Was the Derek Chauvin verdict correct?


Fact Box

  • On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a Black man, died while being arrested by the police. A white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned Floyd to the ground, and while handcuffed, Chauvin kneed into the back of Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
  • On May 29, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin’s murder trial began March 29 and ended Tuesday, April 20, with the conviction of guilty on all three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Judge Peter Cahill stated his sentencing would happen in eight weeks.
  • The jury consisted of twelve persons: four Black, two multiracial, and six White. 
  • Floyd’s two autopsies, one from the medical examiner and the second, an independent examiner hired by the family, revealed death by “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” and “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.” The report showed that he had fentanyl and meth in his system, as well as a heart condition.

Elizabeth (No)

Derek Chauvin is widely derided as a despicable human, exhibit A of 'people who should never be police officers.' It's arguable he truly deserves jail time for the death of George Floyd. Unfortunately, he's also the victim, to a degree, of miscarried justice. 'Lady Justice' is blindfolded precisely for rendering impartial judgment regardless of who's on trial. Chauvin's case, however, was tried in the 'court' of the media and, therefore, in the public eye long before it ever started. 

Murder two conviction under Minnesota law requires death while in the process of committing a felony, for example, shooting someone while robbing a bank. Murder Three presupposes a 'depraved heart' where you intended to kill someone, regardless of whom, such as deliberately shooting into a crowd. Manslaughter seems reasonable here as it involves reckless disregard. Anyone watching the video of Floyd's death would likely agree that, even though the kneeling WAS (debatably) permissible by MPD procedure, remaining on Floyd once he was still, let alone unresponsive, showed reckless disregard for Floyd's life. 

Self-involvement from the mayor of Minneapolis, a sitting Congresswoman, and the POTUS himself is shameful. In Maxine Waters' case, the judge already stated her abhorrent comments might help the defense during the appeals process. All this with a non-sequestered jury who, try as they might, would've been unable to avoid not only press coverage but friends' and family's opinions since the trial wasn't moved from Minneapolis. Given the mob-like threats of violence against those opposing conviction and the 'promise' of riots, it's entirely understandable they were intimidated by the prospect of looking over their shoulder for the remainder of their lives had they decided anything less than full conviction.

Kevin (Yes)

Derek Chauvin was charged with three crimes: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. As CBS News explained, 'Each charge required jurors to find that Floyd's death was caused by Chauvin.' While it may seem strange to seemingly be charged three times for the same act, it comes down to the way the legal system addresses such crimes. In cases of murder, the term 'degree' essentially refers to the level of pre-meditation. First-degree murder requires 'malice aforethought,' or, to oversimplify a bit, not just intent, but also a plan. The charges brought against Chauvin represent the prosecution's case that he consciously created 'an unreasonable risk,' that his actions were 'eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind,' and that he performed these actions 'while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense.'

As prosecutor Steve Schleicher said in his closing argument, 'This case is exactly what you thought when you first saw it...This wasn't policing, this was murder.' Fault Lines anchor Jamarl Thomas pointed out on his program that the attempt by the defense to portray Chauvin as acting reasonably falls apart quickly in light of the fact that he kept his knee on George Floyd's neck even after the paramedics arrived. There can never be true justice in cases such as this when a person's life is taken prematurely, but as Floyd's brother Philonise said, it does provide some 'accountability.' Police should be held at least to the same standards as regular civilians, if not higher, and anything less than this wouldn't meet even that minimum.

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