Derek Chauvin is immediately unlikeable. Just by the looks of him. It’s the perceptibly arrogant sneer and the rise of his eyebrow on his clammy, pale face — without ever actually having heard a word from him, save for the clips from his police body-cam. And it had become clear early on, he wasn't a cop other cops wanted to back up. And not a cop other cops would want backing any of their calls. To be clear. Crystal clear. This was a bad cop.
But it’s couched within that instinctual disdain, that we collectively reflect on the jury’s verdict — GUITLY, GUILTY, GUILTY — on each of the three charges in the death of George Floyd. And the specter lingers, whether this came down to unavoidable facts. Or was it instead the meat the mob had demanded?
Was the hold-down by Chauvin on Floyd a “felony assault,” as would be needed “in causing the death of another human being” for the second-degree murder charge to stick?
Likewise, was the hold-down, “eminently dangerous,” while exhibiting a “reckless disregard for life,” as would be needed for the third-degree murder charge?
Or was it just “intentional conduct” that Chauvin “may not have intended to be harmful,” but what an “ordinary and reasonably prudent person would recognize as having a strong probability of causing injury to others?” Because then it comes down solely to that — solely to the charge of second-degree manslaughter.
To be clear. Crystal clear. Chauvin was a bad cop. And this isn’t in defense of him.
So much, instead, as it is an affront to the mob, which seems — AGAIN — to hold sway with its eerie grip. Do the facts bear this out? Or is this the looming dark cloud that the mob casts, that dictates how deep an impaling must be served in return?
Add too, more facts. Not inconvenient ones, but facts that stand on their own weight: an enlarged heart, constricted arteries, the presence of both methamphetamine and Fentanyl — that upper and downer “speedball-like” concoction that addicts role life’s dice with — all were at play in Floyd’s body. Does any of it root to the cause or the contribution of this death? Absent them, would the weight of a bad cop’s knee have killed him?
Then add the massing, gawking, chiming crowd itself, the one drawing the bad cop’s attention, continuously. Did they pose risks to the police on-scene that kept Chauvin and any of the other officers from realizing what dire straights, medically, that Floyd —at some certain point — was in?
GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY. In pondering that verdict, these questions, all of them, seep back continually. And it isn’t clear that the verdict echos reconciliation of them. But a bloodlust of the mob — for now — seems satisfied.
Is that though the purpose of verdict, to decide how much to serve up until the mob, for moments, no longer hungers?
The National Guard had stood ready. Our President Biden voiced hope that the “right” verdict was reached. And California Congresswoman Maxine Waters insisted the crowds in Minneapolis get “more confrontational” if Chauvin wasn’t found guilty of murder.
In that totality, no matter the letters of law or patterns of fact, would only one guilty verdict or even two — in the death of George Floyd — ever have sufficed?
syZmc crafts commentary in the spirit of the once venerable editorial board, on newsworthy events amid the polarizing landscape of media, culture and politics today. Read more thought provoking commentary at syzmc.com and on prattlon.com.