Guilty: Justice for the murder of George Floyd
After 3 weeks of evidence, emotional testimony, expert witnesses and the all-important video. Derek Chauvin has been found guilty for the murder of George Floyd.
For those who haven’t been following the case, what have been the most significant moments that led to a guilty verdict and what happens next?
Emotion and Regret
As the trail was streamed live across a number of platforms most of the viewed segments of the trial were the emotional and heart-breaking testimonies from eyewitnesses.
This included Darnella who at the time of videoing the viral death of George Floyd was only 17-yearsold. Darnella told the jury that what keeps her up at night is her need to apologise "to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life".
Additional testimony from 61-year old Charles described what most people felt watching the video as he said he felt ‘helpless’ and that what he watched in person was ‘wrong’.
These testimonies filled with emotion and regret were used by the Defence to argue that Chauvin’s actions and failure to act on signs of deteriorating health, was a result of aggressive and distracting bystanders.
Battle with Opioids
"We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times,"
These were the words of George Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross, as she described their ongoing battle with opioid addiction as a result of chronic pain.
This was in line with the Defence's argument that George Floyd’s death was a result of the opioid and methamphetamine in this system at the time of his death.
Handcuffed, Face down and Continued force
Was kneeling on a man’s neck while he was face down and handcuffed in the police manual or part of police training?
Head of Minneapolis Police, Medaria Arradondo clearly stated that it was not as he said;
"that level of force" from the time George began complying is “not part of our training and it's certainly not part of our ethics or values".
The witness for the Defence who is a ‘use-of-force’ expert stated that Chauvin was justified in his actions. However, following cross-examination he accepted that law enforcers knew about positional asphyxia, which is the inability to breath in a certain position.
The True Cause of Death
There was a constant battle between the prosecution and the Defence as to what was the cause of George Floyd’s death, with both sides providing expert testimony to support their arguments.
The witness for the prosecution Dr Martin Tobin, used the viral video to explain that even "a healthy person, subjected to what Mr Floyd was subjected to, would have died,".
The Defence used an expert witness to explore the conclusion that George Floyd’s death was undetermined, due to a number of reasons such as drug use and carbon monoxide positioning from the police car.
The prosecution who have been hailed for their high-level performance during the trial, lead this expert to conclude that if George was treated appropriately as he went into cardiac arrest, his life could have been saved.
Invoking the Fifth
As we have seen in many court room scenes in movies and TV shows, invoking the Fifth Amendment Right allows a person to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination.
As Derek Chauvin invoked this right, some would assume this is an admission of guilt. However, in Griffin v. California the US Supreme Court ruled that a jury cannot infer that a person is guilty based on them pleading the fifth.
What happens next?
The Jury concluded after less than a day that Derek Chauvin was guilty on all three charges. Each charge carries a different maximum sentence and sentencing should take place two months following the verdict.
· Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
· Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
· Second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
It is in the hands of the Judge now to view all of the evidence at his disposal and the sentencing guidelines provided to determine an appropriate sentence for Derek Chauvin.
Since it was a single act the sentencing will be based on the most serious charge which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.
There is also a number of aggravating factors that Judge Peter Cahill will have to consider, that may allow him to go above and beyond the guidelines. These include;
Whether children were present at the time of the crime.
Whether Floyd was treated with "particular cruelty" by Chauvin.
If Chauvin, as a police officer, "abused his position of authority."
We also must not forget that the trial of the other three officers that where present at the scene will take place in August.
This is not the end of the fight for justice and equality, in fact it is only the beginning.
The trial of Derek Chauvin may come to be seen as a defining moment in America's collective reckoning with issues of race and justice, following the work of Activists who fought for justice following the decision that George died of ‘Natural causes’ and that no charges would be brought.