In an unprecedented case in American history, Derek Chauvin, killer of 46 year-old George Floyd, was found guilty by the jury after three weeks on April 20, 2021. Chauvin was a former police officer for the Minneapolis Police Department. Prior to his conviction, Chauvin had 18 complaints raised against him, including complaints for “derogatory language” and using a “demeaning tone.” On April 20, the jury in the Hennepin County Courthouse read aloud the verdict. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for the murder of George Floyd.
The second-degree murder charge decreed Chauvin had unintentionally murdered Floyd when he pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. The third-degree murder charge said Chauvin’s actions were with a “depraved mind.” The second-degree manslaughter charge said Chauvin’s “culpable negligence” caused Floyd’s death.
According to Philip Stinson from the Bowling Green State University in Ohio, between 2005 and Floyd’s murder on May 25th of last year, only 5 non-federal law enforcement officers were convicted of murder and not had the charge overturned later. However, the Washington Post states more than 980 people were shot and killed by police officers in the year of 2019 alone. Although many shootings are the results of armed individuals, the Post reports 13 of the shootings were of unarmed individuals. These conflicting statistics show a shocking number of murders by police officers of unarmed persons going unpunished, and if punished, many verdicts are overturned later.
While one may attribute the unprecedented verdict of Floyd’s case to factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic or clear video evidence, the fact remains Floyd’s case was not the average case. Most police officers escape unscathed, with extremely minimal sentences. Following Chauvin’s verdict, many began to call for reform in the American justice system, not to address Chauvin’s case, but for future cases of police brutality. These reforms would be giant steps to guaranteeing justice for not only American law enforcement officers, but also for all American people.