Last Thursday I learned that the trial phase of the case against Derek Chauvin was ending. Closing arguments were scheduled for Monday, with jury deliberation to follow. Over the weekend, I thought about the possible outcomes of the trial. I began to pray that justice would prevail. And I also had doubts. My perception was that the video evidence was overwhelming. The number of people who could be heard asking former Officer Chauvin to get up unfolded for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. The testimony of eyewitnesses and experts confirmed what I saw.
And yet, the Defense also presented their experts, portraying Derek as an officer who was doing what he was trained to do. If they were successful in creating doubt in only one juror, they would win the case. Over the weekend, I waited. I did not watch the closing arguments. Instead, I read a brief summary online.
Beginning Monday afternoon, I occasionally turned to one of the news stations to see if the verdict had been reached. Yesterday afternoon, at 3:30 pm, I saw that the jurors would return to the courtroom after 4:30 pm to have the verdict read. I tried to ignore the speculation newscasters are wont to do, as the time for the jury to return to the courtroom came and went. As the panel I was listening to spoke, no one offered a reason for the delay. Then, just after 5:00 pm, the judge entered the courtroom followed by the jury.
The judge read the verdict while the camera focused on Derek Chauvin’s face. I’m not sure if he was looking toward the jury or someone else as the verdict was read. After the jury was polled, the prosecution asked for Derek’s bail to be revoked. He was handcuffed and taken into custody.
The network I watched showed a split-screen of what was unfolding in court beside people outside the courthouse hearing the news. Their cheering was a background to the judge’s reading of three counts of guilty. I couldn’t tell if their celebration could be heard in the courtroom.
Today, I am relieved that justice has been achieved in this case. I am surprised that I have mixed emotions. I thought I would be happier. Maybe, it is the brutality of how George Floyd died that dampens my celebration. I still wonder how this case would’ve gone if there was no video evidence. I am aware that the verdict will affect how officers try to protect and serve their communities. They may hesitate, fearing their actions will be seen as too aggressive. Some may resign or retire because they feel they will be over scrutinized for trying to do their jobs. Sadly, I also realize that there will be a next time. And the next time, the outcome may be different for the police officer(s) and the victim(s) involved.
Or perhaps, this is the beginning of a new way for the police to approach those they suspect of committing a crime. We all have work to do if we are to change what happens. I pray that we can begin conversations that help officers do their jobs safely. I pray that we can begin to talk about the pressure African Americans and other minorities feel when they see flashing lights or hear an officer ask them to stop. I pray that there can be healing and real change in the days to come. I pray for all those in the courtroom who were involved in this case. I pray for George Floyd’s and Derek Chauvin’s families. I also pray for the officers who are awaiting trial. Most of all I pray for all of God’s children. And Amen.