Derek Chauvin convicted for brutal murder of George Floyd

This week, the most consequential trial in this historic era of the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement culminated in a rare guilty verdict. A Minneapolis jury found Derek Chauvin, a white man and former police officer, guilty of the May 2020 brutal, daylight lynching of George Floyd, a Black American man.
Photo by Jéan Béller on Unsplash

BY OBERT MADONDO | @Obiemad | APR. 25, 2021

This week, the most consequential trial in this historic era of the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement culminated in a rare guilty verdict.

A jury found Derek Chauvin, a white man and former Minneapolis police officer, guilty of the May 2020 brutal, daylight lynching of George Floyd, a Black American man. Chauvin, 45, dug his knee into Floyd’s neck for nine minutes as Floyd lay on the ground, begging for his life.

On June 3, 2020, the Star Tribune reported on “a bystander video” showing “officer Derek Chauvin pinning down Floyd by his neck while two other officers, J Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane, hold him down at his legs and back,” adding:

“Please, I can’t breathe,” Floyd pleads repeatedly.

“He is human, bro,” bystanders shout at the officers. “He’s not even resisting arrest right now, bro. You’re [expletive] stopping his breathing right now, bro. You think that’s cool?”

The jury comprised of six Black or multiracial persons and six whites found Chauvin guilty on all three counts of second degree unintentional murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter.

George Floyd joined a growing list of Black Americans whose lives have been violently cut short by law enforcement in the past few years? Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Michael Brown. Philando Castille. Jacob Blake. Tamir Rice. Breonna Taylor. Daunte Wright. Adam Toledo. And Ma’Khia Bryant.

Chauvin’s guilty verdict “marks the first time in modern memory a Minnesota police officer has been convicted in the death of a Black man,” according to the Sahan Journal.

But does Chauvin’s conviction constitute “justice”?

In a joint statement posted to Twitter, former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama cautioned against equating this “necessary step on the road to progress” to “true justice”. The Obamas said “true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial”. They called for the elimination of “racial bias in our criminal justice system.”

After being lynched, Floyd was subjected to the all-too-familiar poison of the “demonization and criminalization of unarmed Black male victims in America“. A brief official police press statement announced that police officers had responded to “a report of a forgery in progress.” The suspect “appeared to be under the influence.” He got out of his car as ordered by police officers but “physically resisted officers.” But police “officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs”.

Police officers “noted” that the suspect “appeared to be suffering medical distress,” the statement stated. They called “for an ambulance” that transported him to Hennepin County Medical Center “where he died a short time later.”

Importantly, the police statement stated that the “suspect” had died “after” a “medical incident during police interaction”.

Luckily, a bystander, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, witnessed Chauvin’s cold-blooded murder of Floyd. She recorded the murder on her cellphone, initiating “a series of historic events that led to Chauvin’s conviction,” according to Michael J. Socolow, an Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine.

The Minneapolis jury saw what Darnella Frazier saw. What the world saw through the lens of her cellphone. Importantly, the jury rejected the dehumanizing “picture” that law enforcement had tried to create around Floyd: that of a forgery “suspect” who had “appeared to be under the influence,” who had lost his life “after” a “medical incident during police interaction“. That of a “suspect” who had received the gift of police kindness as officers called “for an ambulance” that transported him to hospital “where he died a short time later.”

As Charles M. Blow explained in a New York Times opinion piece:

In this extraordinary case, there was justice for George Floyd. But until justice for Black people killed by the state exists not only in the extraordinary case but also in the mundane, until it is not shocking that an officer is held accountable for murder, the crusade continues. One battle is won, but we are still in the middle of the war for equality.

The war against white supremacy, systematic racism, inequality, and anti-Black police racism and egregious violence, doesn’t end with the conviction of one murderous white police officer.

Below are a few news headlines highlighting mostly U.S. responses to Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd and the guilty verdict:

The Canadian Progressive: Obamas on Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict: “Today, a jury did the right thing”

On Tuesday, Derek Chauvin, the white former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, a Black man, was found guilty on all three charges brought against him in relation to the May 2020 murder. Chauvin, 45, dug his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes even as Floyd pleaded for his life. The mixed-race Minneapolis jury comprising six Black or multi-racial persons and six Whites found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder.

In a jointed statement posted to Twitter, former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama applauded the verdict but cautioned against equating this “necessary step on the road to progress” to “true justice”. The Obamas said “true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial” and called for the elimination of “racial bias in our criminal justice system.” (Madondo, April 23, 2021) READ FULL STORY

The Guardian: Opinion: The Chauvin verdict is a step in the right direction. But there is much work to do

The entire world was on edge, patiently waiting for the verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. On Tuesday, the jury returned a guilty verdict on all three counts after deliberating for about 10 hours over two days. Chauvin was convicted of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

For Floyd’s family, it is a semblance of long-awaited accountability for the brutal murder of their loved one, though nothing will ever bring back their beloved George. For the Black community in the United States, it is a glimmer of possibility that after generations of fighting against police brutality and racism, we may finally be witnessing the beginning of reform and equal protection under the law. For the rest of the world, it is also an indication that there is hope for people of color everywhere who far too often suffer at the hands of law enforcement and systemic racism. Tuesday’s verdict is a step in the right direction, but our work is far from over. (Al Sharpton, April 23, 2021) READ FULL STORY

The New York Times: With the Chauvin Verdict, One Battle Is Won. The War Continues.

The fight for equality doesn’t end after a single conviction.

History has been a stern instructor of Black people in this country, beating out hope wherever it dares to emerge.

As James Baldwin once put it, there is embedded in the American Negro the “wise desire not to be betrayed by too much hoping.” The possessor of dashed hopes is in some ways more injured and dangerous than the consistently hopeless. The possessors of dashed hopes spread their wings, which make them vulnerable, and get them clipped. Bitterness is a natural byproduct of such betrayal.

Before Tuesday’s guilty verdict for a former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, in the murder of George Floyd, many of us were afraid to hope that justice would be done. It doesn’t matter the strength of the case or the preponderance of evidence; convicting a police officer of killing a Black man is so rare in this country that I can count the recent cases I recall on my fingers … on one hand.

So when the verdicts came down, for me, there was a moment of shock: The justice system had administered justice to a Black man, a Black family, the Black community, the country and the world. We are so used to the system betraying us that it was stunning to see it serve us.

Could we celebrate? Should we celebrate? Of course we should have, and did.

But even in celebrating that victory, there is sadness. Why is the hurdle set to that nearly impossible height? Must your killing be in slow motion and caught on not one video but multiples?” (Blow, April 23, 2021) READ FULL STORY

People: Racial Justice Activists on What’s Next After Derek Chauvin’s Conviction for George Floyd’s Murder

After Minnesota jurors convicted Derek Chauvin of murder Tuesday afternoon, the news was met with jubilation and relief. But advocates for racial justice stress that the verdict was only the first step to achieve justice for George Floyd. Right now is the time to do work. I don’t think anyone wants to relax,” says Bakari Sellers, an activist and the author of My Vanishing Country, a memoir about growing up Black in the South. “Right now is the time to pass the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act,” a federal law aimed at curbing police abuse. Adds Sellers, “We’ve got to get criminal justice reform done. If we don’t, then all of this is in vain.”

Sellers says the verdict was not tantamount to justice, though it provided a measure of accountability for Floyd’s murder. (Aradillas and Kantor, April 21, 2021) READ FULL STORY

POLITICO: Celebration is laced with warnings after Derek Chauvin conviction

Democrats and activists celebrated Tuesday’s conviction of the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd last May, but warned that more needed to be done to address systemic issues with policing and criminal justice. (Fogey and McCaskill, April 20, 2021) READ FULL STORY

Teen Vogue: Derek Chauvin’s Guilty Conviction Is Not Justice for Systemic Police Violence

After 13 days of testimony and almost a year of collective despair, a jury has declared something that the world has known since witnessing the life drain from George Floyd on video last May — Derek Chauvin is guilty of Floyd’s murder. I hadn’t been following the trial because I was too afraid of a different conclusion, another reminder that this country doesn’t value a life like mine. I’d read some articles here and there and seen video clips online, but I wasn’t glued to the trial like many others. So it was only after I heard the buzzing of helicopters hovering above my Brooklyn apartment that I realized a verdict was imminent. I pulled out my phone, held my breath, and watched the judge make the announcement: Chauvin was guilty, guilty, guilty on all three counts against him. I felt relief for a few seconds, but then the anger returned. Derek Chauvin’s conviction didn’t feel like justice, because it wasn’t. (Nasheed, April 21, 2021) READ FULL STORY

The Conversation: Chauvin conviction: 2 things to know about jury bias and 2 ways to reduce it

Shortly after the guilty verdicts were revealed in former police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial for murdering George Floyd, legal experts suggested Chauvin will appeal, arguing that his right to a fair trial was threatened by extensive pretrial publicity. Video of Derek Chauvin with his knee on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes was shared around the globe on social media and drew international outrage. The publicity around Floyd’s death will likely underlie any Chauvin appeal. To help place the jury’s unanimous decision on all three charges in context, here are some important facts about juries… The police often have the first chance to shape public opinion because they have staff experienced in making statements to the press – and the press is eager to get those statements. Unfortunately – though not uncommonly – early media attention on the death of George Floyd was based on inaccurate police statements that minimized the role of Derek Chauvin.” (Jones, April 21, 2021) READ FULL STORY

Sahan Journal: For George Floyd, justice. For Minneapolis, a long-delayed reckoning with racism and police violence

A Hennepin County jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd, a fateful legal finding in a sweeping conflict over race and policing in Minnesota — and the nation. It marks the first time in modern memory a Minnesota police officer has been convicted in the death of a Black man.

The guilty verdict stands out as a landmark after a string of Black men died at the hands of Minnesota law enforcement in recent years, including Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, Isak Aden, Dolal Idd, and, last week, Daunte Wright. Floyd’s killing last May drew huge international attention: Video footage of the gruesome cruelty, captured by a teenage bystander, went viral, sparking a new phase of the Black Lives Matter movement. Millions of people took to the streets to call for justice, resulting in the largest protest movement in American history. (Dernbach, Peters, Ansari and Hazzard, April 20, 2021) READ FULL STORY

Truthout: Mass Protests Led to Chauvin’s Conviction. Now They’re Being Criminalized.

On Tuesday, former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was convicted on all charges in the brutal public lynching of George Floyd. For the Floyd family, the conviction offered some solace that the courts did not allow Floyd’s life to be taken with impunity. For many of us, however, it was a hollow “victory,” not only because prisons don’t solve our problems, but because we know police don’t either. While the trial convicted Chauvin, as an individual, it sought to exonerate the larger system of policing, which is violent to the core. “This is not an anti-police prosecution,” the state’s attorney insisted, “it’s a pro-police prosecution.”

Chauvin was portrayed as a rogue cop out of sync with his fellow police officers. His violent behavior was portrayed as the exception, not the rule, and the system proved it was “just” by convicting him swiftly. This was the skewed narrative offered in pundit-land, while victims of racist police violence kept dying… Now, at the same time that the criminal legal system is congratulating itself for sending Chauvin to prison, the very protests that brought the case to national attention are being criminalized. (Ransby, April 21, 2021) READ FULL STORY

DemocracyNow!: Black Visions Collective: We Need to Abolish the Police & End Militarized Occupations of Our Cities

The police murder of George Floyd added jet fuel to a nationwide push to defund the police. We go to Minneapolis to speak with Kandace Montgomery, co-executive director of Black Visions Collective, about their response to the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd and an update on the push to divest from Minneapolis police and invest in communities. As we’ve reported, a jury in Minneapolis has convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin on three counts of murdering George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds last May. He’s the first white police officer in Minnesota to ever be convicted of killing a Black person. The jury reached its decision after 10 hours of deliberation. Judge Peter Cahill revoked Chauvin’s bail and will sentence him in two months. He faces up to 40 years in prison for the most serious charge, second-degree murder. (Goodman and González, April 21, 2021) READ FULL STORY

Media Matters: Right-wing media use guilty verdict in George Floyd’s murder by police to deny that systemic racism exists: “The system worked”

On April 20, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. Many in right-wing media used the verdict to dismiss criticisms of the criminal justice system and to insist systemic racism is not real. Following the conviction, many pointed out that a guilty verdict, while a form of accountability for the individual officer, did not amount to justice for the cruelty inflicted upon Black communities by the policing and criminal justice systems overall. President Joe Biden, speaking after the verdict was announced, called systemic racism a “stain on our nation.” Many activists cast the moment as a step toward larger systemic change rather than as total justice for the ongoing issues of racism and police violence. (Hagle, April 22, 2021) READ FULL STORY

BuzzFeed News: What Minneapolis Police First Said About George Floyd Vs. What The Jury Found Derek Chauvin Did

In the hours after George Floyd was murdered on May 25 last year, Minneapolis police made their first comments about his death. The announcement did not mention former officer Derek Chauvin placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. It did not mention the fact that this use of force went against department training. It did not mention Floyd gasping for air and telling the officers he couldn’t breathe. It did not mention the pleas of horrified bystanders — some of them children — begging the police to relent. It did not mention that as Floyd was squeezed between the weight of Chauvin’s knee and the street’s asphalt, he tried everything he could — using even his fingers, knuckles, and shoulder muscles — to take in oxygen. It did not mention that in his final moments, Floyd called out for his mother — his “mama” — who had died two years earlier. Instead, the brief announcement of 201 words said only that a man had died “after” a “medical incident during police interaction” and stressed that police had not used any weapons…

Read the original Minneapolis police statement here:

Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction

May 25, 2020 (MINNEAPOLIS) On Monday evening, shortly after 8:00 pm, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department responded to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South on a report of a forgery in progress. Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence. Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later. At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been called in to investigate this incident at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department. No officers were injured in the incident. Body worn cameras were on and activated during this incident. (Mack, April 20, 2021) READ FULL STORY

Columbia Journalism Review: The Chauvin verdict, and a narrow lens on justice

Last May, following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, the police department released a press statement headlined, “Man dies after medical incident during police interaction.” The statement said that officers responded to “a forgery” and that the suspect seemed under the influence; he resisted arrest, fell suddenly under medical distress, and died in a hospital. It said no weapons were used and no officers were harmed. Hours later, a video, shot by seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier, revealed the interaction: Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck, as Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe and onlookers pleaded with Chauvin to stop, until Floyd became unresponsive.

Yesterday, in the late afternoon, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd. CNN broadcast the final moments of Chauvin’s trial live, next to footage of a celebratory scene outside the courthouse. “Let’s get immediate reaction from Don Lemon,” Wolf Blitzer said. Lemon responded, “Justice has been served. You can see the reaction from the crowd, how America feels.” On MSNBC, Jason Johnson, a regular contributor to the network’s coverage, told anchor Nicolle Wallace, “What this says to me is that in order to get a nominal degree of justice in the country is that a Black man has to be murdered, on air, viewed by the entire world… That doesn’t make me feel happy.” Michael Steele, another commentator and the former chair of the Republican National Committee, disagreed, saying at one moment, “the system worked.”

To agree with Lemon or Johnson or Steele is beside the point. After years of American popular protests, cable news still turns away from the grassroots, not only when seeking policy solutions but even when documenting reactions. As Alden Woods, an Arizona Republic reporter, put it, “Why have news networks chosen more airtime for pundits over listening to the people of Minneapolis, who are literally on the screen right now.” (Jacobson, April 21, 2021) READ FULL STORY

The Guardian: Justice for George Floyd was won in the streets, not the courtroom

Martin Luther King Jr famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” President Obama was fond of the saying and used it often – but it could do with a second part. The arc of the moral universe does not bend on its own. It is bent in the right direction by protesters, campaigners and dissenters. It was their hands that forced it towards justice last week, when the former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the second-degree murder of George Floyd. We cannot celebrate and take comfort in the verdict that was meted out without acknowledging the action outside the courtroom that secured it.

But this is what some will do: claim the verdict to be a great victory, after denigrating the means by which it was achieved. The protests in the wake of Floyd’s murder have been called the largest in US and global history. They reached more than 50 countries. In the US, tens of millions of dollars were raised and invested in grassroots communities and advocacy in a diffuse, decentralised network that lobbied politicians and pushed through voter registration. It all made a deep impression on the public consciousness. Chauvin quite simply would not have been brought to trial on these charges, let alone been convicted, were it not for these tireless efforts. (Malik, April 25, 2021) READ FULL STORY

Mother Jones: The Power of the Myths Many White People Believe About Policing—and America

This week in Minneapolis, white police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three counts for the murder last May of George Floyd. Repeatedly, the jury saw the recording of the 19-year veteran of the force kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine-and-a-half minutes, following his arrival on the scene after Floyd had been arrested for allegedly passing a $20 bill. The fact that there was such compelling video evidence was rare. The fact that Chauvin stood trial was rare. The fact that other police officers testified against one of their own was rare. And the guilty verdict was rarer still. Between 2006 and 2017, Minneapolis-area police shot and killed four people. The only police officer to stand trial and get convicted was Mohamed Noor, a Somali cop who had killed Justine Damond, a white woman. (Baptiste, April 23, 2021) READ FULL STORY

USA Today: Derek Chauvin guilty verdict in George Floyd’s killing is a turning point

America’s sordid racial saga may have finally reached an important turning point. The trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer whose knee-to-the-neck of George Floyd on a Minneapolis street last May sparked a fresh national conversation — and nationwide protests — on race and policing, ended late Tuesday with an across-the-board guilty verdict. Chauvin, his mouth and nose covered by a surgical mask, sat silently in a gray suit in a Minneapolis courtroom, his eyes darting from judge to jury. He will likely face a long prison sentence — as many as 40 years behind bars. But what about that uniquely American conversation that exhumed once again the centuries-old dirty history of how police have all too often brutalized African Americans? (Kelly, April 24, 2021) READ FULL STORY

Los Angeles Times: Months before George Floyd, Angel Zapata Hernandez died in San Diego with a knee to his neck

For weeks during the pandemic spring and summer of 2020, thousands of San Diego residents took to the streets around the county, protesting racial injustice and police misconduct in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Floyd’s excruciating death — with then-Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck — was captured on a now-famous cellphone video that, once shared on social media, set off weeks of protests around the world. What the demonstrators in San Diego did not know in those weeks was that a similar death had occurred months before, on the evening of Oct. 15, 2019, in the city’s downtown: 24-year-old Angel Zapata Hernandez died while handcuffed and restrained at the hands of two Metropolitan Transit Service security workers, one of whom knelt on his neck for six minutes and seven seconds. (Hernandez, April 25, 2021) READ FULL STORY

VOX: Why the Chauvin verdict didn’t feel like justice

Broadly, the reaction to the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder was one of relief. “There’s a saying among Black folks,” Veela Ammons, a business consultant and coach based outside Chicago, told me. “It says, ‘It’s not justice, it’s just us.’ And so we thought it was going to be that kind of situation again where even though it was so plain to see, we thought, from anybody’s perspective that this man committed murder, we didn’t think that we would actually get that verdict.” But for many, such surprise and relief also gave way to another feeling. A desire for something more, followed by an idea that became a mantra: that this verdict wasn’t justice. (Collins, AprIL 23, 2021) READ FULL STORY

The Conversation: The other George Floyd story: How media freedom led to conviction in his killer’s trial

When 17-year-old Darnella Frazier started recording video of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd, she initiated a series of historic events that led to Chauvin’s conviction. But for all the discussion of technology following her actions – how cellphones enable video recording of police abuse and how social media encourages instantaneous mass distribution – the key factor in George Floyd’s name becoming globally famous may not be Frazier’s cellphone. It may not even be social media.

It was the culture and tradition of U.S. civil liberties and media freedom that played an essential role in protecting Frazier’s ability to record and retain possession of the video, and the capability of commercial corporations to publish it. Had the same events transpired in China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Singapore or elsewhere, nobody might ever have learned of Floyd’s fate. (Socolow, April 22, 2021) READ FULL STORY

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Obert Madondo
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, photographer, activist, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. Obert is the founder and editor of The Zimbabwean Progressive and The Canadian Progressive, both of which are independent political blogs dedicated to producing fearless, evidence-based, adversarial, unapologetic, progressive and activism-oriented journalism situated right at the intersection of politics, technology and human rights. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad