How would you like to be a juror in the Derek Chauvin trial? I don’t think anyone in the country could be totally unaware of George Floyd’s murder and the events that followed last summer. How can you remain impartial when you’ve watched your city - and cities across the country - burn because of the actions of the man whose life is now in your hands?
The jurors are human and humans have biases. This is especially true when their own lives have been affected. It’s difficult to keep an open mind. But the possibility that some jurors may have had an idea about how the trial needed to come out doesn’t mean that justice wasn’t served.
Often, people will rally to defend an accused officer but I haven’t heard anyone defending Derek Chauvin for months. Even then it was mostly people arguing that Floyd “had it coming” because of his prior run-ins with the law. Those voices were silent today.
It’s tough to defend someone after you watch them coolly suffocate a prostrate man for more than nine minutes while onlookers beg for mercy. There is no world in which this was appropriate behavior for a police officer.
I do feelsome sympathy for Chauvin. I don’t know what was going through his mind that day, but I don’t think he went to work that morning planning to kill a random suspect. I seriously doubt that he intended to kill Floyd even as he kneeled on his neck. Chauvin didn’t wake up and plan to become the most hated man in the country.
But the law doesn’t judge us based on our intentions. We are held accountable based on our actions. It is a testament to the jurors that they realized that police officers must be held accountable as well, even if their actions were unintentional. In a country where it is recognized that all men are created equal, police officers and presidents and everyone in between should be equal in the eyes of the law.
The matter of George Floyd’s death is not closed. The other three former police officers involved will go on trial for aiding and abetting Chauvin in Floyd’s murder. Minneapolis and the country will have to repeat the process.
America is in the midst of an epidemic of police brutality. We’ve seen the videos and heard the details of far too many needless and accidental killings by cops in recent years. Hopefully, the conviction of Derek Chauvin will lead to positive change and reform. Citizens shouldn’t have to fear an accidental death at the hands of the police who are there to protect them.
I’ll add that President Biden’s call for "peace and calm" hit exactly the right tone. While I don’t like much of Biden’s policy, he is much better than President Trump at finding the right words at the right time for the country.
As I write this, I haven’t seen any reports of violence in the wake of the verdict, but the night is young. My hope is that the celebrations remain peaceful.
I think that where we saw pent-up anger and frustration last summer, tonight we see relief and rejoicing that justice has been done. Tonight, a lot of people who didn’t have faith in the system have found some small measure of it.
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