Quite the most remarkable feature of the sentence awarded to US white police officer Derek Chauvin must be the promptitude that has marked the end of the trial process following the brutal killing of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.
He died after Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine minutes ~ “I can’t breathe” were his last words. Chauvin was convicted of the murder in April. Two months later, the judge has spelt out the comeuppance. Floyd’s murder ignited global protests against racism and police brutality. The tragedy jolted American society to its foundations.
Tragically though, the canker of man’s inhumanity to man still persists in a country that boasts a liberal political philosophy. Chauvin has been sentenced to 22 years and six months in jail ~ a long enough spell by any reckoning.
He was convicted of second-degree murder and other charges. During his trial, his lawyer described the killing as “an error made in good faith”.
Chauvin was also told to register as a predatory offender and was barred from owning firearms for life.
He and three other former officers are separately charged with violating Floyd’s civil rights. Yet, almost immediately after the judgment, a debate has been sparked over whether the punishment entails a sufficiently long spell behind bars.
The nub of the crime and punishment in Minneapolis must be that it ought not to overshadow racist killings in San Bernadino and Ferguson, to mention two other horrific examples, not to forget the targetting of Asians since March this year and the killing of six Asian women in Atlanta. From grotesque prejudice against the colour of the skin, potential assassins have moved on to the continental origins of victims, both symptoms of a sick society.
The judge said the case had been painful for the community and the country, but above all, for Floyd’s family.
This isn’t juncture to spark a debate on the verdict or the quantum of the sentence. The fact is that such racist crimes must of necessity be probed with the alacrity they deserve. Not wholly unrelated to the malaise is the gun culture in the United States, almost endemic. Sad to reflect, successive presidential administrations, Democratic or Republican, have registered little or no headway in containing the menace. Chauvin’s sentence was “one of the longest a former police officer has ever received” for deadly force, said Minnesota’s Attorney-General. But will it be long enough to ensure that no one else meets the fate of Floyd?