US ex-cop Derek Chauvin convicted of George Floyd’s murder  

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According to media reports, Chauvin will face up to 40 years in prison

WASHINGTON, April 21 (PTI): A US grand jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges he faced over the custodial death of African-American George Floyd last year, a chilling incident that sparked worldwide protests against racism and excessive use of force by police. The 12 jurors found Chauvin, 45, guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in one of the most closely watched cases in recent memory in the US.

Chauvin was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck during his arrest on May 25 after a convenience store clerk in Minneapolis alleged that Floyd tried to pass a counterfeit USD 20 bill. Chauvin pinned down Floyd, 46, with his knee on the pavement of a south Minneapolis intersection for more than nine minutes. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” were his last words. Chauvin pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He faces up to 40 years in prison, according to US media reports.

With only his eyes visible as the rest of his face was hidden behind a surgical mask, Chauvin watched as the verdict was announced. A deputy handcuffed Chauvin and escorted him to a side room. He was later transferred to the Minnesota Correctional Facility. Judge Peter Cahill said sentencing is expected in eight weeks. The City of Minneapolis last month settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Floyd’s family for USD 27 million. The verdict prompted celebratory scenes outside the court and in Floyd’s home town, where several hundred people cheered as it was announced.

The Floyd family’s lawyer, Ben Crump and George Floyd’s family released a statement following the conviction of Chauvin, saying the verdict goes far beyond this city and has significant implications for the country and even the world. “Justice for Black America is justice for all of America. This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message we hope is heard clearly in every city and every state,” the statement said. The statement also demanded that the other three officers who played their own roles in the death of Floyd must still be held accountable for their actions.

President Joe Biden said it was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism in the country. “The systemic racism is a stain on our nation’s soul. The knee on the neck of justice for black Americans. Profound fear and trauma. The pain, the exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every single day,” Biden said.

The verdict giving justice, he said is not enough. We can’t stop here. In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that a tragedy like this will ever happen to occur again, to ensure the black and brown people or anyone so they don’t fear the interactions with law enforcement, that they don’t have to wake up knowing that they can lose their very life in the course of just living their life, he said.

In an address to the nation soon after the verdict, vice president Kamala Harris said black Americans and black men in particular have been treated throughout the course of history as less than human. “Today we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain. A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer and the fact is we still have work to do,” she said. Harris urged lawmakers to pass the George Floyd bill aimed at reforming policing in the US. “This bill is part of George Floyd’s legacy. This work is long overdue,” she said.

Observing that America has a long history of systemic racism, Harris said: “Black men are fathers and brothers and sons and uncles and grandfathers and friends and neighbours. Their lives must be valued in our education system, in our healthcare system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system, in our nation.” Biden and Harris also spoke with the family of Floyd. “I assured them we’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so we can – I can sign it into law as quickly as possible. There’s more to do. Finally, it’s the work we do every day to change hearts and minds as well as laws and policies. That’s the work we have to do. Only then will full justice and full equality be delivered to all Americans,” he said.

Former US President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle said in a joint statement that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial. “Today, a jury in Minneapolis did the right thing. For almost a year, George Floyd’s death under the knee of a police officer has reverberated around the world inspiring murals and marches, sparking conversations in living rooms and new legislation. But a more basic question has always remained: would justice be done?” they said.

“In this case, at least, we have our answer. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial,” the Obamas said.

US attorney general Merrick Garland said the jury in the state trial of Chauvin has fulfilled its civic duty and rendered a verdict convicting him on all counts. The widely watched video footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during his arrest sparked worldwide protests against racism and excessive use of force by police.

 

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