In May 2020 the 45 year old Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on George Floyds neck for more than nine minutes while placing him under arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.

The murder of Floyd sparked world-wide protests against racial injustice and police brutality. The trial has been one of the closest watched court cases in the US in recent years. The jury selection began on 9 March 2021 and opening statements on 29 March 2021.  The jury deliberated for approximately 10 hours before delivering their judgement.

Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges, second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of George Floyd. The second-degree murder charge being the most serious offence of the three holding a prison sentence of up to 40 years. The sentencing guidelines that follow are that the multiple sentences are to be served concurrently, meaning at the same time.

It was open to the jury to convict Chauvin with all, some, or none of the above charges with Judge Cahill indicating to the Jury that there are to be seen as “separate and distinct” offences. None of the offences required Chauvin’s intention to kill Floyd. A separate charge of intentional murder would have occurred if that was the case, this differs from Australian law which separates murder to manslaughter. For a charge of murder in Australian law the Prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to kill.

To convict Chauvin of second-degree murder the jury had to be satisfied that Chauvin unintentionally killed Floyd while committing or trying to commit another crime, being an assault in the third degree. In relation to the third-degree murder the jury had to be satisfied that Chauvin acted in an “eminently dangerous” manner with a reckless disregard of human life. Whereas the second-degree manslaughter required the jury be satisfied that Chauvin was culpably negligent in causing Floyd’s death.

Chauvin attended court in a suit, tie, and mask and exited court in handcuffs.

Chauvin is due to be sentenced in eight weeks.

Minneapolis has expected protests following the verdict, irrespective of the decision. Therefore, the government centre has been barricaded with a fence topped with concertina wire since March.

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