Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of the murder of George Floyd.
Mr Floyd was killed last May when Chauvin, a white officer, pinned his knee on the 46-year-old unarmed Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a reexamination of racism and policing in the US.
The jury took just over 10 hours to consider charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Second-degree murder, the most serious charge, carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
Chauvin, his face obscured by a medical mask, appeared expressionless as the jury returned a guilty verdict on all counts.
His bail was immediately revoked and the former police officer was led away with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Three other former Minneapolis officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Mr Floyd’s death will stand trial in August.
Legal representatives for the family of Mr Floyd described the verdict as “painfully earned justice” and said the case marked a “turning point in American history”.
‘Believe your eyes’
Mr Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit 20 dollar bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market.
He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.
The case centred around a video, filmed by a bystander, which showed Mr Floyd gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe”.
The footage showed onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Mr Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was nine-and-a-half minutes.
Mr Floyd slowly went silent and limp.
During closing arguments on Monday, prosecutors said Chauvin squeezed the life out of Mr Floyd by pinning his knee against his neck last May, ignoring bystanders, his own training and common sense.
The defence argued that the now-fired white officer acted reasonably and the 46-year-old black man died of an underlying heart condition and illegal drug use.
“Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw,” prosectuor Steve Schleicher said, referring to the video of Mr Floyd pinned to the pavement.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell had the final word, offering the state’s rebuttal argument. The prosecutor, who is black, said questions about the use of force and cause of death are “so simple that a child can understand it”.
“In fact, a child did understand it, when the nine-year-old girl said, ‘Get off of him’,” Mr Blackwell said, referring to a young witness who objected to what she saw. “That’s how simple it was. ‘Get off of him’. Common sense.”
‘Painfully earned justice’
The streets outside the courtroom filled with cheers as the verdicts were read out. The crowd chanted Mr Floyd’s name and “all three counts”.
The news came from a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest – not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.
Ben Crump, a legal representative for the family of Mr Floyd, said the verdict was “painfully earned justice”.
In a statement, he said: “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.”
At a press conference after Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict was read, Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General, has thanked the community for giving his prosecutors the opportunity to pursue the case.
“George Floyd mattered,” he said. “He was loved by his family and his friends. His death shocked the conscience of our community, our country, the whole world,” Ellison also says. “But that isn’t why he mattered. He mattered because he was a human being.”
“This has to end, we need to justice,” Ellison added.
“This verdict reminds us that we must make enduring enduring, systemic, societal change.”
Earlier on Tuesday, ahead of the verdict, President Joe Biden said he believes the Chauvin case is “overwhelming”.
He said that he had spoken to Mr Floyd’s family on Monday and “can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling”.
“They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquillity no matter what that verdict is,” Mr Biden said.
“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. I think it’s overwhelming, in my view. I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now.”
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are due to make a statement later tonight.