Chauvin Is Taken Into Custody To Wait For Sentencing
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Derek Chauvin is in a jail cell this morning after being found guilty of murder and manslaughter. In reaction yesterday, George Floyd Square in Minneapolis sounded like this.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: George Floyd.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: George Floyd, you changed the world.
MARTIN: It's the first time a white police officer has been found guilty of murder in the state. Minnesota's attorney general, Keith Ellison, put together the prosecution team. Here's what he said about the jury's decision.
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KEITH ELLISON: That long, hard, painstaking work has culminated today. I would not call today's verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability.
MARTIN: In the name of accountability, the U.S. Department of Justice this morning announced that it is opening an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, specifically whether the department uses excessive force or engages in abusive practices. With us now, NPR's Adrian Florido and Leila Fadel. Good morning to you both.
ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: Adrian, I want to start with you. After the verdict came down, Derek Chauvin was handcuffed, taken into custody. What happened inside the courthouse?
FLORIDO: Well, as Judge Peter Cahill read the guilty verdict, Derek Chauvin, sitting next to his attorney, showed no real emotion that we could discern behind his face mask. And in contrast to that, George Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, who was sitting a few feet away, wept openly. After the verdict was read, prosecutors asked the judge to revoke Chauvin's bail. The judge did that. And then a sheriff came over, handcuffed Chauvin, walked him out of the courtroom in handcuffs. It was really a striking scene. And Chauvin will be back for sentencing in eight weeks, the judge said.
MARTIN: What kind of prison time is he facing?
FLORIDO: Well, on the murder charges, up to 40 years for second-degree murder, although the recommended guidelines would place that closer to about 12 years for someone like Chauvin who has no previous convictions. The manslaughter charge carries a roughly four-year recommended sentence. The judge can diverge from those guidelines. And prosecutors have said they plan to seek a longer sentence. If they're able to convince the judge, Chauvin, who's 45, could spend decades in prison.
MARTIN: And Leila, what was it like outside the courthouse when the verdict came down?
FADEL: So people were all staring at their phones waiting for the verdict. And then you started to hear people tell each other guilty, he's guilty, it's all three - and then just this massive cheer. And it felt like there was this moment of just a collective release. People wept. They held each other. And for weeks, this has been a city on edge. In downtown, the buildings are boarded up. The courthouse is a fortress. There are National Guard on the streets. But after the verdict, that tension disappeared and the crowd erupted into this chant.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) All three counts. All three counts. All three counts.
FADEL: And as the day went on, people drove through the streets outside the courthouse honking in celebration, really. I met Whitney Lewis (ph) leaning out of her car window flying a flag with the words Black Lives Matter.
WHITNEY LEWIS: I have four boys. And I'm scared every day because you don't know what's going to happen. But today, I see hope because now justice has been served for one man. There's still tons of names. There's still tons of justice that needs to be had. But today was a start. And I am blessed to witness this day and to hold my flag. And I am proud to be Black today.
MARTIN: Adrian, you were there when the Floyd family spoke after the verdict. What did they say?
FLORIDO: Well, when the Floyd family spoke, about an hour after the verdict, we learned that just like Floyd's brother inside that courtroom, the entire family wept when they heard that guilty verdict read. Since Floyd's death, his brother Philonise has emerged as the most vocal member of his family. And yesterday, he said that he could finally breathe again. But he also said this.
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PHILONISE FLOYD: We have to always understand that we have to march. We will have to do this for life because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: That's right.
FLOYD: I'm going to put up a fight every day...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Every day.
FLOYD: ...Because I'm not just fighting for George anymore. I'm fighting for everybody around this world.
FLORIDO: So, you know, he understood that this guilty verdict was a tempered victory.
MARTIN: Leila, you heard a lot of people say this is just the beginning. What are the bigger implications of this verdict?
FADEL: So most people I spoke to talked about this being a moment the justice system worked to hold an officer accountable for killing a Black person but a rare moment. I met Jessica Larson (ph) outside the courthouse. And she said Chauvin's convictions are a beginning.
JESSICA LARSON: We have weak deadly force legislation. We have a lack of accountability for police officers all over this country. We have a doctrine, a legal doctrine, that literally protects police officers when they shoot before thinking, which is qualified immunity. And so, really, I'm just hoping that this will be a step forward.
MARTIN: Leila, have you heard people talking about the influence of all the civil unrest last summer? I mean, the protests, the rioting, do you think - are people there talking about the effect it may have had on the verdict?
FADEL: Yeah, you know, a lot of people I spoke to said that they really didn't think that they would see these - they would have seen these charges against a now-former police officer if there hadn't been those mass protests, the unrest we saw last year, parts of the city literally burned. And they also asked why, why it took a horrific video of a man losing his life on camera for nine minutes and 29 seconds to get convictions like the one we saw yesterday. So they want systemic change.
MARTIN: You've both been covering this trial since the start. What sticks with you, Adrian?
FLORIDO: We'll never forget the marches that demanded justice and systemic change as a result of Floyd's death. This verdict may not change a thing about how police officers treat Black people in our country. But we saw in the jubilation yesterday that this conviction was something a lot of people needed.
FADEL: I think every day of the testimony, another person had been killed outside the courtroom by police in this country.
MARTIN: NPR's Leila Fadel and Adrian Florido, thank you very much.
FLORIDO: Thanks, Rachel.
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