A Modicum of Justice
The conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd is the first step of many steps towards reform of the American policing system.
¨Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.¨ — James 5:16 KJV
Like many Americans, I was ensconced in front of the television tuned into CNN waiting for the verdict to be announced in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Shortly after 5 PM, the verdict was announced to the nation and the world — -¨Gulity, Guilty, Guilty.¨ Derek Chauvin was guilty on all three counts for the murder of George Floyd. While watching CNN, my eyes veered towards the bottom right corner of the screen where displayed were scenes of people, including members of the Floyd family upon hearing the news erupted in ebullient celebrations outside of the courtroom and outside the ¨CUP FOODS¨ convenience store in South Minneapolis where George Floyd had been murdered by Chauvin´s knee.
My personal reaction to the conviction of Chauvin was one of relief, stupefaction, and incredulity. My incredulity was not based on the fact Derek Chauvin was guilty of murdering George Floyd. My incredulity was based on the premise that a jury believed Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer was guilty of murdering George Floyd. For my entire sixteen years of life, law enforcement officers who engaged in acts of police violence against Black people nary faced conviction from a jury. Yesterday was different — -a police officer faced legal consequences for murdering a Black man.
Yesterday’s conviction was an exceptionally rare event because according to the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database just 5% of police officers — have been convicted of murder. Police officers who stand trial for murder or manslaughter have a unique set of advantages that make criminal conviction by a jury less probable. Two hours after the verdict was announced President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke in the Cross Hall of the White House. During the remarks, the President mentioned how such a conviction is sparse in the American justice system.
¨Let’s also be clear that such a verdict is also much too rare. For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors: a brave young woman with a smartphone camera; a crowd that was traumatized — traumatized witnesses; a murder that lasts almost 10 minutes in broad daylight for, ultimately, the whole world to see; officers standing up and testifying against a fellow officer instead of just closing ranks, which should be commended; a jury who heard the evidence, carried out their civic duty in the midst of an extraordinary moment, under extraordinary pressure.¨
Yesterday´s conviction was not justice—but it was accountability. True, authentic justice is George Floyd playing his daughter Gianna. Justice is Michael Brown, Travyon Martin, Freddie Gray, Adam Toledo, Daunte Wright, Eric Garner, LaQuan McDonald, Atatiana Jefferson, Sandra Bland, Ma´Khia Bryant and so many other Black and Brown people who have been gunned down by police officers for frivolous reasons being alive.