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Guilt but no justice: local advocates react to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial

While a just verdict has been reached in this case, true justice would see George Floyd at home with his family, say local racial justice advocates
Chauvin verdict 04202021
In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on after the verdicts were read at Chauvin's trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd on April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

332 days after George Floyd's death and after more than two weeks of witness testimony and just over 10 hours of deliberation, the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial returned guilty verdicts on all three counts; second degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Reaction to that verdict on the streets, across the United States and here in Canada was much swifter, including a nearly universal hope this ruling is a sign change is, in fact, happening.

"You know, that there is a recognition here that every death at the hands of police is a failure at some point," said Patrick Watson, an Associate Professor of Criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Up until the point where the jury disappeared to deliberate, the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was, without a doubt, one of the most widely watched. Hours of testimony, seen by millions on cable news, as much of the world remained hunkered down in the midst of a continued global pandemic.

From the first moments, including heart-breaking testimony from witnesses who could only be classified as such because they had been able to see the torturous final moments of George Floyd's life play out on a Facebook Live video, to the sometimes tedious legalese of the trial, a large swath of the public had its eyes glued to their television screens.

From the video, to the fellow police officers testifying for the prosecution, to the fact Chauvin himself chose to plead the fifth instead of stand in his own defence, many felt the verdict was all but certain.

"The fifth is generally understood as the right against self-incrimination so, that would be implying there was something to be incriminated for in there," said Watson.

And now that a guilty verdict has been handed down, it's come along with a sigh of relief for many though it also comes with an understanding, there's still more work to be done.

"I think there's opportunity to really seize on here but the job is not done and I'm really afraid of people saying, 'Hey, you know what, we did this, it's done,'" Watson said.

It's a sentiment echoed by the African, Caribbean, and Black Network of Waterloo Region.

"This is one case and one verdict, there's still work to be done, and I would caution us from putting all of this poetic justice on this one verdict," said Teneile Warren, an ACB Network board member.

"Because we can not take this verdict out of the context of the 330 days of advocacy and protest that needed to happen in order for this verdict to be what it was."

Only one case, only one verdict, that's also the reason why Warren says it's wrong to suggest one bad cop being found guilty of the crime he was caught on video committing is 'justice'.

"As a society we need to understand that we've been misapplying and misunderstanding the process of punitive punishment and the process of guilty verdicts as the 'soulsome' nature of justice," she said.

Nor, says Warren, should it mark cause for celebration.

"We're discussing a clear-cut incidence of a crime that, for a community, we have to celebrate the result, that is how unlikely and novel something like that is."

It should be noted, very near the same time the Derek Chauvin verdict was being read out in court, a black teenage girl wielding a knife was shot and killed by police in Columbus, Ohio.


Casey Taylor

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