Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd has ended — how did we get here?


George Floyd’s murder was one of the most prominent killings in a long string of African-American deaths at the hands of police in the US, and set off global protests over the treatment of people of colour.

The conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin marks a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement and has been met with relief from protesters assembled outside the courthouse.

It’s a movement that’s gained pace over the past year and led to thousands of rallies that have challenged the social fabric of America.

But it all started with a 911 call and a $20 bill.

Nine minutes and 29 seconds

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CCTV video of George Floyd that was shown at Derek Chauvin’s trial.

George Floyd’s path became set on collision with Derek Chauvin’s when he entered Cup Foods grocery store in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the evening of May 25, 2020.

The teenager behind the counter, Christopher Martin, described him in court as “friendly, approachable and talkative” but also noted he seemed “high”.

When he paid for a pack of cigarettes, Mr Martin saw the bill had a “blue pigment”, which led him to believe it was a fake.

He told his manager and police called within minutes, arresting Mr Floyd on suspicion of possessing a counterfeit.

A panicked struggle during the arrest ended with Mr Floyd lying stomach down on the street beside the police car.

George Floyd reacts as a police officer points a gun at him.
George Floyd responds to police after they approached his car.(

Court TV via AP, Pool


While Mr Floyd was on the ground, Chauvin knelt above him and pressed a knee to his neck.

He kept it there for nine minutes and 29 seconds, the court would later hear, not lifting it until George Floyd was dead.

As the commotion erupted, a small crowd of onlookers began watching and filming the arrest. Some pleaded with Chauvin to move his leg.

They were kept at bay by Chauvin’s fellow officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.

Mr Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe”, and begged to be let up, crying out “mama” before falling unconscious and dying.

‘I can’t breathe’

Like Eric Garner before him, George Floyd’s dying plea became a rallying cry for protesters incensed by what they saw as manifestly excessive force and reckless disregard for the safety of a black man.

The four officers involved were fired rapidly, a move publicly supported by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

People standing in a park at night time hold up signs that say "Justice for George Floyd" and "Black Lives Matter"
Protests quickly spread across the US.(

AP: Evan Vucci


But neither the sacking, the announcement of an FBI investigation, or the charging of Chauvin and his fellow officers quelled the public rage that had been brewing for years over racism in America. 

As some Black Lives Matter protests turned violent, US President Donald Trump tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, threatening to send in troops to dampen the unrest. 

The protest movement quickly spread across the world, with rallies held from Atlanta to Sydney to downtown Washington DC.

A protester carries an upside down US flag as they walk past a burning building on an empty street.
At the height of the protests, the National Guard was deployed to quell the unrest.(

AP: Julio Cortez


While research from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project has found 94 per cent of the rallies in the US were peaceful, some devolved into riots.

Curfews were imposed in some US cities and national guardsmen were deployed to the streets to counter rioting.

In the weeks following George Floyd’s death, several people died in the unrest, many of them African-American.

The trial

During Chauvin’s trial, the jury had the option of finding him guilty of murder in the second degree, guilty of murder in the third degree, guilty of manslaughter or not guilty.

When jurors were addressed by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell at the opening of Chauvin’s trial, they were told he “betrayed his badge” when he forcibly pinned George Floyd to the pavement.

Their case centred on the claim Mr Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen while being pinned down in an unreasonable manner by Chauvin.

But throughout the trial, Chauvin’s lawyers pointed to other potential factors in Mr Floyd’s death, including his drug use and underlying heart disease.

The defence team also suggested Chauvin used reasonable force, as Mr Floyd’s large build and agitated state required that he be forcibly kept under control. 

At the start of the trial, it was not clear whether Chauvin himself would take the stand to explain his actions, but ultimately he invoked his constitutional rights and elected not to give evidence.

After the jury had been directed to retire and consider their verdict, the defence moved for a mistrial, arguing comments by politicians including black congresswoman Maxine Waters had prejudiced the jury.

Outside the court, at a waiting protest, Ms Waters had told those gathered she wanted to see a guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial.

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Play Video. Duration: 2 minutes 28 seconds

Derek Chauvin found guilty of murder of George Floyd

She said if that did not happen, “we gotta stay on the street, we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational, we’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business”.

While Judge Peter Cahill denied the request, he blasted the comments and noted they could lead to a successful appeal.

After deliberating for about 10 hours, the jury came back with their verdict: Guilty on all three charges — the most damning verdict they could reach. 

What now?

The jury’s decision puts the blame for George Floyd’s death squarely at Chauvin’s feet, but it remains to be seen how much justice protesters and communities of colour find in it.

Chauvin is expected to be sentenced for the murder in about eight weeks’ time, and the most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.

A woman raises her arm in celebration while walking through Times Square in New York
The verdict was met with relief from protesters around the US.(

AP: Seth Wenig


Outside the court, the verdict was met with cheers from assembled protesters, who have not just been gathering to remember George Floyd.

Minnesota remains a community on edge after the death of another black man at the hands of police: Daunte Wright.

Mr Wright, 20, was shot dead outside Minneapolis by senior officer Kim Potter, who said she accidentally drew her handgun instead of a taser and fired it after a struggle during a traffic stop.

Protests and vigils have been held for days after Mr Wright’s shooting, and the message from veteran civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton was clear.

“The war and the fight is not over,” he said.

“Just two days from now, we’re going to have to deal with the funeral of Daunte Wright in this same county, the same area.

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