Nearly a year ago, the country was turned upside down following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. What began on May 25th, 2020 as a reported counterfeit twenty dollar bill (which still has not been confirmed counterfeit) resulted in a public outrage that swept the nation and still continues to this day. From the time former officer Derek Chauvin arrived on the scene, to the 9 minutes later when Floyd ceased to breathe under the weight of the knee resting on his neck, history was tragically being made.
It took nearly 11 months to arrive at the point of accountability. 11 months of mass protests and tears—of more brutality and police killings. But the jury—consisting of a good mix of women, men, white people, and people of color—swiftly reached their verdict and announced it Thursday.
Just a little over a week after the most recent shooting of a black man by white officer, Floyd finally received what came close to justice, but in reality, is just accountability. Chauvin was guilty, guilty, and, not to mention, guilty. Second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter—those are the charges that the judge read out as Chauvin’s eyes stared straight forward, empty and culpable.
Whether the charges are valid is still a discussion topic, as it has been for months, despite the court’s ruling. I personally say yes. But still, let us examine: are they?
The Justice Department is launching a major investigation into Minneapolis police practices after Derek Chauvin was convicted for the murder of #GeorgeFloyd.
Minneapolis police kill Black people at 22x the rate of white people, reports Mapping Police Violence. pic.twitter.com/KkFjyyF7SO
— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 21, 2021
Second-Degree Unintentional Murder
Second-degree unintentional murder is characterized by CNN as causing someone’s death “while committing or attempting to commit felony third-degree assault.” Was Chauvin attempting to commit felony assault? Of course many will say no, that no one in the force would maliciously hurt a perpetrator—that it’s just in their training.
What Chauvin did, though, was not characterized by police training. Spoken by a key police witness, the training includes restraints that should “not amount to deadly force,” however, Chauvin did quite that. In fact, even after a paramedic suggested taking Floyd to the hospital after noticing his high blood pressure, Chauvin still kept his knee on Floyd’s neck, completely aware of his weakened state and the possibly harmful implications. How is it not deadly force, kneeling on the neck of a man who is medically inhibited and is already restrained, knowing you are depriving him of medical aid? It is lethal—common knowledge.
Even if it was Floyd’s toxicology or underlying medical conditions that was a major factor in his death, Chauvin’s deprivation of medical aid and unnecessary restraint was malicious in nature, and purposely endangering another human life.
Derek Chauvin is a convicted murderer.
He was found guilty by a jury of his peers.
This wasn't mob rule.
It was a fair trial.
His own police chief fired him and testified against him.
He murdered a man in cold blood.
Every decent human being I know was happy with the verdict. pic.twitter.com/WJnGyIeghh
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) April 21, 2021
This charge was justified in court by the fact that Chauvin was “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
While “depraved” seems like a far stretch for many, Chauvin’s actions were just that. For a large portion of the time spent on Floyd’s neck, Chauvin was hardly struggling to restrain him. In fact, he was at ease most the time, hands in pocket and smiling, even. Knowing you are restraining a panicked human in medical crisis should not give you a sense of relaxation. You should not be dawning a smug grin while depleting the life out of a man’s lungs, regardless of what he’s done or what mental state he’s in.
The depravement of his acts stems from the nature of them. His restraint of Floyd was not out of necessity, but arrogance and possibly even pleasure. That is not anyone’s duty or job training; it is criminal to enjoy killing another human, intentional or not. There was no regard for Floyd’s life as Chauvin perched kneeling on his neck, indifferent as to whether he was breathing or not.
Chauvin’s last charge of manslaughter was characterized as “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm.” There is little-to-absolutely nothing that can be said to argue his innocence with this charge.
Feigning ignorance won’t work in this situation, because as we know, Chauvin was advised to release Floyd into the custody of paramedics due to his alarming vitals. He denied them, choosing to restrain him in his condition instead. Floyd’s death could most-simply be deemed the product of negligence, though it has been credited to malicious intent in the court ruling. That alone being paired with Chauvin’s knowledge of Floyd’s condition was enough evidence of unreasonable risk that could have been avoiding. It caused great bodily harm, indeed. His negligence was fatal.
If that isn’t manslaughter, then quite frankly, I don’t know what is.
How it started.
How it’s going.
This is Derek Chauvin’s new mugshot released by Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Doesn’t look so tough and nonchalant now, does he?
Do prison pants have pockets…asking for a murderer. pic.twitter.com/ZMJKShHkqE
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) April 21, 2021
Many are now wondering where this court ruling will lead us now in our nation’s struggle to combat police brutality. Is it the end? No, of course not.
As the trial went on, many more, such as twenty year-old Duane Wright, thirteen year-old Adam Toledo, and sixteen year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. Wright was shot as the officer mistook her pistol for a taser, despite the nearly two-pound difference in the weapons. Toledo has dropped his gun and was lifting his hands, which were empty and calm as they rose, yet a responding officer still opened fire into his chest. Bryant was engaged in a fight and, without hesitation, was shot fatally four times by the officer.
George Floyd’s battle for acknowledgement was won. He didn’t not receive true justice, but rather a sense of accountability has been created for Chauvin and other officers alike. The practice of brutality and negligence against people of color at the hands of police still carries on, though. We can hope this ruling and the year-long outpour and outrage in support of Floyd will serve as a looming threat to officers contemplating the abuse of power—justice, or at least accountability, will finally be served, unlike before. We can hope it serves as the template for other cases of injustice being brought to court. Because though it’s only an individual case, it is significant and symbolic.
It is the beginning of the end of acquitted officers and guilt-free abuse of power. It serves as a warning, produced through unnecessary tragedy and nearly a year of outrage. The end to police brutality is not near, but with Chauvin’s confirmed guilt, it has begun.
Featured image via NCB News / YouTube