A Minneapolis jury convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin on all three counts yesterday; second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin was cuffed and taken to the state's maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights.
Many stood outside, anxious to hear the long-awaited verdict after a year of controversy and a summer of riots. Chauvin was filmed in a viral video, seemingly holding his knee on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes.
This has been, in many respects, a public trial—one that has arguably been heavily influenced by the mainstream media, partisan politicians, and mob justice in the form of protests and social media posts.
Video of the scene outside the courthouse immediately following the verdict can be seen below:
As reported by this US News and World Report "Explainer," the charges are explained as follows:
SECOND-DEGREE MURDER: "It's also called felony murder. To prove this count, prosecutors had to show that Chauvin killed Floyd while committing or trying to commit a felony—in this case, third-degree assault. They didn't have to prove Chauvin intended to kill Floyd, only that he intended to apply unlawful force that caused bodily harm. Prosecutors called several medical experts who testified that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because of the way he was restrained."
THIRD-DEGREE MURDER: "For this count, jurors had to find Chauvin caused Floyd's death through an action that was “eminently dangerous” and carried out with a reckless disregard for and conscious indifference to the loss of life. Mark Osler, a professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law, said prosecutors tried to prove this through testimony about the dangers of subduing a handcuffed person in the prone position."
SECOND-DEGREE MANSLAUGHTER: "Prosecutors had to show that Chauvin caused Floyd's death through culpable negligence that created an unreasonable risk and that he consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death.Testimony that revealed Chauvin should have known to put Floyd in a side recovery position, that he should have provided medical care before paramedics arrived and that he stayed in his position after he was told Floyd didn't have a pulse could all point to negligence."
The maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 40 years, third-degree murder is 25 years and second-degree manslaughter is 10 years.
Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, brought in expert witness David Fowler, who testified that Chauvin did not conclusively die from asphyxiation. He also testified, he was highly intoxicated with multiple drugs and had heart issues—all of which could have easily caused his death. The defense also attempted to prove that the officers did, under the circumstances, what they were trained to do.
Statistics of Deaths Due to Lethal Force by Police
Briefly, the data seems to indicate that unarmed Black men are not the victims of lethal use of force as often as people may think. This article is by no means a comprehensive review of the incidence of deaths due to lethal force by cops in the U.S. Here that data was filtered for race-specifically Black versus White. Mapping Police Violence provides an interactive feature that allows one to filter by ethnicity, gender, and use of force. Below please find nationwide totals for Blacks and Caucasians in two graphs below:
Blacks/Mapping Police Violence/National Trends
Caucasians/Mapping Police Violence/National Trends
Statista.com also features an interactive graph showing the number of people shot to death by police from 2017-2021. The graph is pictured below:
It seems that Caucasians are much more likely to die due to police use of force than Blacks. The confusion may come from the fact that the "rate of fatal police shootings" is higher among Black people than it is for Whites. Statista states that "among Black Americans, the rate of fatal police shootings between 2015 and March 2021 stood at 35 per million of the population, while for White Americans, the rate stood at 14 fatal police shootings per million of the population." Nevertheless, the data seems to confirm that there is not an epidemic of unarmed Black men dying as a result of officers' use of force.
Other sites confirm similar rates. However, the reasons behind those numbers are complex, and it may be attributed, in part, to the data showing that Blacks make up a far greater percentage of violent crime suspects. The videos below attempt to explain what the data means.
Arguably, few police officers, who risk their lives daily in the communities they serve, intentionally set out each day to harm or kill citizens—let alone to target a particular ethnicity. Many officers are killed protecting others every year. In 2021 alone, 360 officers were killed in the line of duty.
Politicians Weigh-In on Verdict
In televised remarks Tuesday, President Biden stated, “It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism...This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.” Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke about her "George Floyd Justice and Policing Act," a bill that "would hold law enforcement accountable and help build trust between law enforcement and our communities...A measure of justice isn't the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer."
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Wednesday a new Department of Justice "civil investigation to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing." He added that the new civil investigation is "separate from and independent of the Federal Criminal Investigation into the death of George Floyd that the Justice Department has previously announced."
Former Attorney General, William Barr, delivered remarks on the investigation and the civil unrest occurring at the time back in early June. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison also opened with remarks after the verdict, saying that George Floyd mattered because "he was a human being." He said George Floyd was a "proud father" and a "great athlete." Ellison emphasized that his family—and many in the public "raised their voices because they saw his humanity." He urged everyone who may step up in the coming days to remember Floyd "calmly, legally, and peacefully."
The Public Trial
On Wednesday, the independent judicial watchdog, Judicial Watch, filed an ethics complaint against Maxine Waters for her public comments in Minnesota on April 18. As reported in Tuesday's UncoverDC article, the judge was furious about the behavior on the part of public officials and the media with regard to the Derek Chauvin case—behavior that almost certainly put undue pressure on the unsequestered jury. There are already reports indicating that Chauvin's lawyers will appeal his case due to "mob justice," media malfeasance, unequal justice, and undue influence by partisan politicians.
Social media has been on fire—with many voicing opinions about the verdict. Reporter Jack Posobiec pointed to the double standards of justice in America in a post depicting newly released evidence of a man who died when Dallas police officers pinned his shoulders, knees, and neck to the ground in August of 2016. There were many similarities between that case and George Floyd's. The victim was a white man. The charges were dismissed.
Reporter Ami Horowitz traveled to the George Floyd memorial on April 20 to do "man-on-the-street" interviews with protesters who had gathered. He said that "tensions were high." Horowitz asked one person, "By burning the city down, will it teach [people] a lesson?" The person responded, "I think honestly, I am all for burning it down. There shouldn't even be a trial. He should be convicted as is." Another person was asked, "If Chauvin got off, would you support street justice on him?" One person answered, "Yes." Another, "Y'all should have fed him to the wolves a long time ago."
None of the people interviewed in the video seemed to know the statistics of how many unarmed black people were killed by police officers last year. Their answers were "100 plus" in Minnesota alone, and, around the country, one woman said, "Oh, thousands!" Statistics indicate that those estimates are far from accurate.
Podcasters like Frank Val entertains almost daily on his Quite Frankly Podcast. He delivers a frequently humorous but astute show whose raison d'etre is to elucidate how politics are so often downstream from culture. In a recent episode, he articulates the mindset and insidious influence of both the media and partisan politicians on almost every major issue, political or not. He often laments that an unsuspecting public doesn't stand a chance to objectively or independently judge events for themselves given the way information is propagandized. The episode is called "A Minefield of Mental Illness," and it aired on April 13.
Below Candace Owens adeptly captures the media's all too frequent propensity to define the 'narrative'—one which often exerts undue influence on public opinion and possibly even the verdict for some—on cases like Chauvin's.
The verdict has been reached. However, the question remains; was the jury truly free to arrive at their decision with equanimity, free from influence, fear, or consequence given the external forces that were brought to bear? If our justice system is to function as intended, these are important questions to ponder.