A Terminus in a Trainwreck Case for America
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three counts, including murder, in the death of George Floyd.
Forty-five year-old Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted on all charges, including murder, in the case of the May 2020 death of George Floyd. The jury deliberated for an hour.
Mr. Floyd’s slaying was a veritable Franz Ferdinand moment, and certainly the coup de grace in an already unprecedented, hardline pandemic response in much of the world. The death brought the Black Lives Matter movement into the Western mainstream, and set off months of often iconoclastic protests that eventually brought down the presidency of Donald Trump.
The subtext Tuesday was plain: fear of repeat business if Chauvin was cleared of wrongdoing. Earlier in the day, President Biden explicitly conveyed his wishes for a guilty verdict, caveating that it was appropriate to do so once the trial jury was sequestered. His remarks drew concern even from political sympathizers. The clear sounds of cheering outside the courthouse, and the national transfixion for the result, the “right verdict” as the president said, in an individual criminal matter of heretofore non-celebrities raised questions of the stability of the American system.
But Chauvin is being held fully responsible for Floyd’s death, found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of: second degree unintentional murder, third degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The prison term will be lengthy. The most serious conviction, murder in the second degree, carries a maximum of forty years incarceration.
Chauvin’s counsel, Eric C. Nelson, will likely protest that the jury was not properly sequestered for the length of the whole trial in any appeal, as he has consistently. Last week, two seated jurors were dismissed following possible exposure to the multimillion-dollar settlement the city brokered with Floyd’s family. And on Monday, obscene comments from Rep. Maxine Waters overtly lending support to potential violent protests prompted the presiding judge to concede, “I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” before he denied a motion to dismiss.
Chauvin, who had been out on bail, will soon have to report to prison, likely for a very long time, sparing a changed country further immediate trauma. But it’s certain the issues raised by the killing of Floyd and its reaction are far from fully litigated.