The Derek Chauvin Verdict

By: T. Jeffersonian

            There is a quote from the movie The Judge that stands out… when you put 12 Americans together in a jury and you ask for justice? Something just south of brilliance happens. Often as not, they get it right.  Despite all the rhetoric on both sides of the political aisle – before, during, and after the trial – the Derek Chauvin jury consisting of six whites and six black or multiracial people came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days.  The verdict — guilty as charged on all counts, in a relatively swift, across-the-board victory for victim George Floyd’s supporters.  The verdict set off jubilation mixed with sorrow across the Minneapolis and around the nation.  Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some running through traffic with banners. Drivers blared their horns in celebration.  

The U.S. Constitution guarantees Derek Chauvin the right to a speedy, public trial, by an impartial jury.  Despite the swaying political rhetoric, a hog’s head being sent to a defense witness, and the threats of greater violence if Chauvin were acquitted, the jury remained focused and steadfast.  It is too bad that we cannot replace an equal number of our Washington DC politicians with the Chauvin jury members and the judge who presided over the trial itself.  They in totality were brilliant.  Out of safety concerns, the names of the 12 jurors who delivered the guilty verdicts have been sealed for at least six months. Unfortunately, Derek Chauvin’s case is not over.  Due to at least President Biden’s and Representative Maxine Waters’ public comments, Judge Peter Cahill has already alluded to Waters’ comments last weekend being potentially enough grounds for an appeal. 

Here in Hawaii, the State Attorney General released a statement congratulating their Minnesota peers and promising to work toward fair and equal dispensation of the law.   There have been news articles about racism and unequal and abusive policing with regards to race.  The Derek Chauvin verdict has been described as the legal system working for change against the backdrop of thousands of other cases in which no one was called to account for police killings, disproportionately of black people.  President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying Floyd’s death was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see systemic racism.  Biden warned: It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again.  The jury’s decision was hailed around the country as justice by other political and civic leaders and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a white man, who said on Twitter that Floyd would still be alive if he looked like me. That must change.  All of the politicians making statements are doing so to jump on the band wagon of the verdict’s momentum.  We will hear plenty of rhetoric about race, reform, and police funding; however, there will be no more reform and defunding than there was a national mask mandate.  National level politicians would have to reform the U.S. Constitution substantially to enact police reform.  The 10th Amendment gives broad state police powers predominantly to the states themselves. This is the same amendment that prevents the President from enacting and enforcing a national mask mandate.  Joe and Kamala are themselves lawyers and former Senators.  They knew when they said that they would have a national mask mandate that they did not have the power to do it.  They know now, that they do not have the power to drive police reform, but they say it anyway because they are betting that the American people do not know enough to catch them, in a little white lie.  Our politicians are guilty of an abuse of not having the power, knowing it, but saying it any way.

Was George Floyd’s tragic murder about race or was it about an abuse of power?  The verdict was not about race but was about an abuse of power.  First, throughout the public trial, race has not been emphasized as a motive at all.  During the extensive interview with an alternate juror, there was no mentions of race.  Secondly, there were four police officers present at the scene of George Floyd’s murder – two white, one black, and one Asian.  Derek Chauvin’s wife up and until his arrest for the murder was also Asian.  The alternate juror who participated in the case up and until jury verdict deliberations, said that she locked eyes with Chauvin a few times during the trial and this made her pretty uncomfortable.  She and Derek Chauvin are both white.  She said Chauvin appeared to know what he was doing when pinned Floyd to the ground.  The alternate juror felt like Chauvin knew that he was the leader, and the other officers were following his lead. 

Derek Chauvin was indeed the senior officer on scene at George Floyd’s murder.  Chauvin was the officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Chauvin killed George Floyd.  Had it been Gavin Newsome on the ground instead of George Floyd, and all the same circumstances applied – counterfeit accusation, drugs, claustrophobia, enlarged heart, criminal record – then Chauvin would have knelt on Gavin Newsome’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.  Being white or black did not matter.  Power mattered.

Chauvin was a 19-year Minnesota Police Department veteran, having served from 2001 to 2020.  He was a member of the Army Reserve from 1996-2004.  He had graduated from Metropolitan State University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement.  During his career, he was involved in three police shootings, one of which was fatal. He received a medal for valor in 2006 for being one of several officers who fired on a suspect who pointed a shotgun at them, and another in 2008 for a domestic violence incident in which he broke down a door and shot a suspect who reached for his pistol.  He received a commendation medal in 2008 after he and his partner tackled a fleeing suspect holding a pistol. In 2009, Chauvin received a commendation medal after working off duty as a security guard for a nightclub. He had 18 complaints on his official record, two of which ended in discipline. In July 2020, after the murder charges were brought against him, Chauvin and his then-wife were separately charged with multiple felony counts of tax evasion. Chauvin’s tax evasion trial begins June 30, 2021.  In retrospect, there were numerous points in Chauvin’s career where he could have been dismissed from the police but for the two instance of discipline there were four instances of valor.  He was not dismissed.  His commendations simply reinforced his behavior.  He made his way to that fateful day where he killed George Floyd in one final tragic abuse of power and showboating in front of junior officers whom he was training, and protesting against the agitated growing crowd of citizens who asked him repeatedly to get off George Floyd.   

Our politicians continue to try to divide and wrongly emphasize race to empower themselves in this case and others and have no intentions nor power to provide real results or reforms.  They want votes.  The real Americans that spoke for us, have not been our politicians and unless political reform occurs in Washington DC and term limits are installed, our politicians never will be.   The protestors will never speak for all of us nor will the thugs, pundits, and news reporters who pick sides – Tucker Carlson, the View, Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon, or Sean Hannity.  The people who truly had the only voice empowered to legitimately speak for people, who truly had the only voice that mattered for George Floyd and his family, for Derek Chauvin and his family, for the bystanders who now feel like they could have done more to save a dying fellow American, the other officers and their families was the Derek Chauvin jury.  Now their lives too are forever and tragically changed.