Why I'm not celebrating after the Chauvin verdict

Issac Bailey: I'm relieved, but still in pain

Issac Bailey
Issac Bailey

I don't begrudge others who burst into celebration at the sound of "guilty" guilty" "guilty" in the case of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who slowly murdered George Floyd in broad daylight. I feel more relieved than anything else. Relieved that for a moment at least there was a bit of justice handed to the Floyd family, who had suffered too much. Relieved that the image of yet another police officer getting away with murder did not come to pass. Relieved that my worst fears did not materialize.

But I'm not in a celebratory mood -- because it took overwhelming evidence to convict a police officer, evidence so clear even his former boss and colleagues testified against him. There won't always be that much evidence. The video won't be so clear and gut-wrenching, even though the harm being perpetrated might be just as devastating next time. I haven't forgotten about Daunte Wright or that no cop has been charged with killing Breonna Taylor or that bad cops are still protected by qualified immunity and a blue wall that remains all too silent.

Hearing "guilty" allowed me to exhale. It did not rid me of my anguish, my pain.

Issac Bailey is a journalist based in South Carolina and the Batten Professor for Communication Studies at Davidson College. His latest book is "Why Didn't We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland."

Raul Reyes: There is hope this time

Raul A. Reyes
Raul A. Reyes

There is hope. There is relief. There is consolation -- all because George Floyd received the justice he deserved. Nothing less than Derek Chauvin being found guilty on all three counts would have been acceptable. Legal arguments aside, no reasonable person could have watched the video of Floyd's death and not have held Chauvin fully accountable for such a depraved killing.

As welcome as this outcome may be, there is still much more work to be done before our country lives up to its ideal that all Americans are equal before the law. Systemic racism still exists, and these verdicts are only one step in the right direction.

Chauvin is likely going to prison, yet there are untold numbers of instances of police brutality where there were no onlookers present, or there is no video evidence. Studies have repeatedly shown that Black and Latinos are more likely than White to experience violence and death in police encounters.
Although majorities of Americans expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement's struggle for racial justice in 2020, according to Pew Research, police practices have been slow to change. Just this year, Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Latino boy, was shot by Chicago police, while Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

But this time, our justice system worked. The American people who marched in the streets during a pandemic should be proud that their activism had an impact. The prosecutors in the Chauvin trail should be commended for their outstanding, comprehensive presentations. The jurors should feel satisfied knowing they did the right thing while under tremendous pressure. And although nothing can bring Floyd back to his devastated family and community, at least today the world knows that his life mattered.

SE Cupp: One conversation with our kids that has a just ending

SE Cupp
SE Cupp

There are so many heartbreaking realities of modern life in America that we routinely have to explain to our children, but today, with a Minnesota jury's guilty verdicts, we can feel tremendous relief that we will not have to explain why justice was not done in the case of George Floyd. However, a guilty verdict on all three counts against Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes despite his compliance, is not a long-term solution to the problem of police brutality. Nor does it solve systemic racism. Not even close.

It will still be the challenge of our lifetimes to confront the enduring injustice of needless deaths like Floyd's, Sandra Bland's, Eric Garner's, and on and on. But the verdicts are nevertheless an important step toward healing, and hopefully, hearing -- hearing from a generation of communities that have waited, and waited, and waited for justice. Here's to one conversation with our kids that has a just, if not a happy ending. Hopefully it's just the start of another.

S.E. Cupp is a CNN political commentator

Cole Brown: True justice requires that George Floyd be alive

Cole Brown
Cole Brown

Cole Brown

The jury returned a verdict that reflects what any reasonable person already knew: Derek Chauvin is a murderer. The system executed its most basic duty, punishing an obviously guilty man. Thank God.

After the emotional upheaval that attended this trial, the only emotion I have left for this moment is relief. I don't feel excitement, satisfaction, or hope because I know that this verdict doesn't reflect the truest definition of justice.

True justice prevents an American from dying over possession of a counterfeit bill. True justice forbids Derek Chauvin from kneeling on an American's neck and requires his colleagues to step in to halt the abuse. True justice requires that George Floyd live.

The Minneapolis community will now seek to heal after a traumatic ride that began nearly one year ago, despite the recent death of Daunte Wright salting its still open wounds.

Individual community members -- Philonise Floyd, girlfriend Courtney Ross, Darnella Frazier, the then-17-year-old who recorded the indispensable cellphone video -- will likely deal with the haunting shadow of this event for years to come.

Like many Americans, I will attempt the complicated balance of staying attuned to the fight for reform, without losing my sanity. One thing I know for certain: I will never watch that video again.

Cole Brown is a political commentator and author of the book "Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World."

Jennifer Rodgers: Chauvin has avenues for appeal but his chances of success are slim

Jennifer Rodgers
Jennifer Rodgers

The jury has convicted Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd. For now, justice has been done, but the defendant will likely appeal -- and there are some issues that we can be certain will be front and center when he does.

First, as jury selection was underway, the City of Minneapolis announced a $27 million settlement with George Floyd's family over his death. Defense counsel moved for a delay of the trial and a change of venue to a different county, arguing that this information would prejudice the jury. Judge Cahill denied these requests, instead questioning the jurors about their knowledge of the settlement and whether they could remain impartial having learned that information, ultimately dismissing two jurors who indicated they could not do so.
Second, Cahill denied the defense's request to sequester the jury at the outset of the trial, opting instead to sequester them only when deliberations began. In the middle of the trial, the shooting death of Daunte Wright at the hands of a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota led to many days of protests and unrest just 10 miles from the courtroom where the Chauvin trial was happening. Cahill also decided not to sequester jurors at that time, or even to question them about whether they had learned about the incident or what its impact on them might be.
Finally, recent comments by elected officials, including Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who called for protesters to stay on the streets and "get more confrontational" in the event of an acquittal, prompted a mistrial motion by the defense on the day of closing arguments. The denial of this motion, without asking the jury whether they were aware of or would be influenced by the remarks, will be yet another appeal issue.

My sense is that none of these issues has a strong likelihood of success, given the strict instructions these jurors have been under to avoid all news coverage and the legal presumption that jurors follow their instructions. But they certainly will provide fodder for the defendant in making his arguments, and food for thought for the appellate court when considering a case that presents unique challenges in terms of media coverage and possible social pressures on the jurors.

Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law at NYU School of Law, Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School, and a CNN legal analyst.

William Barber: The jury has done its job -- now we must do ours

William Barber
William Barber

Tuesday's guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin is an important public act of accountability. Before the entire nation, fellow officers took the stand in this trial and testified that their colleague did not protect and serve, but abused power and murdered George Floyd. We all saw and heard that.

Officers of the law are the only people to whom we give authority to come into our homes and take away our loved ones based on nothing but a piece of paper. They are the people we allow the power to prohibit our freedom of movement based on their own discretion. If we give them this power, we must also insist that they cannot abuse it without consequences. That is what this trial was about for all Americans.

We must meet this public act of justice and accountability with federal legislation that will hold officers of the law accountable in every state, and we must continue to work in every community to shift public investment from over-policing poor, Black and brown communities to ensuring restorative justice and equity for all people. The jury has done its job; now we must do ours.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II is president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Julian E. Zelizer: Justice was done. But more is needed.

Julian Zelizer
Julian Zelizer

With the Chauvin verdict, justice was achieved. Unlike so many cases that we have seen over the past few years—over the past few decades—a police officer was held accountable for causing the death of an African American. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is raising our national consciousness.

But this is only small step along the arc of the moral universe. Too many trials have not turned out this way, too much police harassment continues and too much of our system leaves African Americans living in fear of the very officials who are meant to protect them. It shouldn't take a gruesome video like the one of George Floyd's final minutes to generate responses acknowledging that #BlackLivesMatter.
Tuesday's verdict needs to be followed up by wholesale reforms at the local, state and national levels. After the Kerner Commission released a report in 1968 blaming White racism, including police harassment, for growing unrest in American cities, the federal government failed to take appropriate action. In fact, political parties shifted to advocating a stance of purported law and order, which made the problems even worse.

Policing reform, whatever form that takes, cannot be dealt with later. This issue needs to be at the center of our agenda right now. The goal is not to have trials that hold police accountable after the fact but to have a criminal justice system remade in a way that finally dismantles the effects of institutional racism. Until then, there will not be full justice for George Floyd.

Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst, is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of the book, "Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party." Follow him on Twitter @julianzelizer.

Peniel Joseph: Guilty verdict shows progress -- but also means more change

Peniel Joseph
Peniel Joseph
The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial represents important progress in police accountability for the murder of Black people. But it does not represent the full measure of justice that millions protested for in the aftermath of George Floyd's death last year. Justice for Black Americans requires an end to the premature deaths that have taken the lives of Philando Castile, George Floyd and Daunte Wright -- Black men killed by police in Minnesota over the last several years. Justice means no more dead Breonna Taylors, Sandra Blands or Tamir Rices.
As the country waited for Tuesday's verdict, the split screen nature of our racially divisive times was on full display in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas, which law enforcement turned into a fortress thanks to a heavy presence of the National Guard in anticipation of possible urban rebellion over a potential 'not guilty' verdict. America spends resources on the protection of property, but rarely devotes the same money, energy and passion to protecting Black lives and investing in critical areas that will allow them to thrive.
The Black Lives Matter movement has argued, since 2013, that America's criminal justice system has been shaped by systemic racism, structural violence and inequality that harms Black families and robs their futures. This reality continues in our moment. The fact that it took what may be the largest social movement in American history to help force a measure of accountability does not mean it's time for celebration.

This is a day to mourn the dead and take full stock of the dramatic political and moral transformation that will be necessary if we are ever to truly be able to guarantee Black citizenship and dignity.

Peniel E. Joseph is the Barbara Jordan chair in ethics and political values and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of several books, most recently, "The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr."

Mark Osler: When the blue wall crumbled

Mark Osler
Mark Osler

With the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin, two very important things finally went right, and we ended up with a result that comported with what most Americans believe they saw in the street-side video of the killing of George Floyd.

One important feature of this trial was a jury (and panel they were drawn from) that was much younger and more diverse than we usually see here in Hennepin County. No one seems quite sure why that was, but we need to find out and replicate it. Here, as in so many other places, juries too often look less like a cross-section of the community and more like a retirement home in Idaho or Vermont.
Another key point about this trial concerns the crumbling of the so-called blue wall of silence. For too long, it has protected police misbehavior, rooted in the code of silence that often predominates among law enforcement. In this case, that silence did not prevail. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo -- who fired Chauvin and testified against him -- and other career police officers told the truth in the Chauvin trial, and were some of the more compelling witnesses. As with the jury, we need to find out how that happened and make sure that it happens again.

Mark Osler is the Robert and Marion Short Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas (MN), and a former federal prosecutor.

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