George Floyd’s brother pleaded Friday for former police officer Derek Chauvin to be given the maximum sentence possible for his role in the killing, saying his own family has already been given a “life sentence.”
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in April 2021 for killing Floyd last May in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Speaking at Chauvin’s sentencing hearing, Philonise Floyd said that he has been tormented by the murder of his brother, which sparked a summer of protests across the country. The video of George Floyd’s killing, in which Chauvin kneels on his neck for more than nine minutes, was seen around the world.
“For an entire year, I had to relive George being tortured to death every hour of the day, only taking naps and not knowing what a good night’s sleep is anymore,” Floyd said.
“With a smirk on his face… Officer Chauvin used excessive force and acted against his training. Chauvin had no regard for human life – George’s life,” he said.
He urged the judge to hand Chauvin the maximum sentence for each charge, or up to 75 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
“My family and I have been given a life sentence,” he said. “We will never be able to get George back.”
“Accountability” is a word that’s often thrown around with little to no understanding of its true meaning and purpose. This has never been more true than with the recent conviction of Derek Chauvin and the dialogue around it.
When NBA superstar LeBron James responded to the conviction with one word, “ACCOUNTABILITY,” it got over 228,000 likes and over 30,000 retweets, it showed that people have lost touch with what accountability actually means.
Yes, Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, as he should have been, but this is not accountability, this is just punishment. The criminal justice system conflates these two concepts, but we cannot follow suit.
Worth a thousands words
The false equivalency between punishment and accountability has been dished-out to society through our dysfunctional justice system. We’ve been led to believe that punishment will solve all our problems, but it won’t. What makes an arbitrary number of years spent in prison equivalent to accountability? How does that right the harm that was caused?
We need to understand what accountability actually is. When used properly, true accountability can bring growth and healing, and this is what we should all strive for when harm occurs. True accountability allows us to learn from the pain we caused and break the cycle of our harmful ways. I know, because when I was 22 years old, I took a human life during a drug robbery. This led me to receive a 38 year-long prison sentence. When I first received my sentence I thought, “I deserve this. I took a life, and now I have to pay the price.” This was what I had been taught growing up in a dysfunctional system that never had my or my community’s best interest at heart.
Years went by before I realized that being accountable for my actions had nothing to do with the prison sentence I received. Being accountable was about me doing deep personal work that would help me see I needed to own the harm I had caused, and most importantly, I had to stop making excuses for my actions and acknowledge that only I was responsible for the damage.. Of course, there are mitigating factors and circumstances that lead us to live certain lifestyles – especially criminal lifestyles – nevertheless, our actions are our own and must be acknowledged as such.
When I took an individual’s life, it didn’t matter what my intentions were – whether it was an accident or self defense or a rash moment of confusion – I had chosen to do a robbery and during that robbery I had taken a human life. I needed to be accountable for that harm. I could serve a hundred life sentences, but that wouldn’t make me accountable, nor would it do anything for those I’ve harmed.
When doing the work to hold myself accountable, I found that the extremely broken criminal justice system doesn’t offer accountability, or even a path towards it. It merely offers a conviction through the law and then warehouses those convicted. That’s it. I came to the conclusion that only I, and I alone, would be able to begin the process of holding myself accountable.
I do want to acknowledge that it’s easy, after being stepped on for a lifetime, to lose sight of the end goal and mistake a conviction through the courts as accountability. Even after all my years of training as a restorative justice facilitator in accountability, I fell victim to wanting to see Derek Chauvin suffer. When they said he would be held in solitary confinement, an evil laugh escaped my lips because I have spent countless days in there and I wanted him, a cop, to feel that isolation and pain I and others have been forced to feel. However, I quickly realized that as a prison abolitionist, this isn’t what I actually want. I don’t want to accept this broken system of justice as my own.
Over the last decade, I have committed myself to understanding accountability and how to best hold myself accountable for the harm I’ve caused. I’ve learned how to do this while also taking into account those I’ve harmed: my community, my loved ones and myself. Building these skills while facing the harm I had caused didn’t happen overnight, and I’m still working on it. I will be for the rest of my life. This was the only way to begin to atone for the life-ending harm I caused in my youth.
In Derek Chauvin’s case, accountability will only come if he does the work to hold himself accountable. As a society, we can punish him, but that’s all we can do. Accountability is his responsibility. Being held responsible by someone else is much different then being held accountable by ourselves.
As a society, we need to decide: are we looking for the kind of justice and accountability that will stop police from killing people of color in our communities, or are we just willing to buy into the broken system of so-called justice that has destroyed our communities and countless lives within them?
We cannot continue to allow these racist, over-zealous cops to continue to murder people in the streets. But we also don’t want to fall victim to believing that their version of justice is the same as ours, because in the end their policing system will always target those it was designed to oppress: impoverished communities of color like the one I grew up in. We owe them and ourselves so much more.
Christopher Blackwell, 40, is incarcerated at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, Washington, and is working toward publishing a book on solitary confinement. His writing has been published by The Washington Post, HuffPost, BuzzFeed, Jewish Currents, and many other publications. He is serving a 45-year sentence. Follow Christopher on Twitter.
Former first lady Michelle Obama in a new interview discussed the fear that Black Americans often experience in their everyday lives and opened up about her worries for her own daughters.
Obama told “CBS This Morning” that many Black people “still live in fear” while doing ordinary activities, such as grocery shopping, walking a dog, and driving.
CBS host Gayle King asked Obama whether her daughters, 19-year-old Sasha and 22-year-old Malia, have their driver’s licenses.
“They’re driving. But every time they get in a car by themselves, I worry about what assumption is being made by somebody who doesn’t know everything about them,” Obama said in a clip of the interview, which airs Monday. “The fact that they are good students and polite girls. But maybe they’re playing their music a little loud. Maybe somebody sees the back of their head and makes an assumption.”
“The innocent act of getting a license puts fear in our hearts,” Obama added.
During the interview, Obama said she felt compelled to speak out after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in the death of George Floyd, a Black man. The police killing last May sparked national outrage, with millions of people participating in Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.
The Obamas issued a statement reacting to the verdict, saying it “may have been a necessary step on the road to progress” but that “we will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system.”
Obama reiterated that position to CBS and stressed that concerns Black people face need to be talked about more, and “we have to ask our fellow citizens to listen a bit more, and to believe us.”
“We don’t wanna be out there marching. I mean, all those Black Lives Matters kids, they’d rather not have to worry about this,” Obama said. “They’re taking to the streets because they have to. They’re trying to have people understand that that we’re real folks, and the fear that many have of so many of us is irrational. And it’s based on a history that is just, it’s sad and it’s dark. And it’s time for us to move beyond that.”
According to the report, federal prosecutors spent months building a police-brutality case against Chauvin and the three other former Minneapolis police officers charged in connection to Floyd’s death.
In an effort not to influence the outcome of the murder trial, the DOJ held off on pushing forward with a grand jury indictment, but had a plan in place in case Chauvin was acquitted in the murder case, according to the Star Tribune.
Sources familiar with the discussions told the Star Tribune that the original DOJ plan was to arrest Chauvin in the courthouse if he was acquitted or if a mistrial was called, and charge him with federal police-brutality violations.
The Minnesota US Attorney’s Office would charge Chauvin by criminal complaint, so authorities could arrest him immediately, then seek a grand jury indictment afterward, the Star Tribune reported.
Federal prosecutors are still going forward with the case, but plan to do so by getting a grand jury indictment first, the Star Tribune reported, citing a source. The DOJ impaneled a federal grand jury in February, The New York Times reported at the time.
The source said indictments against Chauvin and the three other officers present for Floyd’s fatal arrest – J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao – were expected soon.
Insider has contacted the Department of Justice and the Minnesota US Attorney’s Office for comment.
According to the Star Tribune, federal prosecutors planned to charge Chauvin in connection to Floyd’s death and the violent arrest of a 14-year-old boy in 2017. ABC News previously reported that the DOJ was considering charges over the 2017 arrest.
That incident was described in court documents by prosecutors in Floyd’s murder case, who wanted to use it as evidence of a possible pattern of behavior by Chauvin.
In a court filing, prosecutors said Chauvin struck a Black teenager in the head with a flashlight and placed him in a prone position for 17 minutes, the Star Tribune reported. ABC News reported, also citing court documents, that Chauvin ignored complaints that the teen couldn’t breathe.
The Star Tribune reported that the three other officers would be charged only in connection to Floyd’s fatal arrest.
Kueng, Lane, and Thao are also set to stand trial together in August on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
More than half of supporters of former President Donald Trump agreed with the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in the murder of George Floyd, according to a new CBS News/YouGov poll.
In the poll, 49 percent of respondents who backed Trump in 2020 disagreed with the guilty verdict, while a slim majority of Trump voters – 51 percent – agreed with the jury’s decision.
Among voters who backed President Joe Biden in 2020, 94 percent supported the guilty verdict, compared to six percent who disagreed with the conviction.
Among all Republicans, 54 percent agreed with the decision, while 46 percent felt that the guilty verdict was wrong.
Democratic respondents overwhelmingly backed the guilty verdict – 90 percent felt that the conviction was the right decision, while 10 percent disagreed with the jury’s decision.
Seventy-five percent of Independent respondents agreed with the verdict, while 25 percent disagreed.
Among all respondents, 75 percent indicated that the jury made the right decision in convicting Chauvin, while 25 percent disagreed with the decision.
Chauvin, who was found guilty of murder and manslaughter following Floyd’s death, faces up to 40 years in prison.
The case reignited the state of policing in America and led to racial reckoning among numerous elements of American society, from the US government and corporate boardrooms to public schools and local municipalities.
The Black Lives Matter movement, which has been a major force for civil rights in recent years, became even more prominent in the public discourse.
Biden, who has offered his spiritual support to the Floyd family, received a favorability rating of 60 percent regarding his handling of issues related to Floyd’s murder.
“We can’t leave this moment or look away, thinking our work is done,” Biden said after Chauvin was convicted. “We have to look at it as we did for those 9 minutes and 29 seconds. We have to listen. ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words. We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words.”
The CBS News polling was conducted by YouGov with 2,527 respondents who were interviewed from April 21 through April 24.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Sunday denied that systemic racism exists in the United States.
Asked by Fox News’ Chris Wallace whether systemic racism exists across American institutions, Graham said no.
“Not in my opinion. We just elected a two-term African-American president,” he said, referring to former President Barack Obama, who was in office from January 2009 to January 2017.
“The vice president is of African American-Indian descent,” he continued, referring to Kamala Harris. “So our systems are not racist. America’s not a racist country.”
Extensive research and data illustrate how systemic racism in the United States makes basic experiences like banking, education, and interactions with law enforcement vastly different for people of color compared to white people.
Wallace asked Graham about systemic racism specifically within policing, which Graham also denied.
“Within every society, you have bad actors. The Chauvin trial was a just result,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, just ended in his conviction.
Floyd died on May 25 during an arrest, and video shows that he repeatedly said he could not breathe while trapped under Chauvin’s weight.
Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison for the second-degree murder charge. He also faces up to 25 years for the third-degree murder charge and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. Because Chauvin was convicted of all charges, he will be sentenced on the top charge of second-degree murder. His sentencing is scheduled for June.
This is not the first time Graham has made controversial remarks about racism and people of color.
“I care about everybody,” Graham said, speaking at a forum for South Carolina Senate candidates. “If you’re a young African American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state. You just need to be conservative, not liberal.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said the guilty verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is “but a piece of” policing and criminal justice reform.
“There is no question that we’ve got to put an end to these moments where the public questions whether there’s going to be accountability; questions whether there’s going to be the kind of fairness that we should all expect and deserve in all of our lives and in particular as it relates to people of color,” Harris said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
“This verdict is but a piece of it, And it will not heal the pain that existed for generations among people who have experienced and first-hand witnessed what now a broader public is seeing because of smartphones and the ubiquity of our ability to videotape in real-time what is happening in front of our faces,” she said. “And that’s why Congress needs to act, and that’s why they should pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”
Last week, Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter for killing George Floyd. Last May, Chauvin was captured on video pinning his knee of Floyd’s neck, sparking anti-racism protests across the country and worldwide.
“We all watched that video. Many of us watched it multiple times, and people are in pain over what we all saw in that video,” Harris said, adding that “in large part” the case led to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in March, which would ban the use of neck restraints at the federal level, get rid of “qualified immunity” for police officers, and prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, Insider’s Kelsey Vlamis previously reported.
“I really do hope that the United States Senate will take it on and have the courage to take it on,” Harris said.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020. Video from his arrest showed Chauvin kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.
In the day that followed, police across America killed six people.
The circumstances of the six incidents varied and some of the cases garnered national attention, including the death of Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl in Columbus.
Bryant was shot and killed after police responded to a call about an attempted stabbing.
In Worcester, Massachusetts, Phet Gouvonvong, 31, called 911 and said he had a bomb when police responded and Gouvonvong moved towards police, he was shot and died at the scene, the Telegram & Gazette.
Andrew Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, was shot and killed as deputies tried to serve an arrest warrant in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
The identities of the two men killed in San Antonio are unknown. One was killed during an altercation on a bus where police said he had a gun, but it’s unclear if he ever fired it, KENS 5 reported. The second was killed after he began shooting at officers who were responding to a call that someone had killed a person working in a shed outside the caller’s home, the AP reported.
In Escondido, California, a white man was killed after police said he charged at officers with a 2-foot metal pole, KTLA reported. The victim was known to law enforcement and was homeless and mentally ill.
It’s not clear if any officers in these fatal shootings will face legal charges like Chauvin, who was convicted mainly because of a video that showed him kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
“We are in a moment of reckoning,” Rachael Rollins, district attorney for Boston and surrounding communities told the AP.
“If we can be strategic and come together,” she said, “we can make profound changes, profound.”
“Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade launched into a tirade just 10 minutes into Thursday morning’s show, arguing that anti-racism protesters “should be barred” from calling 911 if they speak out against the police.
Kilmeade, who has co-hosted the show since 1998, was reacting to fellow anchor Ainsley Earhardt listing off a series of headlines about a handful of protests in the aftermath of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd.
“Ohio State University, now, the students are gathering in the students union and they’re demanding that the school cut ties with Columbus police. In Portland, someone punched an officer in the face,” Earhardt said, offering little context and not citing any sources of the reports.
“They smashed windows of a Starbucks,” she continued. “They spray painted anti-police messages on walls there. Minnesota, protesters were yelling at police ‘Get the blank out,’ and in New York at that local restaurant, ‘We don’t want you here. We don’t want you here.'”
Kilmeade quickly jumped in.
“Good, and you know what? You should be barred from – anyone who says that, you are no longer allowed to use 911,” he said, adding: “Let’s just hope, in your life, you never need a police officer.”
While the initial reaction to the Chauvin verdict on Tuesday was mostly positive from daytime Fox News hosts and guests, several others have expressed frustration at how the ruling played out among the public and in the mainstream media.
Most notably, the network’s top-rated primetime host Tucker Carlson cast doubt on the verdict by implying the jury was intimidated into convicting Chauvin, while Greg Gutfeld – co-host of “The Five” and host of the eponymously named “Gutfeld!” – celebrated the jury’s decision “even if he might not be guilty of all charges” because “my house was looted.”
The Department of Justice is opening a civil investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Wednesday.
A jury convicted Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, on second-degree manslaughter, second-degree murder, and third-degree murder charges for killing George Floyd, a Black man, in May 2020.
The wide-ranging investigation will examine whether the department “engages in a practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” including the department’s use of force practices, procedures during arrests, and conduct during protests, according to the Associated Press.
This new probe follows a separate, ongoing DOJ civil rights investigation into Floyd’s murder itself.
Garland, who is focusing the DOJ’s efforts on enhancing civil rights, also recently rescinded Trump-era guidance limiting the DOJ’s ability to enter into consent decrees with police departments accused of systemtic misconduct and wrongdoing.
Under the Obama administration, the DOJ entered in consent decrees with police departments in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland following high-profile deaths of Black men at the hands of police in those cities.