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Ex-cop Derek Chauvin taken away in handcuffs after being found guilty of George Floyd's murder

Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was taken away in handcuffs today, now having to await his sentencing in remand for the murder of George Floyd last year. 

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Chauvin was led out of the court in Minneapolis into custody to await sentencing. Source: Reuters

Chauvin, 45, was this morning found guilty by a jury of all charges of second and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of Floyd, who is Black. 

Chauvin's face was obscured by a Covid-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom.

His bail was immediately revoked and he was led away with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Chauvin's sentencing is scheduled for eight weeks from now, with an exact date yet to be confirmed. 

The maximum sentence for second-degree unintentional murder is imprisonment of not more than 40 years. The maximum sentence for third-degree murder is imprisonment of not more than 25 years. The maximum sentence for second-degree manslaughter is 10 years and/or $20,000.

The white former officer pinned Floyd to the pavement on May 25, 2020 for up to 9 minutes, 29 seconds.

The jury of six white members and six Black or multiracial ones finished deliberations after about 10 hours over two days.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill thanked the group of 12 today for “heavy duty jury service”. 

The jurors' identities will be kept secret and will not be released until the judge decides it is safe to do so.

Three other former Minneapolis officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death will stand trial in August.

The video of Floyd gasping that he couldn’t breathe as bystanders yelled at Chauvin to get off him triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious examination of racism and policing in the US.

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Floyd, a Black man was pinned to the ground by his neck by Chauvin, a policeman, before his death in May, 2020. Source: Reuters

Floyd, 46, died after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. 

He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.

The centerpiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Floyd gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was 9 1/2 minutes. Floyd slowly went silent and limp.

In the months that followed, numerous states and cities restricted the use of force by police, revamped disciplinary systems or subjected police departments to closer oversight.

The Hennepin County court today was ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire, and thousands of National Guard troops and law enforcement officers have been brought in ahead of the verdict. Some businesses are boarded up with plywood.

Floyd family members gathered at a Minneapolis conference room could be heard cheering from the next room as each verdict was read.

People outside the court could be heard celebrating, hugging and chanting "say his name, George Floyd". 

Police-procedure experts and law enforcement veterans inside and outside the Minneapolis department, including the chief, testified for the prosecution that Chauvin used excessive force and went against his training.

Medical experts for the prosecution said Floyd died of asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, because his breathing was constricted by the way he was held down on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him, a knee on his neck and his face jammed against the ground.

Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson called a police use-of-force expert and a forensic pathologist to help make the case that Chauvin acted reasonably against a struggling suspect and that Floyd died because of an underlying heart condition and his illegal drug use.

Floyd had high blood pressure, an enlarged heart and narrowed arteries, and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.

Under the law, police have certain leeway to use force and are judged according to whether their actions were “reasonable” under the circumstances.

The defense also tried to make the case that Chauvin and the other officers were hindered in their duties by what they perceived as a growing, hostile crowd.

Chauvin did not testify, and all that the jury or the public ever heard by way of an explanation from him came from a police body-camera video after an ambulance had taken Floyd away. 

Chauvin told a bystander: “We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy ... and it looks like he’s probably on something.”

The prosecution’s case also included tearful testimony from onlookers who said the police kept them back when they protested what was happening. 

Eighteen-year-old Darnella Frazier, who shot the crucial video, said Chauvin just gave the bystanders a “cold” and “heartless” stare.

She and others said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt from witnessing Floyd’s slow-motion death.

“It’s been nights I stayed up, apologising and apologising to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Frazier testified, while the 19-year-old cashier at the neighborhood market, Christopher Martin, lamented that “this could have been avoided” if only he had rejected the suspect $20 bill.

To make Floyd more than a crime statistic in the eyes of the jury, the prosecution called to the stand his girlfriend, who told the story of how they met and how they struggled with addiction to opioids, and his younger brother Philonise. 

He recalled how Floyd helped teach him to catch a football and made “the best banana mayonnaise sandwiches”.