Derek Chauvin Trial

Derek Chauvin Trial

TJ Benoist

On April 20, 2021, the trial of Derek Chavin came to a close. Chauvin, a 45-year-old former Minneapolis Police officer was charged with the killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. Chauvin was seen on video pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes. Following Floyd’s death, massive protests both nation and worldwide were held to call for police accountability. The protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were held from our hometown of Farmington, Missouri to the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.even as far as Paris, France, and Madrid, Spain. The protests, which were overwhelmingly peaceful, were met with backlash both from the police as well as in Congress and even from former President Trump. The protests seemed to bring some change, at least in part, as Chauvin was charged by the Hennepin County Attorney on May 29th, with one count of ‘Third Degree Murder –  Perpetrating Eminently Dangerous Act and Evincing Depraved Mind’, and later the charges of ‘Unentenional Second Degree Murder – while committing a felony’ and ‘Second Degree Manslaughter – culpable negligence creating an unreasonable risk’, were both added.

Following a tense week and a half of witnesses and evidence, the Jury was sent to deliberate. The jury deliberated for around 10 hours before coming to a unanimous verdict. The jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges. 

The trial saw many medical and policing experts testify. The prosecution had many witnesses testify that the way in which Chauvin was kneeling on Floyd was the cause of death and that the possibility of drugs being in his system was not a contributing factor, as reported by CBS News. An important part of this trial was the fact that many of Chauvin’s former colleagues, who are current Minneapolis City Police Officers, testified against him. Among those officers was Chief of Minneapolis Police Medaria Arradondo as well as Lieutenant Johnny Mercil, both the Chief and the Lieutenant testified to the unreasonable nature in which Chauvin had restrained Floyd.

The outcome of this case could set an immensely important precedent for the future of policing and police accountability in the United States. This case is one of the first in the United States of an officer being put on trial for alleged violations of not only policy but even the law. This case’s verdict saw many lawmakers and political commentators have extremely mixed emotions regarding it. President Joseph Biden responded in a statement supporting the verdict and hopes it is a step forward in police reform. Former President Obama said, “Today, a jury in Minneapolis did the right thing” in a statement released on April 20th. Those on the other side of the aisle were a mix of support and dissent regarding the verdict. Jeanine Piro, a FOX News Commentator said, “Clearly, the verdict is supported by the facts.” Whereas her colleague Tucker Carlson, also a FOX News Commentator, dismissed and dissented against the verdict saying the Jury had been tampered with or that the Jurors were too scared to acquit Chauvin. Carlson’s comments are somewhat unsubstantiated as on April, 28th Brandon Mitchell a Juror who served during the trial said on CBS This Morning that “Coming in each and every day and having to watch somebody die is stressful enough by itself. So anything outside of that was secondary” seeming to dismiss the notion they were influenced by outside forces.

This trial and the issues presented throughout the summer of 2020 have been polarizing, to say the least. This issue is one of the most talked about and most disagreed upon subjects of our time. Recent polling found that 46% of Republicans believe that the guilty verdict was incorrect whereas only 20% of Democrats believe the same thing, according to The Hill Newspaper. The issue of this trial and the massive implications that go along with it have split the country seemingly along partisan lines. 

Derek Chauvin will return to court on June 16th for sentencing. With the convictions, Chauvin is likely to face 30 or more years and up to 85+ years in prison. Upon his sentencing, Chauvin will likely file for an appeal in the Minnesota Court of Appeals. This is standard practice for criminal convictions but it seems unlikely his conviction will be overturned as only around 4% of criminal appeals are overturned, according to Cornell Law School. It is worth mentioning that this has been an extremely high-profile case, as many politicians have given statements about it. For example, as mentioned President Biden and former President Obama both gave statements in support of the Jury’s decision. Representative Maxine Waters(D) of California’s 43rd Congressional District said that if the Jury did not convict Chauvin, Protesters should “get more confrontational.” Some argue this could be grounds for Chauvins conviction to be overturned as they feel it could have swayed the Jury. It seems unlikely that these comments swayed the Jury in any significant way, as these Jurors knew the case they were judging, they understood the spotlight they would be in, and the number of people that would be watching.

This trial was not just important here in the United States,  but in countries all around the world, they were looking at this trial and watching what was going on with us. This trial not only has implications in the United States but has prompted massive protests and demonstrations around the world in opposition to police brutality and in support of accountability and reform. Major news outlets in Germany, France, the U.K., and more had active coverage of the trial in Minneapolis.

Although many of us disagree on the trial or any number of issues in this country and this world, most of us can agree that this trial was important. Finding common ground and ways to communicate without trying to belittle or insult others is how we move forward and how we as a society and as a generation can come together and form a better future for all of us.