” Ellison said Tuesday. “We need true justice. That’s not one case ― that is a social transformation that says nobody’s beneath the law and nobody’s above it. This verdict reminds us that we must make enduring systemic societal change.”
“Police departments need to be reexamining their practices,” Barbara McQuade, University of Michigan law professor and a former U.S. attorney, told HuffPost. The Chauvin case may “send a message,” she said, that police officers will “no longer get the benefit of the doubt from a jury the way maybe you did 10 or 20 years ago.”
Under Minnesota law, second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, third-degree murder carries a maximum of 25 years and second-degree manslaughter carries a maximum of 10 years. In this case, because the charges are for the same crime, it’s likely the years would be served concurrently, resulting in a potential maximum sentence for Chauvin of 40 years behind bars.
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