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George Floyd's murder — A verdict grounded in legal logic

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Prosecutor Mr Jerry Blackwell, we believe, captured most succinctly the kind of thought process that led former policeman Mr Derek Chauvin to use his knee to press on the neck of Mr George Floyd for more than nine minutes until he was dead.

Mr Blackwell, in his closing arguments on Monday in Mr Chauvin's murder trial in the United States, rejected a ludicrous claim by the defence attorney that Mr Floyd died because of an enlarged heart.

“The truth of the matter,” Mr Blackwell told the jury — and, by extension, the world — “is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr Chauvin's heart was too small.”

We could not blame anyone who would wish to go even further to suggest that Mr Chauvin's callous action on a street in Minneapolis on May 25 last year demonstrated that he really had no heart.

For what else could explain such brutality, which continued even as Mr Floyd cried out repeatedly, “I can't breathe”, and while onlookers shouted and begged Mr Chauvin to stop.

That assault on Mr Floyd, a black man, by a white man in police uniform, was probably the most painful and agonising nine minutes and 29 seconds the world had ever seen in real time.

Not surprisingly, it shocked the world and spawned protests in many countries because it brought home the harsh reality of race relations with which so many societies in North America and Europe have been grappling for decades.

But even more, it demonstrated the level of inhumanity that still exists in some individuals who regard other people who are of a different hue and social class as less than human.

We are not surprised that the jury found Mr Chauvin guilty on all charges — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Legal logic demanded it.

But this verdict, while sending Mr Chauvin to prison and representing justice for Mr Floyd, should serve as a springboard for action against racism and abuse of power in America and, indeed, all other countries plagued by these problems.

People who are entrusted with positions of authority must be reminded that there will be consequences for any misapplication of that authority. The scales of justice must be balanced to ensure respect for law and order in any society.

America, for sure, has a lot of work to do in this regard, because even as Mr Chauvin faced the court we saw the deadly shooting of a young black man, Mr Daunte Wright, by police in a Minneapolis suburb two Sundays ago, and that was the latest in a string of such shootings of black men in that country over the past two years at least.

There is some hope, though, of a shift in culture, because after Mr Floyd's death the “Blue Wall of Silence” that normally protects rogue cops started flaking as the Minneapolis police chief unhesitatingly declared it a “murder” and fired all four policemen involved. Additionally, many policemen and women in the US were obviously disgusted by what took place.

It will, of course, take a long time for any significant culture shift in that society. For now, well-thinking Americans can take some amount of comfort in the fact that Mr Floyd's death was not blamed on his supposed medical condition, and that the man who committed this most heinous crime will pay for his action.