The verdict is in. Former police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on three counts in the murder of George Floyd. There has been a lot of debate about whether or not the jury reached the right verdict. It’s possible that Chauvin’s attorneys are also questioning the verdict and may file an appeal, and that’s their right to do so.
That’s how our justice system works.
It is not handed out in the street, with a knee to the neck.
Say what you will about the outcome of the trial; at least Chauvin was granted one. Floyd, accused of passing a phony $20, did not get to go to trial.
He didn’t get to face his accuser before a jury of his peers. He didn’t get to present evidence. He didn’t have the opportunity to speak for himself.
Chauvin had all that. He choose not to speak, exercising his right to remain silent. Floyd had that choice taken away from him as he lay on the ground, hands cuffed behind him and a knee at his neck. The placement of Chauvin’s knee was literally overkill. Since 1995, the Department of Justice has warned against placing a person on their stomach with hands cuffed behind their back. Doing so, a DOJ bulletin noted, could result in positional asphyxia — “death as a result of the body position that interferes with one’s ability to breath.”
Floyd, whose character was put on trial by the defense, was not afforded a team of attorneys to profess his innocence. Instead, he had bystanders who protested as Chauvin was killing him. Then, after his death, he had protestors who took to the streets in his name, demanding justice.
It is a false argument to say that if Floyd hadn’t resisted arrest, he would not have died. Police officers arrest thousands of people every day who resist arrest. Sadly, it’s a part of their jobs, and it’s something we expect them to be trained to handle.
Chauvin’s conviction is not an indictment of police officers as a whole. There are police officers in this country who put their own lives on the line, work long hours to solve cold cases, fill out tedious reports and paperwork, work in all kinds of weather conditions, console victims and families and worry about their communities. They deal with people in crisis — the DOJ says 64% of inmates have some mental health issue — and people who are, simply put, evil. They do exactly what we expect of law enforcement: They protect and serve.
They even protect the people they take into custody.
Our legal system is based on the premise of innocent until proven guilty and that everyone has the right to have their cases heard in a court of law. Chauvin had that opportunity, and a jury of his peers rendered a verdict.
Chauvin exercised every one of the rights that the legal system provides someone accused of a crime. He would not have had to, had he simply allowed Floyd to do the same.