Derek Chauvin, Manslaughter, and Mayhem

What if Chauvin is convicted of Manslaughter? The first thing protesters will shout is: Manslaughter is not enough!

Right now, the Derek Chauvin trial is still in progress.

Chauvin is the white Minneapolis police officer that was captured on video with his “knee on the neck” of a handcuffed black man — George Floyd — for over nine minutes. Floyd died while pinned to the ground and his death was the catalyst for the 2020 multi-state riots.

The state of Minnesota charged Chauvin with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. According to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, the maximum recommendation for either murder charge is 15 years, but if Chauvin is found guilty of manslaughter, the most he would face is 57 months in prison.

To secure a conviction it’s imperative to understand how the prosecution needs to meet their burden of proof. For second-degree murder, the prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused caused the death of the victim — without intent to effect death — while intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon the victim. For third-degree murder, the prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused caused the death of the victim — without intent — by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to the victim, while demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for life. For manslaughter, the prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused caused the death of the victim by culpable negligence, whereby the accused created an unreasonable risk and consciously took chances that resulted in the death of the victim.

The historical record shows white police officers are rarely punished for “murdering black men”. After Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer in 2014 riots erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, and, when the grand jury decided not to indict the white police officer violence broke out nationwide.

The damage of the 2020 multi-state riots after George Floyd’s death has been declared the worst in US history. Every official in every American city is contemplating a single question: Will history repeat if Chauvin is acquitted?

Recently, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist confirmed the worst-case scenario by posting a video warning of riots if Chauvin was not convicted of the maximum sentence. But the question no one has asked is: What if Chauvin is convicted of the lesser charge — manslaughter (only 57 months, if that) — will rioting still take place?

The BLM activist warned of riots if Chauvin was not convicted of second-degree murder, but there are others that are convinced the current charges against Chauvin were too lenient to begin with. A prominent black criminal defense attorney, who can be followed at AvengingTheAncestors.com, said, “Chauvin already won because the prosecutor inexplicably failed to charge first-degree murder.” The defense attorney called the second-degree murder charge against Chauvin insufficient and the manslaughter charge legally laughable. The defense attorney went further and said, “If you think this is a case of just one white cop murdering just one innocent black person, you’re delusional. It’s much more than that. It’s systemic racism throughout America’s police departments and throughout America itself.” This comment echoes Al Sharpton when Sharpton stated, “Derek Chauvin is in the courtroom, but America is on trial.”

Sharpton’s claim is that Chauvin represents a system that has enslaved, maimed, and lynched black people from 1619 to the present. According to that logic there is no difference between Derek Chauvin and Byron De La Beckwith, the Klansman that assassinated Medgar Evers.

If Sharpton’s sentiment is strongly held by reactionary seekers of “social justice”, those that justify rioting “as the language of the unheard”, and those that believe in “avenging the ancestors”, then a manslaughter conviction will be a meager slap on the wrist for all of America’s crimes.

The first thing the protesters will shout is: Manslaughter is not enough! Then history will repeat, except these rioters won’t be expressing righteous indignation, these rioters will be trying to slice America’s wrist.

J. Pharoah Doss is a columnist for the New Pittsburgh Courier.

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