Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. Read our analysis on the historic trial.
Everything after the separator is the opinion of this article’s author.
On April 20, 2021, Mr. Chauvin sat in front of Judge Peter Cahill as he read out a guilty verdict for second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The judge revoked Mr. Chauvin’s bail and remanded him to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office. Mr. Chauvin was then handcuffed and removed from the courtroom.
The conviction comes after the recent killing of Daunte Wright by a police officer who claimed she mistook her taser for her gun. The police officer was then arrested for second-degree manslaughter. The shooting evidently sparked protests, and a large police and National Guard presence was sent in place around government buildings as the jury deliberated during the Chauvin murder trial.
The verdict is not a surprise.
However, I admit I had my doubts as to whether or not the prosecution sufficiently upheld the burden of proving murder beyond a reasonable doubt. While watching the trial, I believed that there could have been established doubt in the causality of Floyd’s death. The medical examiner concluded the cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” While this conclusion proved damning for Chauvin, the defense brought up another medical examiner’s note saying, “if [Floyd was] found dead at home alone + no other apparent causes, this could be acceptable to call an [overdose].”
The defense additionally argued that Floyd’s preexisting heart conditions with his drug use “acted to further compromise an already compromised heart.”
Since the drug usage and the preexisting heart conditions were never proven or disproven to contribute to Floyd’s death, I believe this arguably met the legal definition of reasonable doubt, which is “a doubt especially about the guilt of a criminal defendant that arises or remains upon fair and thorough consideration of the evidence or lack thereof.”
Yet, despite my doubt and speculation, there was still was clear evidence of police misconduct, negligence, and recklessness. Add that on top of the controversy and political charge of the overall issue, and you have a conviction on three separate criminal charges.
I will also say that this proves the system worked in condemning and convicting a police officer when he commits a dereliction of duty. Mr. Chauvin will presumptively be sentenced to several decades of his life for his illegal actions, which will serve as a testimony of the system defeating the notion that police officers go unchecked. The system worked, and Chauvin was held accountable.
On a final note, politicians should exercise extreme responsibility in speaking about such a politically charged case. For example, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters said last weekend that if Chauvin was not convicted, “Then we know that we’ve got to not only stay in the street, but we’ve got to fight for justice. We’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. You’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”
This prompted a failed Republican proposed censure in the House of Representatives and strong criticism by Republicans for instigating violence. While such instigated violence has yet to be proven, it was deeply irresponsible to say such charged rhetoric. The judge that just issued the guilty verdict also said that these comments could be grounds for an appeal of the verdict because it could have negatively influenced the jury’s vote.
As we conclude this historic trial, there are law enforcement policies to enact, narratives to dismantle, and a future of reform to establish. Hopefully, the nation will come out of this trial with an agreement on the future of law enforcement and the encompassing narrative of race in America. Although given the political climate, I doubt it.