*On Tuesday, a jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all 3 counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and 2nd-degree manslaughter for the death of George Floyd. Chauvin faces a maximum of 40 years in prison.
Chauvin’s conviction resonated globally, with foreign dignitaries and community leaders reacting to a verdict across social media. The verdict highlights the ongoing national conversation about police reform and racial inequality in justice systems globally.
Floyd, a Black man, died on Memorial Day after Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd cried out for his mother and said “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times.
As we noted in an earlier report, several Foundational Black Americans have reacted to Chauvin’s guilty verdict by stating that “White supremacy will sometimes sacrifice their own” to maintain order.
We caught up with expert analyst and former staffer with the Obama Administration, Mike Muse to get his take on the reaction to the verdict and how he wants Black people to see “legal care as self-care,” an effort he champions through his Law Champs (partnered with two women along with him), which matches those who need consummate representation with the best legal experts possible always at no cost to those who need a helping hand.
Muse uses his public platform to intersect politics, reform, and pop culture for social change, and advocates for some of the important topics we face today, such as Hate Crime legislation to Voting Rights, and Gun Legislation. Get into our conversation below.
A lot of people were expecting Chauvin to be acquitted, and there is a shockwave sweeping across social media over him being found guilty on all three counts.
Muse: There was a shock that there was a guilty verdict delivered. We far too often have seen when there has been a trial and we haven’t got the verdict of guilty. Oftentimes we don’t even see a trial even happen, we don’t even see an indictment even being issued from the district attorney. So for it to get all this way, and even now with the idea of the amount of police officers that testified on behalf of the prosecution against their own was even telling that we still didn’t expect the guilty verdict. That’s how high the burden is for black life to be, that somehow our lives mattered and that justice has been served. And so I think for many, we’re just in disbelief shock and didn’t expect it, but here we are.
What makes Derek’s case so unique? Why did it go to trial? Why did so many officers testify against him? Why did we see a guilty verdict?
I think what we saw was a system actually working on behalf of black people. This police chief was appointed by the previous mayor, Minneapolis specifically, to change the culture of policing within the police department. From there what we saw was this new mayor that gave the confidence of this police chief to go forward and issue the firings of these police officers. So from there what you saw was a District Attorney who in the initial beginning didn’t seem to be eager to move forward with an indictment. But then what we saw was the governor, who was elected by the people of the state, appointed the special prosecutor who was the Attorney General Keith Ellison. And prior to that, Ellison had already shown signals and signs that he believed there was enough to move forward with an indictment.
So then when he was appointed to the case, then a special prosecution was had. And then we see an indictment come down swiftly. So what I just walked you through is basically a system in action of people who are elected by the people to finally serve and do justice on behalf of the people. And what was so interesting was that the state and the prosecutors, they actually wanted to prosecute. They actually believed that this man was guilty of murder. And far too often, we don’t see that. We don’t see it often because most of the time, the prosecutor, they get assigned to the case as a special point prosecutor. And most of the time you can feel they’re doing it because they feel they have to. So you don’t see them giving it their all, but in this case, we saw them giving it their all, they had a really great solid prosecution.
They had a story to tell, a narrative to tell. And then we saw the judge, who’s an elected official, really controlled the courtroom, really controlled and limit the amount of testimony that was allowed in. He made sure that this case wasn’t about putting George Floyd’s character or person on trial. So he made sure that stuff was limited. So we’ve just seen a lot of things in action that was due on behalf of the people of the elected officials who were elected by the people. They were actually working for the people. I think that is what made a difference in this case.
Tomorrow, @votequadrant will host our first town hall to hold police accountable, the timing is no coincidence as the #derrickchauvintrial is #VoteQuadrant in action. Excited to announce our new partnership w/my fraternity @kapsi1911 to help in this advocacy. Join us! pic.twitter.com/wf1ZAbxQZE
— Mike Muse (@iammikemuse) April 21, 2021
Let’s unpack the relationship between law enforcement and the justice system. Why is it so often that we see with cases like this, where there is overwhelming evidence that the officer committed a crime, that they’re not held responsible for their actions?
The reason why is because, with black Americans, there isn’t a presumption of innocence. There’s always a presumption of guilt. And so there is a narrative of that, “Well, the black person must have been doing something wrong to deserve this type of treatment” which is ultimately a murder. I think that has been the challenge, is that we’ve always come from a place of presumed guilty and whatever the officer has done to a black person, it was justified from the accident. And then the police officers are always using that defense of, you know, they were afraid of their lives, or they were afraid they were in danger, or they took that measure to protect themselves. So that has systematically and historically always been the case.
Chris Cuomo made a comment recently that police reform won’t happen, and the nation won’t get serious about it, until it’s white kids being killed by cops. What say you, to that?
I don’t want to comment on Chris Cuomo, but I think it’s going to take a change in the culture of policing. It’s going to take culture to be within the police department. It’s going to take a change in culture on how citizens of America elect their mayors because mayors appoint police chiefs. It’s going to take, elect the right mayor, who has an interest in appointing the right police chief that is willing to change the culture of policing, is willing to change the way police officers are hired; the way that psychological exams need to come into play; understanding cultural competencies of the police force. That is what the change is going to take. Is going to take the opportunities for people in state legislators, state legislations, and state Houses, as well as in the Capitol to put police legislation and accountability in place, both on the federal level and on the state level. You’re going to start seeing those things need to be working in concert in order for it to change because racism is not going to go away.
Fear of the black body isn’t going to go away. And so what you need to do is you need to put these guard rails in to change, and it needs to change. The narrative of police are good and superheroes and can do no wrong. So we need to stop looking at it from that perspective, because when you give the superhero attribution, what happens is you get this narrative of perfection, but when you take the cape off, look at these police as human beings, you can recognize the biases, the racism, the flaws, imperfection, and how they handle things wrong. We have to start changing the narrative of how we see policing to the end that policing and police officers do wrong, policing and police officers do murder. And that is how we have to change that narrative of that.
Last summer, we had folks around the world protesting over the police killing of unarmed Black Americans. What message does the Chauvin verdict send to other nations who have reacted so strongly to our policing system in the U.S.?
To answer your question, I don’t know. I look at this as a one-off. I don’t know if other countries across the world are looking at America as if all things are resolved now. I think they see this just as we’re seeing it. They’re following the case as well, I’m sure. That this is the exception and not the norm.
— Mike Muse (@iammikemuse) April 13, 2021
After the verdict, I saw many comments on Twitter about how Black people need to remain vigilant and completely aware of our surroundings at all times and have each other’s backs out here in these streets, cause Blackness is being attacked on all fronts.
Black Americans have always been sensitive of our surroundings. That’s just the burden of being black, is that you are constantly aware of your surroundings. You’re constantly aware of your environment. You’re constantly aware that anything can happen. And in particular, when it comes to policing, I think it’s important that if we see an interaction with the police and a black person, maybe stop and pause and be aware and be ready to videotape. The only reason why any of these have come to light and gotten the attention they have is because of the video footage. But we’ve also seen that just because you have video footage, that still doesn’t mean that justice will be served. And so from there, I do believe that accountability needs to be there. And I do believe that if we’re able to record then yes, I think going forward when we get into these situations, it is important that we are aware of our legal rights.
And it’s important that we understand that the law can be on our side when we work for it. If we see we’ve been wronged by police officers or the policing, get an attorney. And that’s why we created a company called LawChamps, where we provide lawyers, no matter what city or state that you’re in, that allow the individuals to find a lawyer in order to help fight their case and to fight justice. And knowing that they have someone on their side who’s willing to go after any wrongdoing that has occurred. Whether it’s in policing, whether it’s in racism, whether it’s discrimination as a hate crime, that is why I created this. This company is for that reason, to make things equitable throughout justice. That is what we do here at LawChamps. And so to your point, this is why I helped create this company. It is for that – to hold people accountable, and to know that they can get justice.
Lawyers on-demand, no matter what city or state that you’re in. We are able to match you with an attorney through our AI and our technology and our system. And we are able to take on any case that is out there. For far too often in black communities we don’t care; legal care and healthcare. But that’s what I want to do with LawChamps. I want black people to see legal care as self-care right. And to know that they have options that are available and that we need to be aware that we can have legal services for our side on our side, and that we’re able to fight for you and make things more equitable through justice.
Lastly, I know you do a lot of public advocacy work and you have a lot of social justice issues that you’re passionate about, but is there’s one issue facing black Americans today that really needs to be elevated to the forefront of the conversations that we’re having in our homes, with our friends and the national conversation?
I’ll say this. I think that, because of the fact that there are so many issues facing black Americans, one thing that remains true, that I see as a solution to a lot of the issues and challenges that black Americans are facing, is voting. I think we’ve been just so focused on the presidential elections over the years that we lost sight of how important local elections are. And I think what this case has proven is that by electing the right mayor, by electing the right state Attorney General, by electing the right governor, we are happy. We are able to see a guilty verdict today. And so I do believe that voting, although as simplistic as it sounds, is the key to making sure that we get the right advocacy for solutions.