Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said that what the jury returned in the verdict convicting Derek Chauvin was not justice, but accountability. The fact that this was the first time in a very long time that a police officer was found guilty means that we do still have a long way to go.
Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post:
It shouldn’t have been an open question whether a police officer could kneel on a man’s neck for more than nine minutes, snuffing out his life, with complete or even partial impunity. We shouldn’t have had to hold our collective breath from the moment it was announced there was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial to the moment that verdict was read. This shouldn’t feel so much like a victory.
But it does. The jurors in Chauvin’s trial trusted their eyes and ears. They saw the video of George Floyd pinned to the hard pavement, they heard him plead again and again that he couldn’t breathe, and they held Chauvin fully accountable.
They saw George Perry Floyd Jr. — fully — as a human being.
So many times, that simple acknowledgment of humanity has apparently been too much to ask. The police officers who killed Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and so many other Black men either were acquitted of wrongdoing or never even charged. Chauvin’s conviction is a tremendous relief — and, one hopes, a beginning.
The hope is that this will lead to more accountability for not just the police forces around the nation but for a system that routinely tilts the table against those who have been left outside of the justice system. As I noted on another platform, the system worked. Not “works.” It worked this time.
It’s not enough to record that verdict in the law, it must live in the law now. It must be a living force in other cases. It must be a living force in the history of the law. It must be a living force that draws the ugly past and the ugly present forward into a better future. After the trial, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison read off a long, sad list of Black citizens who were killed or injured by law-enforcement officers, starting with Rodney King and ending with Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo over the past two weeks. We must look at those deaths with new eyes. The verdict has to live in the memory of those horrible events until our interpretation of them rights itself, and it must live in the trials and verdicts yet to come. Or else it means nothing.
Justice is nothing without accountability and memory.