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Obama welcomes verdict on Derek Chauvin, calls for elimination of racial bias

By Patrick Vidija | Apr 21st 2021 | 3 min read


A screengrab of the late George Floyd and that of the accused officer Derek Chauvin.

Former US President Barack Obama has welcomed the verdict of the Jury on Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd.

Obama in a statement after the verdict said there is a great need to follow through the verdict with concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in America's criminal justice system.

The former president said while the verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one.

Chauvin was charged with the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man accused of passing a counterfeit bill at a convenience store.

He was found guilty of the three counts and his sentencing will be in eight weeks’ time.

The officer was captured in a viral video as he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in May last year.

The incident spurred millions of people across America and in other nations to take to the streets to protest police violence and racism.

The first count is of Second Degree Murder where he is accused of unintentionally killing while committing a felony.  Since he has no criminal record, this charge carries a presumptive prison sentence of 12.5 years according to Minnesota sentencing guidelines. If Chauvin had a criminal past, he would be looking at a maximum sentence of 40 years.

The second count is that of Third-Degree Murder where he is accused of perpetrating an eminently dangerous act and evincing a depraved mind. This charge carries a prison sentence of 12.5 years with a maximum of 25 years if the suspect has a criminal past.

The last count is that of Second-Degree Manslaughter where he is accused of culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk. This carries a presumptive prison sentence of four years compared to 10 years if one has a criminal record.

"Today, a jury in Minneapolis did the right thing. For almost a year, George Floyd’s death under the knee of a police officer has reverberated around the world inspiring murals and marches, sparking conversations in living rooms and new legislation. But a more basic question has always remained: would justice be done?," Obama posed.

Derek Chauvin being led to custody after his verdict was read. [Courtesy]

"In this case, at least, we have our answer. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial. True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day," he went on.

Obama said it requires all Americans to recognise that millions of their friends, family, and fellow citizens live in fear that their next encounter with law enforcement could be their last.

He said it requires them to do the sometimes thankless, often difficult, but always necessary work of making America they know more like the America they believe in.

"We cannot rest. We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system. We will need to redouble efforts to expand economic opportunity for those communities that have been too long marginalised," he said.

"And as we continue the fight, we can draw strength from the millions of people especially young people who have marched and protested and spoken up over the last year, shining a light on inequity and calling for change. Justice is closer today not simply because of this verdict, but because of their work," he added.

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