“I think if they come back quickly, we will save him,” said a black man on the street in a TV interview. I think if they come back quickly, we will receive him. He was referring to the twelve jurors in Hennepin County, Minnesota where Derek Chauvin was on trial – the white cop who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds in May the year before Floyd’s death.
Jury – there are five men and seven women; Six whites, four blacks, and two people who labeled themselves “multiracial” – it took ten and a half hours to reach their verdict. Is this short? As anyone familiar with the American legal system knows, this is surprisingly short. Because the jury will be directed again after their withdrawal to deliberate. Usually they have questions about a process of this size. Often there is at least one stubborn juror; In this case, the judge must use a statutory breach called “Allen’s Charge” to brutally urge the jury to reach a final verdict.
This time there were no questions. No one had to ask the jury to do anything. So it was not surprising when a jury found the defendants guilty of all counts. Guilty of having committed a “second degree murder” in which another person kills unintentionally. Guilty of “third degree murder” – this is Minnesota when a person causes the death of another person through “extremely dangerous work,” regardless of their life. Finally, he is also guilty of “second degree manslaughter,” which occurs when someone accepts death or grievous bodily harm to another person through “unreasonable danger.” These crimes are: life, 25 years, from 5 to 15 years. Derek Chauvin will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Anyone who has seen the video in which policeman Chauvin – with his hands buried in his pockets – kills George Floyd, may find that judgment plausible or predictable. After all, the prosecution called in not 45 witnesses but rather 46, as their representative Keith Ellison mentioned in his closing statement; The forty-sixth witness was common sense. Finally, among the witnesses who testified earlier in the trial, a nine-year-old girl remembered the paramedics who asked Derek Chauvin to abandon his victim. But black Americans remained skeptical until the last minute.
They remembered the 1991 Rodney King trial in Los Angeles: at the time, the video clearly showed several police officers slapping those on the ground, and the court acquitted them. They were reminiscent of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back by a police officer in 2015 while trying to escape; Here, too, no perpetrators have been found guilty. So black Americans knew that anything was possible. At least a “pending jury” had to be expected – that is, a jury that could not agree on a verdict. In this case, Judge Peter Cahill had no choice but to declare the trial a failure.
So America held its breath on April 20, 2021. The shops in Minneapolis had closed windows and doors because riots were to be expected in the event of an acquittal. The family of George Floyd, who were following the outcome of the trial in a hotel, called for a repudiation of violence. Helicopters hovered over the city and the National Guard was separated. And of course the judge ordered the jury not to impress them with any of this. It was up to them to decide whether to believe that Derek Chauvin’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” would be proven. That’s all. (Then the judge determines the verdict). When the verdict was handed down in Minneapolis, just after 6 pm local time, all of America breathed a sigh of relief. Cheers erupted in the streets in front of the court. Even in distant New York, cries of relief, perhaps joy, could be heard from the open windows.
Maybe this time the scale was full. While the trial was still on April 11, 20-year-old Black Donut Wright was shot dead by a white policewoman who later said she had misused her electric pistol. Shortly before, photos of Karon Nazario’s arrest rocked the nation – a uniformed black lieutenant who was forced to the ground by police officers with their drawn rifles and roars. Perhaps the new thing is that black Americans aren’t just shocked this time – and it’s not just left-wingers by any means. David French, a Christian conservative columnist, tweeted just one sentence after the verdict: “May justice help heal this earth.” May justice help heal this earth.
Perhaps the deciding factor in the ruling was that the “thin blue line” did not hold this time. US police officers can often rely on other witnesses in blue uniforms in court proceedings – no one wants to be a “fellow pig” who turns on their comrades. But at Derek Chauvin’s trial, several police officers testified that he had acted unprofessional and criminally, including a former Minneapolis sheriff. Ultimately, it is pointless to speculate about it. Jurors privately advise that their consultation room is a “black box” for strangers. The important thing is that on April 20, 2021, seven women and five men sent a man to prison who knelt on another person’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds because he had authority over him.
Is everything going to be all right now? Here you will hear more skeptical words from black Americans than from whites. Police unions still have a lot of power in the United States – more power than they have to be. The Supreme Court ruling continues to grant police officers “limited immunity” – that is, it is impossible to hold them civil unless a precedent is cited that exactly applies to their case. And for many white police officers, black Americans are still the subject of public suspicion, so any traffic control can escalate into a fatal accident. No, it is by no means guaranteed that blacks in America will test police officers as friends and future aides. However, the cheerful, spontaneous street dances were justified. May justice help heal this earth.