The controversial death of George Floyd and the movement that stemmed from it came to fruition on April 20th when a verdict was reached in this landmark case. Last May, Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, was called in response to a situation where a man, George Floyd, had used a possibly counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. The situation quickly escalated to violence. There is video evidence and several eyewitness accounts of Officer Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd's neck, while burying his hands in his own pants-pockets, for more than nine minutes while Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe.
George was pronounced dead by authorities at the scene and after major domestic and international outcry centered around racism and police brutality, Chauvin was arrested and charged with three different crimes. The charges brought against him were second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter which have a max prison sentence of 40 years, 25 years, and 10 years respectively.
Police officers are rarely charged with crimes committed in the line of duty and even more rarely convicted of them. Yet, the public outcry surrounding this particular trial predicts a change in legal precedence for cases similar to this moving forward. The identities of the 12 member jury were kept secret but the panel included 6 white people, 6 who were black or multi-ethnic, 7 women, and 5 men. After sitting through a grueling 3-week trial interspersed with videos, eyewitness testimony, and the opinions of experts the jury then took less than a day to reach their final verdict. Chauvin himself did not testify in his defense instead invoking his right to not further incriminate himself.
Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts and now faces a max of 75 years in prison although he is expected to appeal this decision.
Reports say that the most likely route for appeal will be based on the fact that this trial had a large amount of publicity and that this could have negatively influenced the decision of the jury. The Presiding Judge Peter Cahill also said that the public comments made by Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters could be used as grounds for an appeal. Before the final decision had been made Ms. Waters urged protesters to "stay on the street" and if necessary to "get more confrontational" with authority figures if Chauvin was acquitted of the killing. Her influence over the pro-conviction mob is most likely not enough to overturn the ruling entirely but in conjecture with other evidence may have an effect.
The three other officers who were with Chauvin during the event and who were charged with aiding-and-abetting the murder will be charged together on August 23, 2021, in Hennepin County. Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were all fired, along with Chauvin, the day after Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 and have been silent in the press since. The journey for justice is far from over but the process is undeniably underway.