On April 20, 2021, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd with his knee. The case triggered a nationwide protest of the police force and an outcry for defunding the police. The horrific incident that led to George Floyd’s death reinvigorated the discussion around institutional racism in America. Derek Chauvin has led away out of the courtroom with his hands cuffed behind his back. He could go to prison and face up to 40 years. The verdict has made the Floyd supporters celebrate as they finally got a semblance of victory. Hundreds of supporters poured out into the streets and traffic to celebrate the victory.
At a joyous family news conference, Floyd’s younger brother Philonise Floyd said, “today, we are able to breathe again.” Tears streamed down his face as he compared Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till. He likened the two victims of racism, saying that this time, there were cameras around to show what happened. The jury for the case consisted of six whites and six Black or multiracial people. They came back with the verdict after ten hours of deliberation over two days. Derek Chauvin was found guilty of third-degree murder, second-degree unintentional murder, and second-degree manslaughter. His bail was immediately revoked. The sentencing will be in two months, with the most serious charge carrying up to 40 years in prison.
Response to the Derek Chauvin Verdict
During the trial, Chauvin’s face was covered with a COVID-19 mask. Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson followed him out of the courtroom with no comments. US president Joe Biden welcomed the verdict. He said that Floyd’s death was “a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped blinders off for the whole world,” to see the current systemic racism in America. Biden also added that it’s not enough and that “we can’t stop here.” He goes on to say that “we’re going to deliver real change and reform.” He also said that we must do more to reduce the likelihood of these tragedies happening ever again. Other notable political, as well as city leaders and celebrities, welcomed the verdict. These include former president Barack Obama and TV celebrity Oprah Winfrey.
The jury’s decision was hailed by the supporters outside at a park next to the Minneapolis courthouse. The crowd of supporters listened to the verdict on their cellphones and celebrated after the decision. People hugged and shed tears as they celebrated the verdict. The verdict is sort of a landmark one in terms of the rarity of a cop facing prosecution. It is very rare for cops to face prosecution over killing someone on the job. It is even rarer, extraordinarily so, for the prosecution to result in a conviction. As per the data maintained by criminologist Phil Stinson, there’ve been thousands of fatal police shootings in America since 2005. Out of all those cases, fewer than 140 officers have received murder or manslaughter charges.
George Floyd’s Death and Testimonies in Court
Most of the time, the juries give the police officers the benefit of the doubt. But in Derek Chauvin’s case, a claim for a ‘split-second or life-or-death decision’ claim could not work. George Floyd died at the age of 46 on May 25, shortly after the police detained him. He was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. When the police detained him, he pleaded and panicked, saying he was claustrophobic. When the police couldn’t put him in the squad car, they put him on the ground. The bystander video of what followed acted as the centerpiece of the case. The video went viral on the internet after Floyd’s passing. The horrific video captured Floyd gasping for air, saying, “I can’t breathe” repeatedly.
As the onlookers and bystanders yelled at Chauvin to stop kneeling on Floyd’s neck, he continued to do so. He pressed Floyd’s neck for about 9½ minutes. The video sparked a nationwide protest and outrage against the police. Chauvin and three other officers present at the incident were subsequently fired. Police-procedure experts and veterans testified against Chauvin, saying that he used excessive force and went against his training. Medical experts also testified that Floyd died of asphyxia because of constricted breathing. The prosecution’s case also consisted of tearful testimony from onlookers. Chauvin, however, did not testify. Derek Chauvin can face up to 40 years in prison for one of the charges.