Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who led the prosecution in the case of George Floyd, said police officer Derek Chauvin deserved to be convicted, but noted that he felt "a little bit bad" about the guilty verdict, because the defendant is a "human being". Ellison made the statement while appearing on CBS' 60 Minutes.
When correspondent Scott Pelley said he didn’t expect such a response from the prosecutor, Ellison said the following:
"I'm not in any way wavering from my responsibility. But I hope we never forget that people who are defendants in our criminal justice system ... that they're human beings, they're people. I mean, George Floyd was a human being. So I'm not going to ever forget that everybody in this process is a person".
He then added that the court shouldn’t go light or heavy when making a decision on a sentence.
The George Floyd Case
The trial of Derek Chauvin, one of four police officers that were involved in the death of African-American man George Floyd, was one of the most high-profile court cases in recent US history and was viewed as a referendum on police brutality and racism in law enforcement.
George Floyd, 46, was arrested on 25 May 2020 after a shop clerk called the police claiming a customer had used a forged banknote. Officers who arrived at the scene handcuffed Floyd and tried to put him in a police car. A struggle ensued, during which they pinned Floyd to the ground, with Chauvin placing his knee on the man’s neck. Floyd told police officers more than 20 times that he was unable to breathe. Despite his pleas, the officer kept kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes, even after Floyd fell unconscious.
The initial autopsy showed that the possible presence of intoxicants in Floyd's blood and pre-existing heart problems had contributed to his death. However, a private autopsy, conducted at the request of his family, found that George Floyd died from asphyxiation, which occurred because of the compression on his neck by the police officer.
Floyd’s death sparked massive protests against racial discrimination and police brutality in the United States and across the globe, with people in the US demonstrating for several months.
During the trial, Chauvin’s legal team argued that Floyd died due to the presence of drugs in his system and heart problems. An autopsy showed the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s blood.
The 12-member jury, which included two white men, four white women, one black woman, two multiracial women, and three black men, agreed on a unanimous verdict in less than a day. Derek Chauvin is expected to appeal it.
George Floyd’s family dubbed the verdict a "turning point in the history" of the United States. The news was met with jubilation by many across the country. President Joe Biden said that the verdict may become "a giant step forward" for the US in the fight against systemic racism.