“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Although these words were declared by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his historic “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington, I believe it is applicable to what occurred on April 20, 2021. It was on this day that justice rolled down on behalf of George Perry Floyd Jr., who was viciously murdered on camera by former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin.
For so many years and in so many instances, Black people have been denied justice regarding police brutality cases and the unjustified killing of countless Black people.
April 20, 2021 is a completely different day.
April 20, 2021 will forever serve as the day that Chauvin, who is White, was found guilty by a jury of his peers on all three counts he faced: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
April 20, 2021 will forever serve as the day that the family of a Black person murdered at the hands of a member of law enforcement or a vigilante, received more than just a settlement.
April 20, 2021 will forever serve as the day that Chauvin had his bail revoked by Judge Peter Cahill and was taken into custody in handcuffs.
Unlike how he handled George Floyd in handcuffs by placing a knee on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, Chauvin was humanely handcuffed and taken into custody.
The jury, which consisted of three Black men, one Black woman, two jurors who identified as multiracial and six White jurors, began deliberating on Monday, April 19th and then it took them a little over 10 hours to reach a unanimous verdict on all three counts after three weeks of witness testimony and closing arguments.
This case has riveted the nation and this trial had many African Americans waiting to find out if George Floyd’s life truly mattered when it came to holding this rogue police officer accountable for his actions committed against this defenseless, unarmed and handcuffed Black man.
Tears of joy and sighs of relief were immediately displayed by many people across the nation once the first verdict of “Guilty” was read and continued on to cheers as all three verdicts of “Guilty” were read by the judge.
Several people have chimed in on the verdict, including President Joe Biden, who called the Floyd family on the phone with Vice President Kamala Harris after the verdict was rendered.
“Nothing is going to make it all better but at least God now there is some justice,” said President Biden. “We’ve been watching every second of this, and the vice president, all of us, and we’re all so relieved not just for one verdict but all three, guilty on all three counts, and it’s just really important…We’re going to get a lot more done. We’re going to do a lot. We’re going to stay at it until we get it done.”
Biden has been following this case before becoming president, in that two weeks after George Floyd’s death on May 25th of last year, Biden traveled to Houston to meet with Floyd’s family.
Here locally following the verdict, Commissioner Rodney Ellis delivered some strong words regarding the future of criminal justice reform in this country. His statement read:
“For decades, our criminal legal system has failed to acknowledge the killings of Black and Brown people as crimes, declaring those responsible innocent of any wrongdoing…This verdict is important because Derek Chauvin ended George Floyd’s life, and it is about time that we recognized the murders of Black people at the hands of the police as the crimes that they are. Make no mistake – real justice looks like George Floyd being able to go home to his daughter, but I hope that this verdict brings George Floyd’s family and loved ones, who have been fighting for justice in the courts, some peace. At the same time, I will not pretend that this fixes everything that is wrong with our criminal legal system…We will continue to lose young Black and Brown lives to the criminal legal system unless we radically reimagine public safety…This guilty verdict may resolve George Floyd’s case, but true justice will only come when we are no longer adding names to the list of victims of police violence. We must end the practice of incarcerating people for poverty, mental health, and substance use and invest in our communities’ health and safety. We will truly provide justice for George Floyd and honor his memory when we create a system that truly respects Black lives, makes our communities safer, and serves justice.”
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who has been aggressively seeking to prosecute and seek indictments for rogue cops locally, shared her thoughts about the Derek Chauvin verdict.
“Justice is a process and these jurors showed tremendous courage in reaching a just verdict,” said Ogg. “Millions saw the video, which we all found devastating. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of George Floyd, a Houston son whose murder is a defining moment in American criminal justice.”
From an educational standpoint regarding our young people who have had to witness this tragic moment in history and because George Floyd attended schools in the Houston Independent School District, Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan released the following statement:
“On this day, we say his name: George Floyd. His face is seared into our memory, and his final words have pierced our hearts. His image is emblazoned on murals from all over the world to Jack Yates High School, his alma mater. An HISD alum awakened not only the moral consciousness of a nation, but the world. That is George Floyd’s legacy – and now a part of HISD’s history. But our future can be different by shifting the dialogue on social justice in our country.”
Next up is the sentencing phase of this case.
Chauvin will be sentenced in eight weeks, where he faces up to 75 years behind bars for his criminal actions. The second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years; the third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years; and the second-degree manslaughter charge carries a sentence that is punishable by up to 10 years.
Chauvin initially agreed to plead guilty to the third-degree murder charge right after George Floyd’s death, but then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr rejected the plea deal because he was concerned the optics of accepting that plea deal would seem like a light slap on the wrist.
Many civil rights groups and activists, while pleased with the three-count conviction, are wanting more to be done relative to social justice and criminal justice reform. Many are demanding that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act be passed and signed into law, whereby all states are subject to this federal legislation. Others are pushing for statewide legislation which brings more accountability regarding police misconduct.
Texas State Senator Borris Miles weighed in on the case and the issues regarding the need for meaningful legislation, stating via press release:
“This is not only a verdict on Derek Chauvin. This is a guilty verdict on the criminal justice system that protects bad police officers, despite mountains of proof of their brutality. This is accountability. This is history…Accountability is not justice, however. Justice would be to have George Floyd alive today, alongside the family he was taken from. The current criminal justice system is rooted in systemic racism and we see lives lost because of it every single day…We must live up to the legacy of our late Third Ward native. I look forward to the Texas Legislature passing real criminal justice reform. For now, I rejoice in this rare moment. But this is not the end, this is only the beginning – let’s keep working.”
While those things are being discussed and while the Floyd family and the nation await Chauvin’s sentencing in eight weeks, America and the world can now take a sigh of relief, in that a rogue police officer has finally been found guilty for the murder of an unarmed Black person.