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What's Next For Derek Chauvin: Legal Implications Now That He's Been Convicted


Well, to talk about the legal implications of this verdict, we're joined now by NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

Hi, Carrie.


SHAPIRO: Well, Derek Chauvin was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs this afternoon. He's now in the custody of the county sheriff. What are the next steps in this process?

JOHNSON: The sentencing is going to come in about eight weeks or two months. The judge has ordered a report on Derek Chauvin's background on the most serious charge, that second-degree murder charge. Chauvin faces about 12 1/2 years under sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors say they want an additional penalty, called an enhancement, because of certain aggravating factors. And eventually, Judge Cahill will be the one to decide the sentence. The jury is now done. He thanked the jury this afternoon for what he called heavy duty jury service.

SHAPIRO: We've heard that this is really unusual for a police officer to be convicted of actions on the job. How rare is it exactly?

JOHNSON: You know, by some studies, only seven police officers since 2005 have been convicted of murder for their actions on the job. That's even though about 1,000 or 1,100 people a year die at the hands of police. Ben Crump, who's a lawyer for George Floyd's family, says this could really be a turning point in history for accountability for law enforcement. But the work is not done. Attorney General Keith Ellison says a trial for three other officers who were on the scene for George Floyd's death is still going to happen this summer.

SHAPIRO: So many people have talked about this as a potential turning point, which speaks to the larger role of federal investigators and federal prosecutors beyond the local control of this particular case. What is the Justice Department doing on this front?

JOHNSON: The Justice Department has been conducting a federal grand jury investigation into George Floyd's death. We know it's come out in some of the testimony in this trial. And the federal government can bring charges if they meet a high bar that Officer Chauvin or others used excessive force and violated George Floyd's rights. Nothing is expected imminently with respect to any possible federal case. But the new attorney general, Merrick Garland, issued a statement saying the investigation is ongoing and basically saying that while the state's prosecution was successful, he knows that nothing can fill the void that the loved ones of George Floyd have felt since his death.

SHAPIRO: Do you sense that, more broadly, policing and civil rights are going to be a priority for Attorney General Garland?

JOHNSON: A top priority for Garland and for President Biden. We heard him talk today about naming people to lead the Justice Department who want to restore a relationship of trust between police and the communities they guard and serve. And Biden today also talked about two nominees, important nominees, one to be the associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta, another to lead the civil rights division at Justice, Kristen Clarke. He wants the Senate to move ahead and confirm those people so his full complement of officials can be in place to oversee that policing relationship with the community.

SHAPIRO: Just briefly, what would that look like? I mean, what is the relationship there?

JOHNSON: You know, Vanita Gupta is no stranger to advocates for a major overhaul of police or to police groups. She very importantly led the investigations into the Ferguson Police Department and the police departments in Baltimore and Chicago in the Obama years. But she's also cultivated a lot of support from the Fraternal Order of Police and other major law enforcement groups.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

Thank you so much.

JOHNSON: Happy to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.