Jury convicts George Floyd’s cop killer, Derek Chauvin

A jury in Minnesota, on Tuesday, found former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd, with his bail revoked upon prosecutors’ request.

Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with the death of George Floyd, an African-American, during an arrest last May.

A viral video clip that captured the last moments of Floyd’s life showed him handcuffed and face down on the pavement while repeatedly saying that he could not breathe as Chauvin knelt on his neck. The video sparked an unprecedented wave of mass protests globally against Police violence and racism.

Chauvin’s sentencing is expected to take place in eight weeks and he could bag up to 40 years in prison, which is the maximum sentence for  second-degree murder in Minnesota. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison, while second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Reactions to the verdict

Tuesday’s verdict was delivered to a country on edge, with demonstrators gathered in their hundreds outside the fortified downtown Minneapolis courthouse and several streets.

Law enforcement agents around the country braced for an anticipated widespread protest, which turned to loud cheers and jubilation as the verdict was announced.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said, adding that he felt ‘relieved’ and would finally have the opportunity of getting some sleep since the death of his brother.

People gather before a march in Atlanta, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts in the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Ben Gray).

In his remark delivered after the court’s ruling on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden hailed the verdict as a step forward towards Police reform, adding that no one should be above the law.

“There’s meaningful Police reform legislation in George Floyd’s name, but it shouldn’t take a year to get it done. I assure the Floyd family that we’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so I can sign it into law right away,” he added.

Vice President Kamala Harris urged the Senate to urgently pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to hold law enforcement agents everywhere to the highest standards of accountability and help build trust between law enforcement and the communities.

“Today’s verdict brings us a step closer to making equal justice under law a reality. But the verdict will not heal pain that has existed for generations. It will not take away the pain felt by the Floyd family. That’s why we must recommit to fight for equal justice. We are all part of George Floyd’s legacy and now our job is to honor it—to honor him,” Harris said.

Attorney general of Minnesota Keith Ellison said while reacting to the conviction: “I would not call today’s verdict ‘justice,’ however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.”

Using similar words, Governor of Minnesota Tim Walz said: “Today’s verdict is an important step forward for justice in Minnesota. The trial is over, but our work has only begun.”

The Significance of the verdict

Some people were heard on the streets of Minnesota chanting: “All three counts!” and “Whose victory? Our victory!”

Floyd’s painful death became a rallying point for blacks and the jury’s verdict is now viewed as a significant landmark in the struggle against Police brutality and racial inequality, not only in America but everywhere in the world where they exist.

According to Floyd family’s attorney Benjamin Crump, the verdict went far beyond the city of Minnesota and had significant implications for the entire country and the world at large.

“Justice for Black America is justice for all of America. This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message we hope is heard clearly in every city and every state,” Crump said.

Former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama commended the jury for doing ‘the right thing’ but said true justice was much more than a single verdict in a single trial.

The Obamas, who are also African-Americans, acknowledged through a statement that “Black Americans are treated differently, every day…and millions live in fear that their next encounter with law enforcement could be their last.”

“While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest. We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system,” the Obamas said.

Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota Ilhan Omar said while the conviction was a necessary condition of justice, it was not sufficient.

She noted that for centuries, Black people had faced violence in the hands of state agents, as well as systemic inequalities in housing, income, education and criminal justice.

“Let this be a turning point, where we finally create a society that reflects the belief that all men and women are created equal. Let this be the moment where we implement a broad antiracist agenda to root out the inequalities that continue to plague us,” Omar said.

 

Chauvin’s track record of abuse

An article on police violence written by criminal justice scholar Jill McCorkel after George Floyd’s killing noted that Chauvin was “the subject of at least 18 separate misconduct complaints and was involved in two additional shooting incidents.”






     

     

    During a 2006 roadside stop, Chauvin was among six officers who fired 43 rounds into a truck driven by a man wanted for questioning in a domestic assault. The man, Wayne Reyes, was said to have died. A Minnesota grand jury did not indict any of the officers.

    “I think people’s belief in the system that we got in place is so bad that they don’t expect nothing good,” a Houston rapper Cal Wayne, who was a childhood friend of Floyd, told a local newspaper.

    As celebrations over Chauvin’s conviction continue with renewed calls for an overhauling the policing system, some of the reforms Americans expect include: a ban on chokeholds, elimination of qualified immunity and a change in the legal standard for law enforcement using ‘objectively reasonable force’ to ‘necessary force.’

    This means that officers would be legally allowed to use deadly force only if there were no other reasonable alternatives to prevent serious injury or death.

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