On May 25th, 2020 George Floyd was killed while being detained by police for suspected use of a counterfeit $20 bill. The death of Mr. Floyd led to nationwide protests and calls for social justice and police reform. The case caught national attention for the cruel and needless murder, where Police officer Derik Chauvin kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 9 min and 29 seconds, while bystanders watched, pleading with the officer to stop. Mr. Floyd also pleaded for his life with the statement that touched millions: “I can’t breath”.
When first responders arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd had no pulse and was unable to be resuscitated. The official cause of death according to autopsy reports was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression”(Minnesota court records).
Four days after Mr. Floyd’s death, Chauvin was arrested with two counts including third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter before the sentencing increase to an additional charge of second-degree murder.
Derik Chauvin, the former police officer charged with three counts of murder for the death of Mr. Floyd, began trial “State of Minnesota Vs. Derik Chauvin” on March 8th 2021. After weeks of Jury hearings of both the prosecution and defense, deliberations on the case lasted less than 24 hours after reaching its final verdict. On April 20th, 2021 Mr. Chauvin was found guilty on all charges including Second-degree unintentional murder, Third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Prosecutors interviewed witnesses of Mr. Floyd’s death, in addition to Floyd’s family. In the weeks of testimonies, witnesses took the stand where they recounted the brutal murder. In the prosecution closing arguments “What the defendant did was not policing.” Mr. Schleicher, the prosecution attorney stated.
The defense argued that the death was not caused by the force of arrest, but rather by Floyd’s existing health conditions, as well as traces of Methamphetamine and Fentanyl, found in Mr. Floyd’s bloodstream at the time of death. Erik Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s attorney defended his client’s actions, claiming Chauvin to act as a reasonable police officer would (NPR).
Mr. Chauvin faces sentencing in 8 weeks where he could see decades behind bars. While awaiting, and during the duration of the trial, Chauvin has posted the $1 million bail which has since been revoked. Derik Chauvin is currently being held in police custody without bail and 23 hours per day in solitary confinement.
This has been a monumental trial, that has compelled some states to make changes to their police force. Whether this will cause a national change in policing is still not known.