George Floyd murder: Derek Chauvin sent to solitary confinement over safety fears

Former US police officer Derek Chauvin is being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day while he waits to be sentenced amid fears for his safety.

Chauvin on Wednesday (NZ time) was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the murder of George Floyd in March 2020.

He was captured on camera kneeling on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes while Floyd begged to be let go, pleading: "I can't breathe".

Footage of the incident sparked global protests against systemic racism within law enforcement and Floyd became a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The New York Times reported Chauvin is now being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in Minnesota's only maximum-security prison Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights.

Sarah Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the state prison system, said the decision for solitary was made because of fears of Chauvin's safety.

Being in solitary confinement means Chauvin will be alone in his cell which contains a bench with a mattress pad, a combination toilet and sink, and a tiny shower.

On the other hour of the day, he is allowed to exercise but will be kept away from other prisoners and will be watched by prison guards, The New York Times reported.

Chauvin will remain in solitary confinement until his sentencing on June 16.

Crowds erupted in joy on Wednesday when Chauvin was found guilty.

Many Americans had gathered in George Floyd square, around the intersection where Floyd died, as they waited for the verdict.

"I was hoping that we would get justice, and it looks like we did," said Chris Dixon, a 41-year-old Black Minneapolis resident. "I'm just very proud of where I live right now."

Celebrities including Oprah, Lizzo and Ciara also responded to the news on social media.

"I cried tears of joy as each verdict was read," Oprah said, before thanking the witnesses and the jurors for "seeing and acknowledging what the world saw on that tape". 

"Guilty, guilty, guilty," Whoopi Goldberg posted on Twitter.  "No one wins… George Floyd is still gone, and finally, someone was responsible... Derek Chauvin."