Written by Nolan Alisago (News Writer)
Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of all counts regarding his involvement in the murder of George Floyd. The guilty conviction has sparked celebration and relief across the nation, particularly in the federal government who feared another uprising if a not guilty verdict had been found.
Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Sentencing has been delayed until June 25th, and until then Chauvin will be held in solitary confinement, for his own safety, within a Minnesota maximum security prison. Although he was found guilty of three counts he will only be serving time for the most severe as his lower charges will be served concurrently, effectively resulting in only serving the most severe count. His highest count, unintentional second-degree murder has a maximum sentence of forty years, although because Chauvin has no prior convictions state guidelines recommend only twelve and a half years. The severity of Chauvin’s sentencing relies on the Judge’s discretion, and whether or not he finds the prosecution’s argument for aggravating factors to be convincing. If the judge agrees that all aggravating factors apply (Chauvin displayed particular cruelty, the murder took place in front of children, and that Chauvin abused his authority as a police officer) Chauvin may still receive the maximum sentence.
Activists and demonstrators rejoiced in what, to many, including the government, was a shocking conviction. Police are very rarely convicted when they face trial, and when convicted receiving a guilty verdict for all counts is borderline unheard of. The Department of Justice knew this when they began building a police brutality case months before the convictions in order to immediately arrest Chauvin again if he had not been found guilty by the jury. A not guilty verdict would likely have sparked massive unrest and the government had a contingency plan to limit such protest by re-arresting Chauvin immediately. Because making this public during the trial could influence the jury and cause a mistrial, this plan was kept secret until after Chauvin’s conviction. Other responses from the government have been a mixed bag. President Biden called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, but the bill has stalled in the Senate and its future remains uncertain. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave a speech in which she thanked George Floyd for “sacrificing his life”, a statement that found backlash and disgust on both sides of the aisle. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke for many officials when she expressed her relief in her speech following the conviction, although she differentiated from many by making clear that this was only the first step injustice and that work still needs to be done. The philosophy of the White House, that justice is not a correct reaction to the tragedy, but rather ensuring that such systemic failures are unable to take place again, does not seem to be fulfilled by any of the measures taken by the government so far. Yet this conviction, and growing bipartisan support for systemic reform, gives hope that such a form of justice is not unachievable.