by Megan Kangas
May 20th, 2021

Verdict: Guilty on all 3 counts.

Photo/ Pixabay

The trial of Chauvin vs. Minnesota lasted 3 weeks where both the Prosecution and the Defense debated back and forth on multiple factors of the death of George Floyd. Considering each side’s argument, the jury of 12, who was not shown on camera, spent only 10 hours deliberating on the verdict of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The main arguments by each side were either going to determine the success of bringing Chauvin to justice or letting him walk as a free man.

For the Prosecution, their main argument was that George Floyd died from asphyxiation due to the 9 minutes and 29 seconds, previously thought as 8 minutes and 46 seconds, that Chauvin was kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. During week one, new evidence through new body camera footage came to light that changed people’s perspective of what Chauvin did to Mr. Floyd. The clerk (Christopher Martin) who was interacting with George Floyd at Cup Foods, his girlfriend Courtney Ross, and a witness at the scene named Charles McMillian were some of the witnesses that day. McMillian was adamant that the death of Mr. Floyd could have been avoided. As a key witness, he gave an emotional testimonial that provided an inside look into the lack of action taken to deescalate the events leading up to the moment that Chauvin pressed his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck. McMillian tried to help him calm down during the initial arrest and comply with the police but in a disorienting state, this was difficult to do.

In week two, Mr. Floyd’s cause of death came from multiple sources, including Dr. Andrew Baker who performed his autopsy. Baker declared his death a homicide by lack of oxygen and stated that drugs and heart disease could have been contributing conditions, but not a direct cause. A quote from Dr. Lindsey Thomas states “There’s no evidence to suggest he would have died that night, except for the interactions with law enforcement.” Week three was possibly going to be the determining factor in the potential win for the Prosecution’s side. A testimony that would help the Prosecution push their case over the edge was given by Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicology expert. Isenschmid confirmed that the blood and autopsy urine contained low levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine, meaning it was not a main contributing factor of Mr. Floyd’s death.

In terms of the Defense’s side, they were mostly repetitive in that George Floyd was an addict and that there were more contributing factors to his death than just Chauvin’s knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Chauvin’s Defense attorney Eric Nelson claimed in week one that “The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing.” When George Floyd’s girlfriend Courtney Ross was on the stand in week one, the defense tried to get her to say that drugs were a main part of the cause of his death. She asserted that they were both on the path to getting sober together before he passed away, and that he was getting help from the people around him when he moved to Minnesota. In week two, Peter Chang, a Minneapolis Park police officer who responded to the scene, testified that bystanders being "very aggressive toward the officers" was one of the reasons why Chauvin did not take his knee off of Mr. Floyd’s neck. Another Defense testimony claimed that he was suffering from “Excited Delirium” at the time of his death.

In closing arguments, Nelson claimed that a "reasonable police officer would understand this situation,” arguing that "Floyd was able to overcome the efforts of three police officers while handcuffed.” Many news sources claimed that the reason why the Defense lost the Chauvin vs. Minnesota case was due to a lack of substantial evidence, or the repetitive nature of the unsubstantial argument of the drugs in Mr. Floyd’s system at the time. The verdict came out to Chauvin being convicted of all three counts; the sentencing will be determined in late June 2021.

What this trial came down to was one success in a wave of needed accountability for officers who commit senseless acts of murder against African Americans. In fact, right before the verdict was announced by the judge, another Black child named Ma’Khia Bryant (who was just 16 years old) was murdered by an Ohio police officer for just trying to defend herself from the other foster children she was living with. This example is unfortunately only one of many that show that while this trial was a win for George Floyd’s family and a respite for other impacted families and communities, there is still much more work to be done to achieve Justice rather than simply acknowledging accountability.