On Tuesday Apr 20th, a former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of all three counts he was charged with in the death of George Floyd. Derek Chauvin was convicted of three charges – second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charges were in relation to Chauvin’s arrest of black American, George Floyd, and his subsequent death. In the fraught racial history in the United States, this conviction is a milestone for black Americans. It is also a rebuke of law enforcement’s treatment of black Americans.
The 45-year-old Chauvin was found criminally liable in Floyd’s death last year, by the 12-member jury. On Monday, Apr 19th, jurors began their deliberations while in sequestration. The three week long trial had testimonies from 45 witnesses, including bystanders, police officials and medical experts.
To recollect, on May 25th, 2020, Chauvin, who is white, pushed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man. Floyd was in handcuffs and flat on the ground with Chauvin’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes. Four police officers including Chauvin, arrested Floyd, according to video footage. Floyd was accused of attempting to buy cigarettes at a grocery store using a fake US$20 bill.
The outcome after Floyd’s death
Last year Floyd’s death ignited a record number of protests against racism and police brutality in many cities in the US and around the world.
High barricades surround the courthouse in Minneapolis where Chauvin was tried. Troops from the National Guard were also standing by. While bracing for the verdict, many downtown businesses boarded up their windows as precaution.
It is common practice to allow some tolerance and give legal protections by the US criminal justice system and juries to police officers who use violence to subdue civilians. This time however, jurors found Chauvin crossed the line and used excessive force.
As a first time criminal offender, Chauvin faces 12.5 years in prison for his conviction under Minnesota sentencing guidelines. If Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over the trial, determines that there were “aggravating factors”, prosecutors could press for a longer sentence up to the maximum of 40 years.
In the state of Minnesota, a convicted criminal generally can leave prison after serving two thirds of his sentence. The person will then be under supervised release. Chauvin does not have any previous criminal convictions.
Chauvin pleads not guilty
For charges of second-degree unintentional murder involving “intentional infliction of bodily harm”, third-degree unintentional “depraved mind” murder involving an “act eminently dangerous to others”, and second-degree manslaughter involving a death caused by “culpable negligence”, Chauvin did not plead guilty.
According to court records, the chosen jury members came from mixed ethnicities. It consisted of four white women, two white men, three black men, a black woman and two multiracial women.
The President and Vice President speak to Floyd’s family
Members of Floyd’s family spoke US President Joe Biden on the phone on Tuesday after the verdicts came out.
Reporters at the White House were told by Biden “They’re a good family, and they’re calling for peace and tranquillity, no matter what that verdict is. I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is – I think it’s overwhelming in my view. I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now, (would) not hear me say that.”
Biden said “Nothing is going to make it all better but at least God now there’s some justice. We’re all so relieved – not just the one verdict but all three, guilty on all three counts.“
Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke to members of the Floyd family.
Harris, America’s first black vice president, said “This is a day of justice in America.” “History will look back at this moment.“
Keeping the peace
After the jury convicted Chauvin, Biden in nationally televised remarks, called on Americans to unite and pleaded for protesters to stay clear of violence.
He said “This is the time for this country to come together, to unite as Americans.”
He warned “There are those who will seek to exploit the raw emotions in the moment – agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice.” “We can’t let them succeed.”
The President also called to confront existing systemic racism and racial disparities that exist in policing and the criminal justice system head on.
21st April 2021 23:00
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