Verdict:Just A Start—Maybe

Verdict: Just A Start—Maybe


Leonard Zwelling

I have been mulling over the writing of a blog on the George Floyd-Derek Chauvin trial and verdict. I decided to try to make sense of it for myself. I am not fooling myself into thinking what I think will be shared by many, but here goes.

First and foremost, what the trial demonstrates beyond any doubt is the power of video. My guess is that there was nothing unusual about what happened that day beyond the fact that it was caught on an iPhone. The video allowed the answer to the key question of whether or not lethal force was needed in this instance. It clearly was not and so Chauvin is going to jail. It’s really as simple as what the prosecution said. Believe your eyes. Imagine what would have happened had there been video in the O.J. case.

Second, there simply can no longer be any denial of the fact that some, but not all, cops are overzealous in their policing and that overzealousness can result in significant bodily harm to the citizenry of any town in America.

Third, it is hard to not see a racial aspect to this crime. This, of course, is hard to prove and it is very difficult for anyone to know the true extent of the problem of systemic racism in policing. It just seems (and the news media may be biased) that there are so many instances of white cops shooting young, Black men that you can no longer turn your head and say there is no racial aspect to these actions.

Fourth, the guilty verdict MAY be a start of a nationwide review of police training and practices especially when it comes to the use of lethal force and encounters between the police and the mentally ill or those using drugs. The skill set required to deal with the civil disruption caused by the mentally ill or intoxicated may be wholly different than what police learn in their training academies.

Finally, this is a critical moment in America. We really have to decide whether or not we are going to continue to harbor racism and bigotry as accepted parts of our national culture. I don’t care whether it is the repetitive police shooting of young Black men or the storming of the Capitol. I don’t care whether it was the Trump Muslim ban or the latest incident of anti-Semitism. I don’t care whether it is the violence against Asians or the intolerance of the many who feel those skeptical of vaccinations are somehow foreign. The country needs to start pulling together behind a commonly held set of beliefs. Those are all embodied in the Constitution and the Amendments and it would serve everyone well to re-read those documents on a regular basis. I keep them on my phone for quick reference.

The Derek Chauvin trial will be a landmark case, but mostly because we know what happened beyond a reasonable doubt and so did that jury. The politicians like President Biden and Maxine Waters who weighed in ought to shut up. There’s a reason the judicial branch is separate from the executive and legislative branches. We don’t need politicians giving us their opinion on legal proceedings, especially before verdicts are delivered.

That’s my take.

We will see if this trial is just the end of an unfortunate incident or the beginning of a national awareness. And before you answer, consider how well we’ve responded to all the mass shootings around the country with gun legislation. Not at all. I am very skeptical that this trial will make a difference. But I am hopeful.

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