the conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was greeted with a sigh of relief from activists, lawmakers, US citizens and government officials, many of whom have long called for accountability in the murders of unarmed blacks in the country.
There were also many – including US President Joe Biden – asking what’s next, and calling for greater police reform and support for communities of color.
On social media, many have referred to the Minneapolis Police Department’s initial version of Floyd’s death, which said Floyd died “after a medical incident while interacting with police” and did not mention that Chauvin had knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, as proof of how precarious police accountability remains in the United States.
“This fabricated police story could have become the official tale of George Floyd’s death if the concerned citizens hadn’t stepped in and taped the police,” tweeted political commentator and former Bill Clinton aide Keith Boykin.
This fabricated police story could have become the official tale of George Floyd’s death had the concerned citizens not stepped in and recorded the police. pic.twitter.com/9XOD5TkK3B
– Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) April 20, 2021
International and U.S. rights groups, lawmakers and foreign officials have also report that the verdict in the case of former officer Chauvin, which was based on a vivid depiction of Floyd’s murder captured on cellphone video and camera footage of the police corps, as well as the possible conviction of his Minneapolis Police Department supervisors, remains an extremely rare occurrence in the US.
“As we have painfully witnessed in recent days and weeks, police service reforms across the United States continue to be insufficient to prevent people of African descent from being killed,” Michelle Bachelet said Wednesday. , head of UN human rights, in a statement.
“The truth is that Derek Chauvin’s responsibility for the murder of George Floyd is the exception – not the rule,” Amnesty International’s Paul O’Brien said in a statement following the verdict.
“We must recognize the racist roots of law enforcement in this country if we are to address systemic police service failures and ensure meaningful public safety for those who have been historically overpolished,” he said.
Justice for #GeorgeFloyd has been returned. But there are hundreds more awaiting justice. Today’s verdict should only be the first step towards long-awaited proportionate attention and recognition of historic crimes committed against black communities. pic.twitter.com/iBcaQSppKE
– Agnès Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) April 20, 2021
John Raphling of Human Rights Watch added that beyond the high-profile killings, “police continue to have coercive, but not fatal, interactions with people, especially blacks, Maroons and people living in the area. poverty, who do nothing to improve public safety. ”
“A criminal conviction for the most egregious and dramatic incident of violence is unlikely to change the systemic problems facing US police,” he wrote.
What happens next in the case?
Chauvin is expected to seek to overturn his conviction for murder and second and third degree manslaughter, likely arguing, as the defense has done throughout the trial, that the jury was wronged by the media coverage and a high-profile $ 27 million settlement in the civil case. brought by the family of George Floyd.
His lawyers will have 60 days to notify the court of a proposed appeal, which could result in all or some of the charges being overturned, including the second degree murder charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, although than a much shorter sentence. age 12.5 is recommended by Minnesota guidelines for someone without a previous conviction, such as Chauvin.
Legal experts generally believe that Chauvin’s chances of success are slim, noting that his appeal will likely also focus on protests against the police murder by Daunte Wright, an unarmed black man in nearby Brooklyn Center in early April, and comments made by US Representative Maxine Waters, who urged protesters to “become more confrontational” if Chauvin is acquitted.
Still, Joseph Friedberg, a criminal defense attorney from Minnesota, told Reuters news agency that an appeals court is unlikely to overturn a conviction because of media coverage or emotional protests.
“The cases will not be canceled on that basis,” he said.
Judge Peter Cahill has said Chauvin will be sentenced in eight weeks. He technically faces up to 75 years in prison if he receives consecutive maximum sentences on all three counts. Based on state guidelines, he is more likely to face around 40 years on the upper end of the sentence.
A legislative “impetus”?
Floyd’s death contributed to rekindle a movement for racial justice in the United States that historically developed following high-profile killings by police, only to decline as officers repeatedly evaded criminal charges.
Nonetheless, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Derrick Johnson, called the Chauvin trial “our Selma moment”, referring to the brutal 1965 crackdown by police during ‘a civil rights march in Selma, Alabama.
Images of the event – which has come to be known as “Bloody Sunday” – shocked the nation and helped galvanize support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“The world is watching,” he told CBS of the Chauvin trial.
While justice has put Derek Chauvin behind bars for the murder of George Floyd, no justice will bring back Gianna’s father.
We will not rest until all members of our community are allowed to breathe. #DerekChauvinTrial
– Derrick Johnson (@DerrickNAACP) April 20, 2021
Congresswoman Karen Bass also said she believed the trial would give momentum to the “George Floyd Justice in the Police Service Act”, which seeks to reform the police at the federal level and was passed in two. taken over by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
The bill, which would impose a blanket ban on strangulation and no-strike warrants, while curbing policies that make it harder for police to be held personally accountable for their conduct on duty, languished in the Senate. He faces an uphill, if not insurmountable, battle to reach his threshold of 60 votes in the chamber, which is divided 50-50 Democrats and Republicans.
Police reform at local and state levels has been more effective since Floyd’s death, although police changes viewed by advocates as “transformational” have been. elusive.
Since Floyd’s death, at least 30 states have passed more than 140 new police oversight and reform laws, according to a New York Times analysis of data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Notably, 16 states have adopted restrictions on neck straps, while ten have adopted policies requiring or funding police body cameras, according to the analysis.
Meanwhile, since last year’s protests, 46 of America’s 100 largest cities have adopted new policies against the use of choke points, choke holds, and pressure positions like the one that killed Floyd, based on data collected by Campaign Zero. Thirteen other cities are reviewing their policies and 27 already had bans.
But advocates say the disparate approach leaves communities vulnerable across the country.
“The changes to the rules on the use of force at the state and city levels seem unprecedented,” DeRay McKesson, a protester and co-founder of Campaign Zero, told Al Jazeera in early April.
However, he added, “we know, on their own, this is not enough.