Justice – Justice at last! – Guilty Verdict Reached in Chauvin Trial (April 20, 2021)

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of murdering George Floyd, an African-American man, on May 25, 2020. Chauvin has been found guilty of all three charges brought by Minnesota prosecutors: unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The sentences carry a potential maximum sentence of, respectively, 40 years (second-degree murder), 25 years (third-degree murder), and 10 years (second-degree manslaughter). However, Chauvin’s presumptive sentence has been reported at 12.5 years total, with sentencing scheduled for two months from now.

Chauvin killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes, ignoring Floyd’s obvious state of distress and repeated pleas that he could not breathe. The conviction of Chauvin – one of four officers who arrested Floyd for alleged use of a counterfeit $20 bill – represents a watershed moment for police accountability and accountability for anti-Black violence in North America. At trial, several expert medical witnesses testified that Floyd’s cause of death was positional asphyxia. The official cause of death reported by the Coroner’s Office was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Chauvin’s trial has been closely watched from all over the world, with peaceful demonstrations calling for #JusticeForFloyd springing up everywhere, including the streets of Toronto. As Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump commented following the verdict:
Painfully earned justice has arrived for George Floyd’s family and the community here in Minneapolis, but today’s 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.

Like many others, Falconers LLP has been closely following the Chauvin trial, along with the broader Black Lives Matter movement. We have followed with sadness the deaths of the many other racialized victims of police violence in the United States, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and most recently Daunte Wright. Sadly, we recognize that this pattern of systemic discrimination is not limited to the United States, and Falconers LLP has long been at the forefront of police accountability efforts here in Canada.

Through our work, we have been honoured to represent the victims and families of victims of police violence and negligence, including Dafonte Miller and the families of Stacey DeBungee, Lester Donaldson, Edmond Yu, Manish Odhavji, and Sammy Yatim – all racialized persons who were killed during interactions with police. Falconers also represented the family of Junior Manon, a young Black man who, like Floyd, died from positional asphyxia while being restrained by two Toronto Police officers.

While much work remains to be done, the Chauvin verdict is an important reminder that nobody is above the law. Rest in Power, Mr. Floyd.

For more on the Chauvin verdict, see the CBC here:

For more on the 2010 Death of Junior Manon, including the Jury Verdict and Recommendations on Positional Asphyxia, read here:

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