Commentators weigh in on the guilty verdict against ex-Police Officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd last May.
Issac Bailey: Why I’m not celebrating
I don’t begrudge others who burst into celebration at the sound of “guilty” guilty” “guilty” in the case of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who slowly murdered George Floyd in broad daylight. I feel more relieved than anything else. Relieved that for a moment at least there was a bit of justice handed to the Floyd family, who had suffered too much. Relieved that the image of yet another police officer getting away with murder did not come to pass. Relieved that my worst fears did not materialize.
But I’m not in a celebratory mood — because it took overwhelming evidence to convict a police officer, evidence so clear even his former boss and colleagues testified against him. There won’t always be that much evidence. The video won’t be so clear and gut-wrenching, even though the harm being perpetrated might be just as devastating next time. I haven’t forgotten about Daunte Wright or that no cop has been charged with killing Breonna Taylor or that bad cops are still protected by qualified immunity and a blue wall that remains all too silent.
Hearing “guilty” allowed me to exhale. It did not rid me of my anguish, my pain.
Issac Bailey is a journalist based in South Carolina and the Batten Professor for Communication Studies at Davidson College. His latest book is “Why Didn’t We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland.”
Raul Reyes: There is hope this time
There is hope. There is relief. There is consolation — all because George Floyd received the justice he deserved. Nothing less than Derek Chauvin being found guilty on all three counts would have been acceptable. Legal arguments aside, no reasonable person could have watched the video of Floyd’s death and not have held Chauvin fully accountable for such a depraved killing.
As welcome as this outcome may be, there is still much more work to be done before our country lives up to its ideal that all Americans are equal before the law. Systemic racism still exists, and these verdicts are only one step in the right direction.
Chauvin is likely going to prison, yet there are untold numbers of instances of police brutality where there were no onlookers present, or there is no video evidence. Studies have repeatedly shown that Black and Latinos are more likely than White to experience violence and death in police encounters.
Although majorities of Americans expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement’s struggle for racial justice in 2020, according to Pew Research, police practices have been slow to change. Just this year, Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Latino boy, was shot by Chicago police, while Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
But this time, our justice system worked. The American people who marched in the streets during a pandemic should be proud that their activism had an impact. The prosecutors in the Chauvin trail should be commended for their outstanding, comprehensive presentations. The jurors should feel satisfied knowing they did the right thing while under tremendous pressure. And although nothing can bring Floyd back to his devastated family and community, at least today the world knows that his life mattered.
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes.
SE Cupp: One conversation with our kids that has a just ending
There are so many heartbreaking realities of modern life in America that we routinely have to explain to our children, but today, with a Minnesota jury’s guilty verdicts, we can feel tremendous relief that we will not have to explain why justice was not done in the case of George Floyd. However, a guilty verdict on all three counts against Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes despite his compliance, is not a long-term solution to the problem of police brutality. Nor does it solve systemic racism. Not even close.
It will still be the challenge of our lifetimes to confront the enduring injustice of needless deaths like Floyd’s, Sandra Bland’s, Eric Garner’s, and on and on. But the verdicts are nevertheless an important step toward healing, and hopefully, hearing — hearing from a generation of communities that have waited, and waited, and waited for justice. Here’s to one conversation with our kids that has a just, if not a happy ending. Hopefully it’s just the start of another.
S.E. Cupp is a CNN political commentator
Cole Brown: True justice requires that George Floyd be alive
The jury returned a verdict that reflects what any reasonable person already knew: Derek Chauvin is a murderer. The system executed its most basic duty, punishing an obviously guilty man. Thank God.
After the emotional upheaval that attended this trial, the only emotion I have left for this moment is relief. I don’t feel excitement, satisfaction, or hope because I know that this verdict doesn’t reflect the truest definition of justice.
True justice prevents an American from dying over possession of a counterfeit bill. True justice forbids Derek Chauvin from kneeling on an American’s neck and requires his colleagues to step in to halt the abuse. True justice requires that George Floyd live.
The Minneapolis community will now seek to heal after a traumatic ride that began nearly one year ago, despite the recent death of Daunte Wright salting its still open wounds.
Individual community members — Philonise Floyd, girlfriend Courtney Ross, Darnella Frazier, the then-17-year-old who recorded the indispensable cellphone video — will likely deal with the haunting shadow of this event for years to come.
Like many Americans, I will attempt the complicated balance of staying attuned to the fight for reform, without losing my sanity. One thing I know for certain: I will never watch that video again.
Cole Brown is a political commentator and author of the book “Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World.”
Jennifer Rogers: Chauvin has avenues for appeal but his chances of success are slim
The jury has convicted Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd. For now, justice has been done, but the defendant will likely appeal — and there are some issues that we can be certain will be front and center when he does.
First, as jury selection was underway, the City of Minneapolis announced a $27 million settlement with George Floyd’s family over his death. Defense counsel moved for a delay of the trial and a change of venue to a different county, arguing that this information would prejudice the jury. Judge Cahill denied these requests, instead questioning the jurors about their knowledge of the settlement and whether they could remain impartial having learned that information, ultimately dismissing two jurors who indicated they could not do so.
Second, Cahill denied the defense’s request to sequester the jury at the outset of the trial, opting instead to sequester them only when deliberations began. In the middle of the trial, the shooting death of Daunte Wright at the hands of a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota led to many days of protests and unrest just 10 miles from the courtroom where the Chauvin trial was happening. Cahill also decided not to sequester jurors at that time, or even to question them about whether they had learned about the incident or what its impact on them might be.
Finally, recent comments by elected officials, including Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who called for protesters to stay on the streets and “get more confrontational” in the event of an acquittal, prompted a mistrial motion by the defense on the day of closing arguments. The denial of this motion, without asking the jury whether they were aware of or would be influenced by the remarks, will be yet another appeal issue.
My sense is that none of these issues has a strong likelihood of success, given the strict instructions these jurors have been under to avoid all news coverage and the legal presumption that jurors follow their instructions. But they certainly will provide fodder for the defendant in making his arguments, and food for thought for the appellate court when considering a case that presents unique challenges in terms of media coverage and possible social pressures on the jurors.
Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law at NYU School of Law, Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School, and a CNN legal analyst.