On Tuesday, April 20th, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degreee unintentional murder, third degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter due to his role in the death of George Floyd. Judge Peter A. Cahill presided over the events of the trial, one that Americans watched with bated breath.
The three-week murder trial included 45 witness testimonies and two sides that presented different narratives. Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, Chief Medaria Arradando of the Minneapolis Police Department, paramedics, members of the police force, and witnesses to Floyd’s arrest delivered testimonies in order for jurors to better understand the life and circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death. Not only did these testimonies provide details of the events on May 25th, 2020, but also depicted the affect that Floyd’s murder had on witnesses and family members. Video footage from Floyd’s arrest was also replayed, and after ten hours, the jury came to the conclusion that Chauvin was guilty on all three charges.
The prosecution revealed Floyd’s true cause of death –asphyxia– and called medical experts to testify and affirm their claim. Chauvin’s defense team argued that underlying heart conditions and fentanyl use was instead to blame, but witnesses called by the prosecution refuted that statement . All stated that no signs of drug overdose were evident and that Chauvin’s restraint on Floyd was fatal.
Chauvin himself invoked his fifth amendment right to not testify during the case. His decision to not speak on the stand cannot legally be framed as a reason for guilt, as stated in the fifth amendment. Testifying would have made Chauvin susceptible to cross-examination, criticism from the prosecution, and self-incrimination.
This trial was closely watched by the nation, as 18 million people tuned into broadcasts and cable networks, which means it received more attention than most other trials in past years. Chauvin’s actions on May 25, 2020 set off a national movement to seek justice for Black people in regards to fatal law enforcement interactions. Chauvin will receive his sentence in the upcoming weeks, and is potentially facing 40 years in prison.