After three weeks of testimonials, the trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin has come to a close as he was found guilty on all three charges over the murder of George Floyd. Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for up to 40 years pending when he’s sentenced in about two months from now.
The verdict set off a bittersweet reaction for Americans, who were happy a police officer was held accountable for the unjust murder of an innocent Black person, but an understanding that there is still a lot of work to be done, as there are so many other past victims who’s murderer’s will not face the same consequences Chauvin is.
“Today we are able to breathe again,” said Philonise Floyd, George’s younger brother, who compared the killing of his brother to the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, although this time there was cell phone footage to actually show the world first hand what happened.
“It appeared a lot easier on Chauvin than when my brother was handcuffed before his death, but it still represents accountability. It makes us happier knowing his life mattered, he didn’t die in vain.”
The jury was composed of six white and six Black and multiracial individuals who came back with their verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. His bail was revoked immediately and he will be sentenced in about two months time.
President Joe Biden reacted to the historic verdict by discussing how “Floyd’s death was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see systemic racism. It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again.”
A park next to the Minneapolis courthouse held a crowd of about 300 people who went silent as the verdict was being announced. Then, shouts and cheers of celebration could be heard for miles all throughout the nation.
Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt “grateful and relieved. I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete. I’m looking forward to the next case with joy and optimism and strength. There’s some form of justice that’s coming.”
According to the Associated Press, “out of the thousands of deadly police shootings in the U.S. since 2005, fewer than 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter. Before Tuesday, only seven were convicted of murder.”
Floyd’s death sparked one of the largest civil rights movements this country has ever seen. Individuals who were around for the original movement in the 1950’s and 60’s said that the Black Lives Matter demonstrations from the past year have been some of the largest they’ve ever seen. Darnella Drazier’s video of the murder is what sparked the movement and call for action against Chauvin and the three other officers at the scene of the murder.
Frazier said Chauvin gave the bystanders a “cold and “heartless stare. We all felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt from witnessing Floyd’s slow-motion death. It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she testified.
BJ Wilder is a 39-year-old Minneapolis resident who told the press that he sees the drive for change that this case has caused, and while it’s infuriating that another innocent Black person had to be killed to get the rest of the country to wake up, there is hope, it’s in the hands of the government now though.
“I’m hopeful that Chauvin’s conviction will be a turning point that leads to an awakening in America and accountability for officer misconduct.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.