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WORLD | 20-04-2021 17:33

George Floyd murder trial: ex-Policeman found guilty of murder

A jury in the United States reached a verdict on Tuesday in the high-profile trial of the white former police officer charged with murder and manslaughter for the death of African-American George Floyd.

Sacked US police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter Tuesday in the death of African-American George Floyd in a case that roiled the United States for almost a year, laying bare deep racial divisions.

A racially-diverse jury of seven women and five men in the Midwestern city of Minneapolis took less than two days at the end of a three-week trial to find the white officer guilty in unanimous decisions on all three charges he faced.

Chauvin, 45, could be handed decades behind bars for Floyd's May 25, 2020 killing, which sparked protests against racial injustice around the world and is being seen as a landmark test of police accountability.

The former police officer was charged with murder and manslaughter for Floyd's May 25, 2020 death, which sparked protests against racial injustice around the world and is being seen as a landmark test of police accountability.

The seven-woman five-man jury held four hours of deliberations on Monday evening at the end of a three-week trial and reconvened on Tuesday morning.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the announcement that a verdict had been reached, President Joe Biden called for the "right" decision in the racially charged trial.

The president stressed that he would not be speaking out if the jury had not been sequestered, meaning that it is isolated from the public until it reaches a decision.

Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes as the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man said repeatedly "I can't breathe," then died.

US cities have been bracing for possible violence, depending on the verdict, and Minneapolis is under an unprecedented security lockdown.

Biden told reporters he had spoken with the Floyd family by telephone and said "I can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they're feeling. So I waited till the jury was sequestered and I called."

"They're a good family and they're calling for peace and tranquility, no matter what that verdict is," Biden said. "I'm praying the verdict is the right verdict which is – I think it's overwhelming in my view."

National Guard deployed

Prosecutors and the defence presented closing arguments on Monday and Judge Peter Cahill sent the case to the jury.

In his final instructions to the jury, the judge noted the gravity of the case, which comes amid heightened tensions fuelled by other police killings.

"You must not let bias, prejudice, passion, sympathy or public opinion influence your decision," Cahill said. "You must not consider any consequences or penalties that might follow from your verdict."

A unanimous verdict is required for conviction on any of the charges – second-degree murder, third-degree murder or manslaughter.

Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, faces a maximum of 40 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, the most serious charge.

Three other former police officers involved in Floyd's deadly arrest – he had allegedly just tried to use a counterfeit US$20 bill in a store – are to go on trial later this year.

Amid fears of unrest, National Guard troops have been deployed in Minneapolis and Washington, the nation's capital.

Minneapolis has been the scene of nightly protests since Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot dead in a suburb of the Minnesota city on April 11 by a white policewoman.

In Washington, the National Guard said some 250 troops were being deployed "to support local law enforcement" in response to potential demonstrations.

Prosecutors, in closing arguments on Monday, showed excerpts from the harrowing bystander video of Floyd's death that was seen by millions around the world.

"This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video," prosecutor Steve Schleicher told the jury. 

"You can believe your eyes," Schleicher said. "It's exactly what you knew, it's what you felt in your gut, it's what you now know in your heart."

"This wasn't policing, this was murder," Schleicher said. "Nine minutes and 29 seconds of shocking abuse of authority."

– TIMES/AFP

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