By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III
(Trice Edney Wire) – The trial is over. Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted on all three charges in the murder of Mr. George Perry Floyd, Jr. Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.
Minnesota law allows these sentences to be served concurrently if the judge so allows. It is expected that Chauvin will be sentenced in approximately 10 days.
This is an especially important time. A time for reflection, jubilation, and celebration. The Floyd family won the civil lawsuit, and the state won the criminal suit. Seeing former officer Chauvin led from the courtroom in handcuffs by his former colleagues was a wonderful sight. The Floyd family is now able breath. The country can now exhale. Crowds are cheering at the conviction of Chauvin not cursing the system for another anticipated failure.
As we celebrate, we must ask ourselves if this was justice or accountability? Justice is a fair and moral process within a system of law in which every person receives his/ her/it’s due from the system. Accountability is the obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. He took away the one thing most precious to Mr. Floyd and his family, his life. Chauvin took him away from his family, friends and loved ones. That can never be returned and with that, justice can never be served. The system has held Chauvin accountable and for that fact we are appreciative, and we celebrate.
As we celebrate this success, we must always remember that this is just one success in the struggle for social justice, equality, and fairness in police reform. The unjust system remains the same. Where would we be without the 9:29 seconds of that horrendous video of Chauvin choking the life out of Mr. Floyd?
On February 26, 2012 George Zimmerman fatally shot and murdered 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and found not guilty. Beyond the travesty of the murder, it was unfortunate for young Mr. Martin that there was no video of the ordeal. Justice was not served.
On September 6, 2018 off duty Dallas Police officer Amber Guyger mistakenly burst into the apartment of her unarmed neighbor Mr. Botham Jean and murdered him. He was watching television and eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream in his own living room. Guyger claimed that she entered the apartment thinking it was her own and thought Mr. Jean was a burglar. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison even though the prosecutor requested that she be sentenced to 28-years. Beyond the travesty of the murder, it was unfortunate for Mr. Jean that there was no video of the ordeal. She is eligible for parole after serving 5 years of her sentence. Mr. Jean is gone forever. Justice was not served.
I have heard a few commentators refer to Chauvin’s guilty verdict as a turning point, a “new day” in America. I believe that is a bit optimistic. Yes, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department broke rank and the “thin blue line” and testified against a fellow officer. This is still the exception not the rule. Yes, a jury found Chauvin guilty of murdering an African American man while performing his duties. This is still the exception not the rule.
The trial is over, but our nightmare is not. One bad cop has been convicted of murder while thousands of American police officers are trained in anti-community oppression tactics by Israeli police officers. American police departments take military grade weaponry and equipment from our own government in order “to protect and serve”. From this, communities of color are supposed to receive justice?
The trial is over, but our nightmare is not. Mr. George Perry Floyd, Jr. can reset in peace and in power but where would we be right now without those 9:29 seconds of video? It would have been Chauvin’s word and the communities respect for the police against a dead African American man and a crowd. Chauvin wins, and we lose; again. It is not a new day in America, but it is a good day. George Floyd minus video equals Treyvon Martin, and countless others. Say their names!