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Today, twelve jurors found disgraced officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all charges in the death of George Floyd last Spring.
Chauvin, who choked the oxygen out of George Floyd, the father of five, to death when he pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020, will now face the justice he denied Mr. Floyd.
Mr. Floyd’s killing sparked national protests for racial justice and policing reform when a video of him pleading for life under the weight of Chauvin’s knee went viral. News of the verdict came after just hours of deliberation – less than a day after Chauvin’s trial ended.
Minneapolis has braced for unrest in the wake of a decision. Tensions continue to run high following the shooting death of Daunte Wright last week.
The trauma of Derek Chauvin’s deadly actions have rippled throughout the country over the past year, making the decision in this trial feel all the more significant. Leading up to the verdict, Americans across the nation expressed their hope for a conviction. President Biden on Tuesday said that he too was “praying” for a guilty verdict.
Activists have indicated that, regardless of the outcome, significant structural reform is needed within America’s system of policing. In 2020 alone, over 1200 Americans were killed by police. More than half of those killings took place during responses to non-violent calls, including traffic stops.
“We didn’t come out here just to get justice for one person,” said one activist outside of the court building. “It ain’t justice until we get legislative change.”
The jury’s decision means that Chauvin may face 12 or more years in prison for each count. At the end of his trial, Chauvin requested that the judge manage his sentencing process. He is likely to receive his sentence within the next few weeks.
Jurors found Derek Chauvin guilty on the first count of 2nd degree-murder, guilty on the second count of 3rd degree murder, and guilty on the third count of 2nd degree manslaughter.
The announcement will play and replay in the days to come: Chauvin guilty on all three counts. For now, at least, riots and uprisings are unlikely to occur. But the story has not ended. If anything, it is only beginning. The death of George Floyd at the hands (or, more properly, knee) of an overzealous policeman has been recognized in a fair and open hearing. What follows will tell us whether this case was a rare exception, or whether we will stop letting out of control police do as they please. Elimination of the kind of policing that led to Floyd’s death is long overdue. Elimination of policing altogether is not. Not all police are bad. But to hear Floyd’s case, and the jury’s refusal to place blame for his death on his drug use, medical condition and any factor other than his deliberate suffocation by a law officer, helps bolster the cases of others who may face similar zealous policing and end up being dismissed as “acting aggressive/thought he had a gun/resisted arrest/ran/wrong place wrong time/looked odd/and the other endless blame words” and most often were killed “by mistake/needed to protect myself/used routine procedure/thought it was my taser” officers. My hope is that this case and the others we have seen will lead to better training of police forces — more restraint in when and why to arrest, less eagerness to use a gun, employing health care workers and neighborhood aid to make dangerous places safer, police actually walking through the areas they serve and establishing contact with people. Our history is long and dark. We could well go backward from here — or we could resolve to let this case show us a path forward. It’s our choice. This time the jury made the right choice and what they did will live in our history.
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