A Very Rare Conviction
Derek Chauvin, convicted of second-degree murder, is the exception of exceptions.,
The murder conviction of a police officer is an exceedingly rare event.
There have been only seven murder convictions of officers for fatal police shootings since 2005, according to Philip Stinson of Bowling Green State University. That suggests the chances of a killing by the police leading to a murder conviction are about one in 2,000.
Yet a jury in Minneapolis yesterday convicted Derek Chauvin of second-degree murder (as well as two other charges) for killing George Floyd last May. A typical sentence for that felony in Minneapolis is 12 1/2 years in prison, although prosecutors have asked for more and the maximum is 40 years. A judge will sentence Chauvin in about eight weeks.
Floyd’s relatives said they felt relieved by the verdict. “I finally have the opportunity to hopefully get some sleep,” Philonise Floyd, George’s brother, said.
Chauvin’s conviction does not automatically signal a new era of police accountability. The Floyd case was the exception of all exceptions. A video, watched around the world, showed Chauvin pressing his knee onto Floyd for more than nine minutes. That footage led to weeks of protests that were among the largest in U.S. history. And at the trial, the so-called blue wall of silence — that is, many officers’ willingness to protect colleagues, regardless of their misbehavior — crumbled. “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability,” President Biden said late yesterday.
Most of those factors will not apply to future police killings. Those cases will instead be more likely to resemble the deaths of Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Daniel Prude, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor and hundreds of other cases that have not lead to a murder or manslaughter conviction.
Still, the Chauvin trial is not guaranteed to be simply a one-off event, either. Some of the same factors that make it distinct could also cause it to have a wider impact. Before Floyd’s death, it was hard to think of a signature trial of an American police officer, one that received sustained national attention, as the trial of a celebrity might.
This trial, of course, did receive such attention. Television networks halted their normal coverage yesterday to broadcast the verdict, and the president of the United States organized his schedule around it.
That attention has made it clear that a police officer can be charged with murder and convicted of it. It’s an idea that will linger in the minds of prosecutors and future jurors. Perhaps most important, it may affect the thinking of other officers, when they find themselves considering whether to use physical force when it is not necessary.
Barack Obama: “True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day. … And it requires us to do the sometimes thankless, often difficult, but always necessary work of making the America we know more like the America we believe in.”
Rosa Brooks, in Politico: “While the national media understandably puts a spotlight on Chauvin, we should not forget that three other Minneapolis police officers were also on the scene that day last May: Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. Their sheer passivity was, in some ways, more stunning than Chauvin’s casual cruelty.”
Quin Hillyer of The Washington Examiner: “The judicial system worked. It usually does. It won’t bring George Floyd back, or eliminate all bad policing — but police are now on notice.”
Michele Norris: “Can we all sing a praise song for Darnella Frazier who had the presence of mind to film that video that made such a difference.”
Many police shootings are justified, German Lopez of Vox has written. But Stinson, the Bowling Green professor of criminal justice, told Lopez that the number of officers charged with wrongdoing “seems extremely low.”
Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s younger brother, called for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct. The House has passed it, and Biden favors it.
In Times Opinion, Esau McCaulley writes about the verdict.
More Times coverage
Minneapolis residents greeted the verdict with joy and relief. “We matter,” one woman said outside the convenience store where Floyd was killed.
Racial justice activists saw the trial as a step toward a larger goal. “We have not yet dealt with the disease,” a pastor in Chicago said.
These photos show reactions to the verdict around the country.
An officer fatally shot a 16-year-old girl in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday. The police said she had threatened two other girls with a knife.
THE LATEST NEWS
Johnson & Johnson is resuming its vaccine rollout in Europe. Regulators said that the shot’s benefits outweighed the risk of rare blood clots.
More than half of U.S. adults have received at least one shot. It will take work to persuade the rest.
The White House endorsed a bill to make the District of Columbia a state. The House of Representatives will vote on it soon.
The House, voting on party lines, did not censure Representative Maxine Waters for suggesting an acquittal of Chauvin could lead to violence.
George W. Bush described the modern Republican Party as “isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist.”
A dozen megadonors and their spouses accounted for about one out of every 13 dollars in federal political donations since 2009 — an effect of the Supreme Court’s loosening of restrictions.
Other Big Stories
President Idriss Deby of Chad died of wounds he sustained in a battle with insurgents, the country’s military said. Deby, 68, had held power since 1990.
In an interview with The Times, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea urged the U.S. to engage with North Korea.
Plans for a European soccer Super League have already collapsed after the project’s six English clubs said they would drop out.
People who sleep six hours or less a night in their 50s and 60s may have a higher chance of dementia when they are older, a study found.
The police in Italy went to investigate a violation of pandemic rules. They found people feasting on protected songbirds.
Interning for Walter Mondale, then the vice president, was Senator Amy Klobuchar’s first job in Washington. She wrote a remembrance.
The Times’s Jamelle Bouie won a Hillman Prize for his columns.
The YOLO Economy: Flush with cash and burned out by the pandemic, some workers are quitting their jobs to move closer to family, focus on a side hustle or finally write that screenplay, The Times’s Kevin Roose writes.
Lives Lived: In 1980, Chuck Geschke and a colleague created a way to send documents between a computer and a printer. The company they founded, Adobe, got the attention of Apple, and the rest is history. Geschke died at 81.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The everlasting appeal of gardening
Before the pandemic, the actress Drew Barrymore was not exactly known for her gardening skills. Still, last spring, she planted her first lawn. She bought some chickens, grew tomatoes, and “felt really empowered,” she told The Times. And now, she is among the celebrities capitalizing on the pandemic-induced gardening boom: She is the face of a lawn-care subscription service.
Many people turned to gardening last year, fueled by a desire for a hobby, self-sufficiency, or both. Celebrities and other brands took notice: Kate Hudson’s vodka brand teamed up with a plant delivery service to release a potted “love fern.” HGTV added shows on gardening, like “Martha Knows Best,” Martha Stewart’s reality series about life on her estate in Bedford, N.Y., and a coming topiary competition series.
“We get letters and comments on our social feed constantly,” the president of HGTV said. “Where is the gardening? You’re HGTV. Put the ‘G’ back in HGTV.”
Celebrities are vying for the lucrative role of guide to the growing audience of garden enthusiasts, as Ronda Kaysen writes in The Times. “Someone needs to explain the difference between a shovel and a spade.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
What to Read
Looking to read a Philip Roth book? Let this guide help.
The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses popularizing science during a time when skepticism has become widespread.
The hosts addressed the Chauvin verdict.
Now Time to Play
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was backyard. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Stupid (four letters).
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David
P.S. Queen Elizabeth II turns 95 today. The Times’s story about her birth called her “a possible, though improbable, successor to the throne of England.”
You can see today’s print front page here.
Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at email@example.com.