Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on April 20 on all three counts leveled against him by the state of Minnesota regarding the murder of George Floyd.
Chauvin’s high profile trial invited public attention and scrutiny for the last few months. The charges against him included third-degree murder, second-degree unintentional murder, and second-degree manslaughter. 12 jurors deliberated for 10 hours before delivering the final verdict: guilty.
Though some members of the public are awaiting Chauvin’s sentencing to truly believe that justice has been served, most people following the trial breathed a sigh of relief.
Derek Chauvin and the Black Lives Matter Movement
Last year, Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd, caught on camera, spurred a national movement of protests. The Black Lives Matter movement dominated the headlines, with many demanding justice for the cold, brutal, senseless murder of Floyd. Protests swept the nation for months, often resulting in further clashes with police. Floyd’s repeated last words – “I Can’t Breathe” – became the chant of the protesters.
Other victims of police brutality, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, also became symbols of what many saw as a broken and racist justice system.
Police killed Taylor in her sleep during an invasion of her home in the night. Officers shot an unarmed Arbery while he was jogging.
Systemic Problems in US Policing
Systemic racism in policing has long been a major problem in the United States. Black people, many times unarmed, are disproportionately likely to be the victims of police brutality.
US police’s unfortunate tendency to escalate situations and resort to violence unnecessarily has often been brought to light. Last year, Greek-American George Zapantis suffered a cardiac arrest after repeatedly being tasted by police at his own home.
In the case of Derek Chauvin, he suffocated Floyd to death by kneeling his neck for a period of around nine minutes. His fellow officers did not interfere. Though passerbys asked Chauvin to stop, he disregarded their pleas.
The Trial of George Floyd
Despite the clear-cut evidence, many were pessimistic about the verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial. Unfortunately, many officers who have killed citizens, even unarmed citizens and had their actions recorded, have faced little to no consequences for their actions.
Often, officers don’t even go to trial. Either prosecutors don’t charge them or Grand Juries clear them before a former trial.
For all these reasons, Chauvin’s verdict, though seemingly logical, still came as a welcome surprise to many. However, activists and leaders warn that a lot of works remains to fix the broken justice system in the US.
President Biden remarked, “no one should be above the law, and today’s verdict sends that message. But it’s not enough. We can’t stop here…in order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen or occur again.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is mixed race Black and of Indian heritage herself, had the following to say. “Today we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain. A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system.”
The courts have not set a sentencing date for Derek Chauvin yet. His second-degree murder charge carries a maximum of 40 years.