In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 28, 2021 at 12:10 am

On June 25, justice finally caught up with Derek Chauvin.

Chauvin was the white Minneapolis police officer who, on May 25, 2020, murdered George Floyd, a black unemployed restaurant security guard.

While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street following an arrest, Chauvin kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for nine and one-half minutes.

A 17-year-old black girl, Darnella Frazier, captured Floyd’s murder on her cellphone. The video was seen by millions on YouTube and network news programs. It played a pivotal role at Chauvin’s trial.  

Derek Chauvin mugshot April 2021.webp

Derek Chauvin

Cities across the United States erupted in mass protests over Floyd’s death—and police killings of black victims generally. Most of these demonstrations proved peaceful. But cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City saw stores looted, vandalized and/or burned. 

Chauvin was fired the next day from the Minneapolis Police Department and charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

Chauvin’s trial began on March 8, 2021, and concluded on April 20 when the jury found him guilty on all three charges.

On June 25—one year and one month to the day after he murdered Floyd—he received his sentence: Twenty-two and one-half years in prison.

Several of Floyd’s family members spoke at the sentencing, but only one of Chauvin’s did. That was his mother, Carolyn Pawlenty. 

Rochelle Olson (@rochelleolson) | Twitter

Carolyn Pawlenty

Standing before Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, Pawlenty said:

“Derek has played over and over in his head the events of that day. I’ve seen the toll it has taken on him. I believe a lengthy sentence will not serve Derek well.  Even though I have not spoken publicly, I have always supported him 100 percent and always will.

“Derek always dedicated his life and time to the police department. Even on his days off, he’d call in to see if they needed help. 

“Derek is a quiet, thoughtful, honorable and selfless man. He has a big heart and has always put others before his own. 

“My son’s identity has also been reduced to that as a racist. I want this court to know that none of these things are true and that my son is a good man.

She pleaded with Judge Cahill for leniency: “When you sentence him, you will also be sentencing me. I won’t be able to see him or give him our special hug. When he is released, his father and I most likely won’t be here.”

Chauvin is 45. His mother is 73.

One of Floyd’s brothers, Philonise Floyd, said with undeserved generosity: “I understand that because that’s her son. The same way she spoke up for her son, I spoke up for my brother.

“So we all, we all love our loved ones. But the fact that I will never see my brother again is worse because she still will have the opportunity to see her son in the cell anytime she wants to.”

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that Chauvin should be sentenced to just probation with no more prison time:

“He was decorated as a police officer—multiple life-saving awards. He was decorated for valor. He was proud to be a police officer because what he liked to do was help people.”

Clearly lost on—or ignored by—Pawlenty and Nelson was this warning from Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. He issued this in his masterwork, The Discourses, which offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. 

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

In Chapter 24, he writes: “Well-ordered republics establish punishments and rewards for their citizens, but never set off one against the other:

“The services of Horatius had been of the highest importance to Rome, for by his bravery he had conquered the Curatii. But the crime of killing his sister was atrocious, and the Romans were so outraged by this murder that he was put upon trial for his life, notwithstanding his recent great services to the state. 

“It may seem like an instance of popular ingratitude; but a more careful examination, and reflection as to what the laws of a republic ought to be, will show that the people were to blame rather for the acquittal of Horatius than for having him tried. 

“…No well-ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits.  But having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits.

“And a state that properly observes this principle will long enjoy its liberty, but if otherwise, it will speedily come to ruin. 

“For if a citizen who has rendered some eminent service to the state should add to the reputation and influence which he has thereby acquired the confident audacity of being able to commit any wrong without fear of punishment, he will in a little while become so insolent and overbearing as to put an end to all power of the law.

“But to preserve a wholesome fear of punishment for evil deeds, it is necessary not to omit rewarding good ones.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: