Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of murdering George Floyd, or — more precisely — he’s been found guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter.
But how can someone be convicted of both murder and manslaughter for the same killing?
Trial judge Peter Cahill’s instructions to the jury demonstrate how the system works in Minnesota.
Derek Chauvin faced ‘separate and distinct’ charges
The former police officer faced three charges relating to his decision to pin George Floyd by the neck until he died:
- Unintentional second-degree murder
- Third-degree murder
- Second-degree manslaughter
It was open to the jury to convict Chauvin of all, some or none of the above because they were instructed by Judge Cahill to consider each charge as a “separate and distinct” offence.
The charges brought in the Minnesota District Court each relied on different elements and were not mutually exclusive.
To convict Chauvin of second-degree murder, the jury needed to be convinced he unintentionally killed Mr Floyd while committing or trying to commit another crime — assault in the third degree.
To convict him of third-degree murder, the jury had to believe he acted in an “eminently dangerous” way, with reckless disregard towards human life when he killed Mr Floyd.
The second-degree manslaughter charge required the jury to find he was culpably negligent in causing Mr Floyd’s death.
As the jury believed each of the distinct charges were proved beyond a reasonable doubt, they were required to return guilty verdicts on all three counts.
What will Derek Chauvin’s sentence be?
After today’s guilty verdict, Derek Chauvin was taken to jail to await sentencing in eight weeks’ time.
Each count he has been found guilty of carries its own maximum sentence.
- Second-degree unintentional murder: 40 years
- Third-degree murder: 25 years
- Second-degree manslaughter: 10 years
But Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines suggest far less as a starting point.
They list a presumptive sentence of 150 months for each of the murder counts — or 12 years and six months — if a person has no prior criminal history.
But the state is expected to argue Chauvin should face a harsher sentence than the guidelines recommend, because of aggravating factors.
The sentencing guidelines also include a presumption that multiple sentences arising from “current offences” should be served concurrently.
That means they’d be served alongside each other at the same time, instead of stacked end to end.
Regardless of the final sentence, in Minnesota, defendants typically serve two-thirds of their penalty in prison, with the rest on parole.