The guilty verdict returned by jurors Tuesday in the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin was a reason for joy among many, especially in the Black community. But it was also a vivid demonstration of what the criminal justice system could be if prosecutors went after all “bad cops” with the same gusto, legal observers said.
During the 42-day trial, jurors heard from 45 witnesses and listened to hours of technical testimony about whether Chauvin, who pinned George Floyd to the ground under his knee for 9 1/2 minutes, actually caused his death. In the end, jurors unanimously agreed, he did.
They convicted Chauvin on all three counts: second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
But that does little to assuage longstanding problems with how people of color are treated by the criminal justice system. Nor does it necessarily impact how other cases like the police shooting of Daunte Wright in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, will be handled. That’s because of the entrenched culture of policing and prosecuting, experts said, but also because of the unique aspects of this case.
“What the verdict (says) is when you have such an egregious act that shocks the conscience of the usually oblivious and unconcerned white mainstream, then prosecutors and policing culture will come to the bar of justice and do the right thing –which is testify against this officer,” said Connie Rice, a prominent civil rights attorney and former member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
“But,” she said, “a victory in this trial is a confirmation of the massive failure of our broad system.” [Continue reading…]