Donovan Martin ’22
On May 25, 2020, shopper George Floyd went to a Minneapolis convenience store to purchase some cigarettes. When he attempted to pay for them with a cheque, the shop keeper accused Floyd of using counterfeited material. As a result, the police were called with four coming to the scene: J. Keung, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and Derrick Chauvin. Upon their arrival, Floyd was physically apprehended and put into police custody. To subdue the accused, Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground, kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
For nine minutes and 29 seconds, George Floyd exclaimed his pain and suffering, repeatably saying, “I can’t breathe.” For nine minutes and 29 seconds, the Chauvin’s actions were filmed, with a surrounding crowd pleading for him to stop. For nine minutes and 29 seconds, Chauvin suffocated George Floyd, resulting in his death. Protest erupted internationally demanding justice for George Floyd. Through marches, speeches, petitions, essays, and a multitude of other mediums, Floyd’s story became known, and the arrest of his killer was demanded.
The egregious action committed by Chauvin and tolerated by his colleagues led to their inevitable arrests on May 29, 2020. He was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Yet unlike his co-workers, on October 7, 2020, Chauvin was released from prison after his 1,000,000 USD bail (1,200,000 CAD) was paid for. The conditions of his bail included the following: he could not contact Floyd’s family, he had to surrender his firearms, and he could never work in law enforcement again.
On March 8, 2021, Chauvin’s trial began at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presided over the case, with the prosecution lead by Attorney General Keith Ellison and the defence, Attorney Eric J. Nelson.
The defence provided seven witnesses. Their case was mainly built on three premises. Firstly, the bystanders were “very aggressive toward the officers.” Secondly, Chauvin’s actions were in self-defense. And thirdly, drugs in Floyd’s system, rather than his pinning, could’ve resulted in his collapse and death.
The prosecution provided 400 listed witnesses to the crime with 38 testifying in court. Their case was mainly built on three premises. Firstly, an unnecessary amount of force was used. Secondly, Chauvin was fully aware of the suffering he was causing (especially with his exasperated gasps and the cries from the crowd). Thirdly, the amount of drugs in Floyd’s system were significantly lower than the average post-mortem rates. Furthermore, the prosecution used police body cameras and videos filmed on bystanders’ phones.
On April 20, 2021, the trial concluded with Chauvin being convicted of all three charges against him. The arrest of Chauvin is a win for Floyd’s family, a win for BLM, and a win for justice. However, it is devestating how this success came to be. Thousands of individuals suffer and are killed under the hands of police brutality, yet their stories go untold and their cases are forgotten. One can only hope that the arrest of Chauvin will lead to the prosecution and concivtion of other officers who committed similar atrocities.
Photo Credit: Skynews/Greg Milam