A1 A1
Nation-world
Chauvin convicted on all counts
  • Updated

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that touched off worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.

Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades.

The jury of six white people and six Black or multiracial ones came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. Chauvin was found guilty on all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

His face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom.

His bail was immediately revoked and he was led away with his hands cuffed behind his back.

The verdict was read in 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.

The jurors’ identities were kept secret and will not be released until the judge decides it is safe to do so.

Three other former Minneapolis officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death will stand trial in August.

Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 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 centerpiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Floyd gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was 9½ minutes. Floyd slowly went silent and limp.

Prosecutors played the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, with Jerry Blackwell telling the jury: “Believe your eyes.” And it was shown over and over, analyzed one frame at a time by witnesses on both sides.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, demonstrations and scattered violence broke out in Minneapolis, around the country and beyond. The furor also led to the removal of Confederate statues and other offensive symbols such as Aunt Jemima.

In the months that followed, numerous states and cities restricted the use of force by police, revamped disciplinary systems or subjected police departments to closer oversight.

The “Blue Wall of Silence” that often protects police accused of wrongdoing crumbled after Floyd’s death: The Minneapolis police chief quickly called it “murder” and fired all four officers, and the city reached a staggering $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family as jury selection was underway.

Police-procedure experts and law enforcement veterans inside and outside the Minneapolis department, including the chief, testified for the prosecution that Chauvin used excessive force and went against his training.

Medical experts for the prosecution said Floyd died of asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, because his breathing was constricted by the way he was held down on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him, a knee on his neck and his face jammed against the ground.

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson called a police use-of-force expert and a forensic pathologist to help make the case that Chauvin acted reasonably against a struggling suspect and that Floyd died because of an underlying heart condition and his illegal drug use.

Floyd had high blood pressure, an enlarged heart and narrowed arteries, and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.

Under the law, police have certain leeway to use force and are judged according to whether their actions were “reasonable” under the circumstances.

The defense also tried to make the case that Chauvin and the other officers were hindered in their duties by what they perceived as a growing, hostile crowd.

Chauvin did not testify, and all that the jury or the public ever heard by way of an explanation from him came from a police body-camera video after an ambulance had taken the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Floyd away. Chauvin told a bystander: “We gotta control this guy ‘cause he’s a sizable guy ... and it looks like he’s probably on something.”

The prosecution’s case also included tearful testimony from onlookers who said the police kept them back when they protested what was happening. Eighteen-year-old Darnella Frazier, who shot the crucial video, said Chauvin just gave the bystanders a “cold” and “heartless” stare.

She and others said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt from witnessing Floyd’s slow-motion death.

“It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Frazier testified, while the 19-year-old cashier at the neighborhood market, Christopher Martin, lamented that “this could have been avoided” if only he had rejected the suspect $20 bill.

To make Floyd more than a crime statistic in the eyes of the jury, the prosecution called to the stand his girlfriend, who told the story of how they met and how they struggled with addiction to opioids, and his younger brother Philonise. He recalled how Floyd helped teach him to catch a football and made “the best banana mayonnaise sandwiches.”


Front-page
featured
CVTC names four finalists
  • Updated

EAU CLAIRE — Chippewa Valley Technical College has named four finalists in its search for its next president, most of whom have spent time working or going to school in western Wisconsin.

As he revealed the candidates’ names on Tuesday, CVTC Board President Paul Bauer also invited the general public to participate in online forums next week with the finalists.

“We would personally like to thank the entire college community for your continued interest and support in the process to identify our next president,” Bauer said in a news release.

People are asked to submit questions for the candidates by Friday afternoon, in advance of the virtual forums, which are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

The four finalists are Sunem Beaton-Garcia, who serves as a vice provost and north campus president at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Kathleen Linaker, the vice president of academics for La Crosse-based Western Technical College; Nicholas Ouellette, superintendent of the Hudson school district; and Kristen Raney, vice president of academic affairs at Saint Paul College in St. Paul, Minn.

Raney is no stranger to the Chippewa Valley and even has experience working at CVTC.

She previously worked at the local technical college in multiple roles between 2003 and ‘15, including as the college’s dean of academic development and services. And among her three degrees is a master’s in education from UW-Stout.

While Ouellette’s current post is leading public schools in the western Wisconsin city of Hudson, the rest of his professional background is in the neighboring state of Iowa. Prior to his post in Hudson, he served as superintendent of a consolidated rural school district in western Iowa that consisted of the communities of Odebolt, Arthur, Battle Creek and Ida Grove. Ouellette has degrees from Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa), Aurora University (Aurora, Ill.) and the University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa).

Linaker’s career journey took her to numerous other states before she arrived at Western Technical College in La Crosse. Her previous post was assistant vice president of academics at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, N.Y. She has a doctorate in higher education from Loyola University Chicago, but also a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada) and a chiropractic degree from Northwestern Health Science University (Bloomington, Minn.).

Of the four finalists, only Beaton-Garcia doesn’t have a tie to western Wisconsin and has worked and gotten an education in warmer states, according to the brief candidate profiles provided by CVTC. She has held both interim and permanent leadership positions at Broward College — a large two-year college in southern Florida — and her degrees are from Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), the University of South Florida (Tampa, Fla.) and the University of Phoenix (Tempe, Ariz.).

The four finalists are scheduled to visit CVTC next week for tours, the virtual forums and interviews with top college staff and the CVTC Board.

CVTC expects to have a finalist chosen by the second week of May and go through contract negotiations. The start date for CVTC’s next president is planned for July 2.

Current CVTC President Bruce Barker is retiring on July 1 after a dozen years of leading the technical college.


Local
featured
County board approves $3.3M in carryforward funds
  • Updated

EAU CLAIRE — The Eau Claire County Board on Tuesday night approved carrying forward $3.28 million from last year’s county budget into this year.

Of that total, $2.48 million is from unfinished capital projects in eight separate departments; just over $400,000 is from the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport fund; about $370,000 is from the county general fund, including about $242,000 from the Sheriff’s Office; and about $34,000 is from the county Department of Human Services.

Of the capital projects, the three departments with the most funds carried forward are Facilities, with just over $1 million, including $880,000 for the construction of a sixth circuit courtroom; Information Systems, with about $590,000; and Highway, with about $551,000.

Administrator’s report

County Administrator Kathryn Schauf delivered her annual message to the County Board.

Schauf focused on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the county, which was a massive disruption that Schauf said caused fear, uncertainty and trepidation.

In terms of finances, Schauf said county officials were “very concerned” about the pandemic impact on the county’s general fund in spring 2020, but it ended up better than expected. Indeed, the county estimates a surplus of $2.36 million for the 2020 general fund.

“We’ve had a lot of disruption, we’ve responded and continue to respond,” Schauf said.

Other business

County Board Chairman Nick Smiar appointed several people to two county entities. The appointees to the Aging and Disability Resource Center Board were Supervisor Carl Anton, Supervisor Kimberly Cronk and Sue Miller as a citizen appointment; Miller is a former county supervisor. The appointees to the Local Emergency Planning Committee were Robert King, Don Henning, Ben Frederick, Diane Hunter, Frank Neibauer, Jamie Burkhardt, Tom Lochner and Darrell Christy.

The County Board proclaimed April 25 to May 2 Soil and Water Stewardship Week in the county.

The next County Board meeting is scheduled for May 4.


Back