Brankin: Accountability prevailed

George Floyd’s murderer is getting what he deserves: to rot in prison.

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Tara Brankin

My heart had been pounding since I got the notification that the Derek Chauvin trial verdict was going to be read within the hour. I made myself some peppermint tea as my hands shook and quickly turned on the news. I watched news correspondents discuss how surprised they were that the jury came back this quickly and how this usually means a bad outcome for the defendant, in this case, Chauvin. However, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I was petrified that the justice system would fail George Floyd and all of America. But that did not happen. Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was held accountable for murdering Floyd.

On March 8, I wrote a column titled “Hoping justice will prevail.” I wrote this column as the Chauvin trial was starting and the city of Minneapolis was beginning to get tenser and tenser. I was hoping more than anything that Chauvin would be found guilty of murdering Floyd and set the precedent that police officers should be held accountable for killing Black Americans. Looking back at the title of that column, I should have replaced the word “justice” with “accountability.” Justice prevailing would mean that the system that allows police to get away with murdering Black Americans would be completely reformed. While this verdict is a milestone in the fight for justice, Chauvin is a rarity in being a police officer held accountable for the murder of a Black man.

The prosecution and defense delivered their closing arguments on April 19. In between doing classwork and attending lectures, I watched the closing arguments and started to gain hope that the jury would find Chauvin guilty on all three counts. While watching the closing arguments, I was struck by prosecutors Jerry Blackwell and Steven Schleicher, who were absolutely incredible. In response to the defense’s closing argument, Blackwell said “The reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart is too small.” This was in reference to the defense alleging that Floyd died not because Chauvin was kneeling on his neck, but because Floyd’s heart was enlarged. I felt as though the eloquence of Schleicher and Blackwell’s closing argument and rebuttal, respectively, should be enough to convince the jury that Chauvin was undeniably responsible for Floyd’s murder.

The outcome of this trial marks a turning point in America. It shows that the justice system is not completely broken, that a jury can recognize that police officers are not public executioners and need to be held accountable for their actions. As I watched Chauvin’s reaction as the verdict was read, I wished his mask was off so I could see the shock spread across his usually smug face. He mercilessly robbed Floyd’s family of their son, brother and father. Chauvin deserved this convictionsentence. He deserved to face accountability and he deserves to rot in jail.