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Chauvin convicted of murder in Floyd case

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murdering George Floyd, a milestone in the fraught racial history of the United States and a rebuke of law enforcement's treatment of black Americans.

A jury on Tuesday found Chauvin, 45, guilty of all three charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter after considering three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses, including bystanders, police officials and medical experts. Deliberations began on Monday and lasted more than 10 hours.

In a confrontation captured on video, Chauvin, a white veteran of the police force, pushed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020. Chauvin and three fellow officers were attempting to arrest Floyd, who was accused of using a fake $US20 bill to buy cigarettes at a grocery store.

Chauvin, wearing a grey suit and a face mask, nodded and stood quickly when the judge revoked his bail and ordered him into custody.

The conviction triggered a wave of relief and reflection across the United States and around the world.

"It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism," President Joe Biden said in televised remarks. "This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America."

Outside the courthouse, a crowd of several hundred people erupted in cheers when the verdict was announced - a scene that unfolded in cities across the country. Car horns honked, demonstrators blocked traffic and chanted: "George Floyd" and "All three counts".

Protesters also called for justice in the case of Daunte Wright, a black man who was fatally shot by a Minneapolis officer after a traffic stop on April 11. Kimberly Potter, who has turned in her badge, was charged with manslaughter.

George Floyd's brother Philonise, speaking at a news conference with family members, said: "We are able to breathe again" after the verdict, but he added the fight for justice was not over.

Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison and his defence team is likely to appeal the conviction. It argued Chauvin behaved as any "reasonable police officer" would have, and sought to raise doubts about the cause of Floyd's death.

In his comments, Biden emphasised his support for legislation "to root out unconstitutional policing", including the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act", which has been passed by the US House of Representatives and seeks to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct.

The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis said "there are no winners in this case and we respect the jury's decision", adding: "We need to stop the divisive comments, and we all need to do better to create a Minneapolis we all love."

The intersection of race and law enforcement has long been contentious in the United States, underscored by a series of deadly incidents involving white police officers and black people in recent years.

Floyd's death prompted protests against racism and police brutality in many US cities and other countries last year, even as the world grappled with the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris watched the verdict in the White House's private dining room. Biden, Harris and first lady Jill Biden spoke with Philonise Floyd.

"Nothing is going to make it all better but at least ... now there's some justice," Biden told the Floyd family.

Chauvin faces 12-1/2 years in prison for his murder conviction as a first-time criminal offender.

Prosecutors could seek up to 40 years if Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill determines there were "aggravating factors". Sentencing is likely two months away.

The Minneapolis Police Department fired Chauvin and the three other officers the day after Floyd's murder. The three others will face trial on aiding-and-abetting charges.

Witnesses called by prosecutors included a cardiologist, a pulmonologist and a forensic pathologist, who testified that Chauvin killed Floyd by starving him of oxygen.

Also among the prosecution witnesses was Darnella Frazier, a teenager who used her mobile phone to make a video depicting Floyd's ordeal - images that catalysed the subsequent protests. Floyd can be heard crying out for his mother and telling officers he cannot breathe.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin's actions were an egregious breach of his training.

The jurors, who consisted of four white women, two white men, three black men, one black woman and two multiracial women, were sequestered during deliberations.

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