Opinion: Derek Chauvin Charged with the Murder of George Floyd Provides a Measure of Justice
By Sophia Alexandrou
In May of 2020, international protests commenced in the name of Black Lives Matter as a video of Officer Derek Chauvin surfaced with his knee pressing against the neck of 46-year-old father, George Floyd. Despite Floyd not presenting to be a threat to Chauvin and Floyd being accused of a non-violent offence, Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, leading to his death. After almost an entire year of rallies calling for justice in this case, Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, facing up to 40 years in prison.
Despite the fact that the entire crime was caught on camera, this trial lasted for three weeks. This is because the defense continued to bring up claims of Floyd’s history with drug use and his pre-existing heart conditions. Of course, these claims held no ground as these were not direct causes of Floyd’s death. Medical examiner Lindsey Thomas testified that Floyd’s cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest (the ceasing of heart and lung function) that was complicated by Chauvin’s actions. The factors brought up by the defense did have negative impacts on Floyd’s health; however, one would have to be willingly ignorant or just blatantly racist to not understand that Floyd’s death was a direct result of Chauvin’s unacceptable and deadly actions. Fortunately, the jury did not buy it and voted unanimously in the prosecution’s favor.
However, whether Chauvin’s actions were the direct cause of Floyd’s death is not the only thing Americans should take from this case. The fact that this was his response to being called for an alleged 20-dollar bill given by an unarmed man is indicative of a much larger issue. An officer pressing their knee on someone’s neck, especially after pleas of “I can’t breathe” is not protocol. Not only did Floyd not pose a threat to Chauvin, but officers are not supposed to take such measures even with dangerous individuals. The system that is supposed to protect its citizens continues to fail. Though justice was served in this instance, far too many times have officers been able to walk free with blood on their hands.
Hopefully, this court decision, along with institutional change, will result in long-term progress in law enforcement in the United States. This trial has definitely sparked nation-wide celebration and a feeling of relief throughout Floyd’s family, Angela Harrelson, Floyd’s Aunt saying, "I got a chance to witness something, I got a chance to witness all the love that I saw all around the world that was poured to the family. I don't know that I will get a chance to see that again, but the love that was shown me and my family, you touched us." It is the hope that this one victory will spark nationwide change that keeps people like Floyd’s family fighting for change.