Story at a glance
- Former police officer Derek Chauvin is facing murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd.
- The police killing of Floyd, a Black man, inspired nationwide protests against police violence against Black Americans.
- The trial will be decided by a jury.
As the trial of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin wrapped up with closing arguments, the nation braced itself for a verdict: guilty or not guilty of killing George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man who died during an arrest after Chauvin pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.
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The 12 jurors on the panel have as much time as they need to deliberate, but there is a possibility of a hung jury, which is a failure to reach at least one unanimous verdict. Chauvin is facing three charges, including second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Ahead of closing arguments, the judge instructed the jury to make the verdict according to the law as it exists, regardless of whether they agree with the law.
Second-degree murder, according to state statutes, can be an intentional murder without premeditation or an unintentional murder that occurs while intentionally committing a felony offense or inflicting bodily harm upon the victim, if the victim is protected against the perpetrator by an order. If convicted of this crime, the maximum sentence is 40 years.
Third-degree murder applies to cases of unintentional murder caused by “an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life” and carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.
Finally, second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or a fine of up to $20,000 (or both), is defined as causing the death of another by “culpable negligence,” including by shooting with the belief the victim is an animal, setting a “spring gun, pit fall, deadfall, snare, or other like dangerous weapon or device,” or neglecting a child or an animal.
As the nation awaits the verdict, protests against the same police violence that took Floyd’s life continue for other Black Americans. On the highest levels of government, CNN reported President Biden and Vice President Harris were anticipating potential fallout from the trial, especially once the verdict is delivered. And in Minneapolis, law enforcement is preparing as a funeral for Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by a police officer, is planned for Thursday at noon.
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