Unpack the Derek Chauvin trial.

 

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For the past month, Derek Chauvin has been on trial for the murder of George Floyd. Finally, the verdict is out.

Chauvin faced three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. To convict Chauvin, the prosecution needed to show each charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution did not need to prove that Chauvin intended to kill George Floyd to convict him of the charges.

Throughout the trial, groundbreaking developments came to light, such as confirmation that Chauvin pinned Floyd down for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, not the well-known 8 minutes and 46 seconds, and confirmation that George Floyd did not attempt to flee the scene before the incident.

Cause of Death Confirmed: The official autopsy for George Floyd declares his death a HOMICIDE, caused by cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression. Drug use and heart disease were “contributing conditions” but “not direct causes” (The New York Times 1). Dr. Martin Tobin, a medical expert testifying in the trial, confirmed, “A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died” (The New York Times 2).

While the prosecution provided significant evidence proving that George Floyd died from homicide, the defense continued to spread misinformation, blaming George and his health conditions for his death, blatantly ignoring and undermining evidence and witness/expert testimony. 

In light of the defense’s strategy to confuse and mislead the jury and the public, let’s review Fact vs. Fiction regarding the trial of Derek Chauvin:

FICTION: George Floyd died from a drug overdose.

FACT: Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who took the stand, confirmed that George Floyd could not have died from a drug overdose, telling the jury, “Mr. Floyd appeared to be breathing at a normal rate before he became unconscious… Had he been overdosing on fentanyl, his rate of breathing would have slowed” (The New York Times 2).

FICTION: If George Floyd was able to speak, he must have had enough oxygen.
FACT: Dr. Tobin clarified to the jury that while George Floyd could speak, that does not mean that he had enough oxygen. “During the arrest, a police officer told Mr. Floyd that he seemed to have enough oxygen because he was able to tell officers that he couldn’t breathe. Dr. Tobin said that a person might be taking in enough oxygen to speak, but not enough to survive. They can be alive and talking one moment, and dead just seconds later, he said” (The New York Times 2).

FICTION: George Floyd suffered from “excited delirium.”

FACT: Dr. Bill Smock, an expert witness of the prosecution and Louisville Metro Police Department surgeon, confirmed that George Floyd did not die of excited delirium, “a term used to describe someone who has become aggressive or distressed from a mental illness or drug use (The New York Times 2). Dr. Smock explained to the jury, “The term has been disproportionately applied to Black people and has been used by law enforcement to justify police brutality.” 

During the trial, numerous members of law enforcement testified against the actions of Derek Chauvin, confirming his actions were “uncalled for” and not in line with policy or training. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo even testified that Chauvin violated policy. Use-of-force expert Sgt. Jody Stiger testified that Chauvin used “deadly force” when “no force should have been used” (The New York Times 3). The willingness for active members of law enforcement to come forward and speak out against a fellow officer led some, including Minneapolis Civil Rights Attorney and former NAACP Chapter President Nekima Levy Armstrong, to believe that the “Blue Wall of Silence,” also known as the “‘no snitching’ code for cops,” collapsed during the trial (NowThis News). Others believe this to be an isolated distancing from one cop rather than a systemic shift in norms amongst law enforcement.

In Closing Arguments, the prosecution reminded the jury that George Floyd is “not on trial here,” after weeks of the defense attempting to put George and his past on trial for the scrutiny of the jury and the world (The Hill). In this, we are reminded that George Floyd, his health, and his past are, in fact, not of concern here. What is on trial is Derek Chauvin’s decision to apply deadly force to George Floyd for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

The Verdict: Derek Chauvin has officially been found guilty for the murder of George Floyd and has been convicted of all three of the charges. Chauvin’s bond has been revoked and he will remain in custody until sentencing in eight weeks. He faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.

While nothing can erase the pain that the Floyd family has incurred as a result of this tragedy, this conviction represents a major milestone in holding this system accountable.

Key Takeaways

  • Derek Chauvin was found guilty for the murder of George Floyd and was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

  • Derek Chauvin is in custody and will face sentencing in eight weeks.

  • As confirmed in the official autopsy report, George Floyd died due to cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression from HOMICIDE. Compounding factors include heart disease and drug use, meaning that neither heart disease NOR drug use caused his death.

  • The three other ex-officers responsible for the murder of George Floyd will go on trial in August 2021.

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