I wasn’t ready for the verdict to come so quickly. Justice came sooner than expected. I didn’t have my thoughts together and did not know how I would respond emotionally. I didn’t know what to expect or to make of it.
Wringing hands and stomach turning, I’ve said too many names, saw too many videos to believe that things would be different. Still, I prayed for justice. “Please give George Floyd justice. Amen.”
It took the jury in the trial of Derek Chauvin just under eleven hours to decide that he was guilty on all counts. Guilty of second- degree unintentional murder. Guilty of third- degree murder. Guilty of second- degree manslaughter. Chauvin was guilty three times over and the decision was unanimous.
The jurors all agreed that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd with his hands in his pockets, that he murdered Floyd nonchalantly. They agreed that Chauvin squeezed the life out of Floyd with his own body, the unyielding pressure of his knee on Floyd’s neck. I will always hear Floyd’s screams, his pleas, his labored breathing.
George Floyd changed many people’s understanding of law enforcement and police brutality. It was not as simple as complying. Handcuffed and on the ground with three police officers on top of him, this wasn’t about following orders. Things had gone awry and the crowd knew it. This wasn’t right and they said it repeatedly.
Recorded by Darnella Frazier, the seventeen- year witness who captured the entire ordeal, we all saw it with our own eyes. We all watched George Floyd die and there was nothing we could do about it. I felt helpless though not as helpless as Floyd or the innocent bystanders who tried to intervene. Though much farther removed, I still felt for him.
I stared at my phone on Tuesday, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Justice hadn’t shown up before so I wasn’t expecting an appearance today. Commentators were already suggesting that Chauvin may not be convicted on any or all charges, that the jurors had come back too quickly. They were certain that this was not a good sign. Boarded up businesses were not a good sign either; Minneapolis residents expected riots if the decision was not to convict Chauvin.
Maybe the jurors needed more time. I started to review the evidence and to think about all of the witnesses. What more did they need to see? What more needed to be said? What would be said of us as a society if we allowed this to happen to George Floyd while we were all watching?
Nine minutes and twenty- nine seconds, time that changed everything and there is no turning back. Justice was served to Derek Chauvin but what about George Floyd? Because he shouldn’t have died, not over an alleged counterfeit twenty- dollar bill, not while in police custody. Because he should have been viewed as “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
Now what? What do we say now? What do we do now that Derek Chauvin’s guilt is a reality? How do we build on this judicial victory?
How does inform our understanding and practice of accountability? How do we preach now that the narrative of good cop and bad guy has been challenged, now that our understanding of good and evil is nuanced with more gray areas, now that things are not as black and white as they seem? What do we say now that the jury has found a police officer guilty?
What does justice look like for impoverished and marginalized communities? What can be said of our work and witness when a community turns their cameras on because we can’t see what they are saying in cases of police brutality? What does justice really look like?
Because it cannot be more of the same.
To read more of my thoughts on the Derek Chauvin trial and police brutality, please click here.