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Jury finds ex-cop guilty of murdering George Floyd

MINNEAPOLIS, USA: A jury has found a former police officer guilty of murder over the death of African-American George Floyd on a Minneapolis street last year.

Derek Chauvin, 45, was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during his arrest last May.

The widely watched footage sparked worldwide protests against racism and excessive use of force by police.

Chauvin was found guilty on three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

His bail was immediately revoked and he was placed in custody. Sentencing is likely to happen in two months, and Chauvin could spend decades in jail.

In Minnesota, second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Chauvin is expected to appeal against the verdict.

Police officers have rarely been convicted – if they are charged at all – for deaths that occur in custody, and the verdict in this trial has been widely seen as an indication of how the US legal system will treat such cases in future.

Three other officers are due to face trial later this year on aiding-and-abetting charges.

The 12-member jury took less than a day to reach their verdict, which followed a highly charged, three-week trial that left Minneapolis on edge.

Several hundred people cheered outside the court as the verdict was announced.

The Floyd family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, said it marked a “turning point in history” for the US.

“Painfully earned justice has finally arrived,” he tweeted. “[It] sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement.”

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called the Floyd family after the verdict. Biden was heard saying that “at least now there is some justice”.

In nationally televised remarks shortly afterwards, Biden said: “Systemic racism is a stain on the whole nation’s soul.”

Meanwhile, Harris urged lawmakers to pass the George Floyd bill aimed at reforming policing in the US.

The Minneapolis police federation, a not-for-profit organisation representing police, said they respected the jury’s decision.

“We also want to reach out to the community and still express our deep remorse for their pain, as we feel it every day as well. There are no winners in this case,” the federation said.

According to reports, one of the most likely avenues of appeal is the huge publicity given to the case, with the defence team arguing that this might have influenced the jury.

Also, Presiding Judge Peter Cahill said on Monday that public comments by Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters could be grounds for an appeal.

Over the weekend, Waters had urged protesters to “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if Chauvin was acquitted.