GEORGE FLOYD’S MURDERER CONVICTED, YET MORE TRAGEDY STRIKES
George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 while being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Outrage sparked across the nation after a video began to spread of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Floyd’s death was considered the breaking point that sparked a revival of the ongoing BLM movement. This movement is geared towards fighting racism and anti-black violence, especially in the form of police brutality. Recently Chauvin was put on trial for killing George Floyd, and during the trial another tragedy occurred as 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant was killed at the hands of police.
Derek Chauvin went to trial on April 20, 2021, and he was then convicted of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The 12 jurors unanimously decided that Chauvin killed George Floyd while committing a felony crime, resulting in his conviction on the highest count of second-degree murder. The jury rejected the defense's argument that Floyd died of natural causes, finding instead that Chauvin killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes, even though he did not intend for Floyd to die. When he is sentenced on June 25, he could face up to 75 years in jail. However, the terms are likely to run parallel under Minnesota law, which would mean Chauvin will spend no more than 40 years in jail.
Celebration spread across the country after the news of Chauvin’s conviction, but it may have been premature. Derek Chauvin's legal team requested an appeal due to jury misconduct.
The appeal due to jury misconduct comes after a photo of one of the jurors began to resurface around the time of the trial. The photograph is from August 2020 and depicts juror Brandon Mitchell in a Black Lives Matter hat and a shirt saying "get your knee off our necks" and features a portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. The problem with such a photo was that it raised questions about Mitchell’s credibility and ability to remain unbiased. More importantly, this demonstrates that Brandon Mitchell may have been untruthful during the jury selection process. During the process, Mitchell was asked if he, or someone close to him, had participated in any demonstrations against police brutality, to which he answered no. However, the photo seems to suggest the exact opposite of Mitchell’s answer. If the juror were to have lied about his activism, it could benefit Chauvin's attempts for a retrial. In addition, Chauvin’s attorneys claim that the court neglected to sequester the jury, which may have resulted in prejudiced views towards the case and exposure to fear and potential violence amongst the jurors. Eric Nelson, one of Chauvin’s attorneys, said the court also “abused its discretion and violated Mr. Chauvin's rights under the Confrontation Clause” during the testimony of an essential witness. While a retrial is unlikely, if Chauvin’s legal team is successful, the outcome of the trial may change in the retrial, and Chauvin may be let free.
During the trial on April 21, another tragedy had befallen us and the black community. Ma’khia Bryant was shot and killed by a police officer in Columbus, OH. The incident started when Bryant, one of a few foster children living under Angela Moore’s roof, got into a fight with another child about an unmade bed. Bryant became aggravated, claiming that the other child was not technically her legal guardian, so therefore she didn't have to listen. The situation began to escalate and it became violent. Police arrived at the scene after a 911 call about domestic violence. While there, the police struggled to break up a fight between Bryant and one child, before Bryant lunged at another child with a knife. At that point, a police officer took out his gun and shot Bryant, and she died. While police say that lethal force can be used to defend a third party, this shooting is still being investigated. Bryant’s foster mother, Angela Moore, says that Bryant didn’t deserve to die “like a dog in the street,” and that she was such a young and sweet girl.
Whether or not the officer was at fault for the death of Bryant, there is a much deeper underlying issue. At the end of the day she was just a child. Just like any other teenage girl, she liked to do things like dance and do her hair on the popular social media platform Tik Tok. But at the same time, Bryant had been stuck with the burden of being a young black girl. Even in media, she was portrayed as a woman, not a child, due to her body size and behavior. At the scene, these details may have suggested that Bryant was an uncontrollable threat, when that is in fact not the case. A study published in Georgetown Law found that black girls are often adultified and viewed as more aggressive than white girls. The study continues by writing that black girls are “interpreted as ‘loud,’ are imbued with adult-like aspirations, and perceived, in turn, as a threat.” Since black girls are often held to adult expectations and often viewed as threats, they are much more likely to receive harsher punishments than their white peers. Even in a school environment, when black girls speak up in class they are scrutinized as rude and sassy, yet their white classmates are viewed as intelligent for the same behavior.
The death of Ma’khia Bryant was a traumatizing event for the black community, especially considering it occurred when justice was finally being served for the death of George Floyd. Bryant and Floyd are just two of the many black people that have died in situations like these, and even in times of justice, more injustice ensues.
Adams, Becket. “Why Is Derek Chauvin Seeking a Retrial? Don't Ask NBC's Lester Holt.” Washington Examiner, 7 May 2021, www.washingtonexaminer.com/why-is-derek-chauvin-seeking-a-retrial-dont-ask-nbcs-lester-holt.
Epstein, Rebecca, et al. “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood.” Georgetown Law, 2020, genderjusticeandopportunity.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/girlhood-interrupted.pdf.