MINNEAPOLIS — A jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts April 20 for the death of George Floyd, after deliberating for about 10 hours over two days.
Chauvin, 44, was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His bail was revoked and he was remanded into the custody of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
Leading voices across the nation swiftly reacted to the verdict, including from the Catholic Church.
“Today’s conviction of former police officer Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd is a necessary—and welcome—step forward in America’s ongoing struggle to create a freer and more just society,” said Bishop Robert W. McElroy, from the Diocese of San Diego, in a statement. “Let us all thank God for this moment.”
In a statement on the website of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the state’s seven bishops and diocesan administrators said the trial had “reopened questions throughout Minnesota about the impact of racism in our society and culture.”
“As leaders of the Catholic dioceses of our state — pastors of multiracial, multicultural flocks from all walks of life — we acutely feel the anxieties in our communities, along with a thirst for justice and a longing for a path to a more peaceful life together as sons and daughters of God.”
As soon as it was announced mid-afternoon that the jury had reached a verdict, a crowd began forming in front of the Hennepin County Government Center, where Chauvin’s trial was held.
Floyd, 46, an African American, died May 25, 2020, while in police custody. He was arrested after a store clerk accused him of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill, and Chauvin, who is white, restrained Floyd, pinning him to the ground by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds — all of which was captured on a bystander’s video that went viral and sparked local and national protests and riots.
During the trial the prosecution called Chauvin’s actions “unnecessary, gratuitous and disproportionate.” The defense argued Floyd died because of the drugs in his system and underlying heart issues.
As the Chauvin trial progressed, Daunte Wright, another African American, was killed by a white police officer during a traffic stop April 11 in Brooklyn Center. Wright struggled with officers trying to arrest him after they learned he had an outstanding warrant.
Referring to the 2018 U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on racism, the bishops in Minnesota said it was “a sad and undeniable truth that racial prejudice and discrimination continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of millions of U.S. citizens. There is far too much evidence that prejudice has an impact in criminal justice matters, influencing not only the way individuals are treated by some police and court systems but also the rates of incarceration. Whatever the verdict may be in the Chauvin trial, the church remains committed to providing long-term leadership in eradicating structures of sin and racism in Minnesota and beyond.
“As a diverse community, the Catholic Church is committed to changing hearts and minds and to moving the conversation about race in this country beyond accusations and recriminations toward practical, nonviolent solutions to the everyday problems that are encountered in these communities. We will continue to do this through teaching the truth of human dignity, offering charity to our neighbors of every race, and advocating for those who are most vulnerable.”