Why Derek Chauvin should be charged with first degree murder – An African Argument in defense of George Floyd
By Martin K. N. Kollie
Liberian activist and columnist
The killing of George Floyd was intentional and not unintentional as local prosecutors would want the world to believe. Derek Chauvin should actually go to jail for life (first degree murder) instead of going to jail for 25 years at most (third degree murder). No reasoning or justification should acquit or absolve Chauvin from being charged with ‘first degree murder’. His deliberate and vicious action goes far beyond ‘third degree murder’. It is just unparalleled or unequaled to this feeble charge.
The world is craving for impartial justice. This global nostalgia seems more of a litmus test to the Justice System of the United States of America. The murder of George Floyd is fast provoking widespread protests across major cities in the USA and evoking mass solidarity elsewhere including Africa. This public outcry or rage is in response to Derek Chauvin’s heinous atrocity.
A 46-year-old black American, George Floyd, lost his life on May 25, 2020 after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pitilessly knelt on his neck for about nine minutes. Floyd kept crying out for pardon while in handcuff. He ceaselessly yelled, “I can’t breathe”. The sound of his shout may have seemed feeble to his murderers.
Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao could not just grant Floyd’s plea as he struggled to gulp his last breath. The consistent appeal from onlookers for Floyd’s killers to spare his life was even snubbed. This black man is no more because of allegedly using a “counterfeit bill of $20” at a local store.
Did George Floyd deserve to die for $20? Has any white man been killed by a police officer for using a “counterfeit bill of $20”? The death of Floyd is an evocation intended for blacks worldwide to meditate. The world, especially Africa, has every reason to weep and reminisce. The atrocious passing of Floyd may be shocking and chilling, but not surprising.
In my opinion, racism still remains a colonial project and a superstructure against Negroes. The black race is yet too far from total freedom. “Not Yet Uhuru”. What the world watched on Monday was an inhumane display of the wanton assassination of an innocent black man who died because of his color. The killing of Floyd is just more than him using a “counterfeit $20”.
- The Law:
I listened to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman levying charges against prime culprit Derek Chauvin. He said, “Chauvin is charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.”
In my opinion, these frail charges are more of an onslaught against humanity, a step away from justice, and an incentive for racism. Since George Floyd was cruelly murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, his murderers are to be prosecuted in accordance with the statutes of Minnesota or under the State Jurisdiction of Minnesota which is applicable in the context of the U.S. Criminal Justice System.
What does the Law say about third degree murder?
According to the Criminal Code specifically Chapter 609 Section 195 of the 2019 Minnesota Statutes:
(a) Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years;
(b) Whoever, without intent to cause death, proximately causes the death of a human being by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering a controlled substance classified in Schedule I or II, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $40,000, or both.
The African Argument:
The action of Chauvin against Floyd was well-established and intentioned. As harmless, choiceless, and powerless George Floyd was, Derek Chauvin intentional kept pressing his knee down his neck. The more Floyd cried out for Chauvin to spare his life, at a point he had to yell repeatedly “I can’t breathe”, police officer Chauvin even increased the force of his knee down Floyd’s neck.
It was proven at that point that Chauvin’s motive was to actually kill and he did just that without any empathy or a sense of humanity. Chauvin was very normal when he committed such a gruesome act. It was never an accident. So what is unintentional about Chauvin’s action then? The killing of Floyd was never an accident and it cannot be either. Therefore, charging Chauvin with “third degree murder” in this case is legally unjustified and logically inapt.
The May 2020 murder of black American George Floyd by white cop Derek Chauvin is similar to or graver than these cases of life imprisonment:
- The February 2020 verdict of life imprisonment against 32-year-old former Los Angeles Police Officer, Henry Solis, who murdered Salome Rodriguez on March 3, 2015;
- The December 2014 verdict of life imprisonment against 64-year-old ex-Chicago police officer, Steven Mandell, who was sentenced for committing murder, kidnap, torture, extortion;
- The December 2016 verdict of life imprisonment against former police officer, Marcus Eberhart, after he killed a 24-year-old black man, Gregory Towns;
- The 2013 verdict of life imprisonment against former Grandview police officer, Jeffrey Moreland, who killed Cara Jo Roberts in November 2008;
- The January 2020 sentencing of 35-year-old Mateo police officer, Noah White Winchester, for 81 years after he was convicted of assaulting five women;
- The verdict of life imprisonment against 61-year-old Elgin police officer, Herschell Gleen, after he killed a couple.
The intentional murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police man Derek Chauvin is even graver or greater in magnitude than most of the cases supra with the sentence of life imprisonment. So, why charge Chauvin with ‘third degree murder’ and not even ‘second degree murder’ or most precisely ‘first degree murder’?
First Degree Murder vs. Second Degree Murder:
In order to further justify our argument for state prosecutors to levy the charge of ‘first degree murder’ against Cop Derek Chauvin, it is important for us to cite Chapter 609 Section 185 and Chapter 609 Section 19 of the Criminal Code of the 2019 Minnesota Statutes:
- i) 609.185 – MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE.
(a) Whoever does any of the following is guilty of murder in the first degree and shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life:
(1) causes the death of a human being with premeditation and with intent to effect the death of the person or of another;
(2) causes the death of a human being while committing or attempting to commit criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree with force or violence, either upon or affecting the person or another;
- ii) 609.19 – MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.
Whoever does either of the following is guilty of murder in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 40 years:
(1) Causes the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation; or
(2) Causes the death of a human being while committing or attempting to commit a drive-by shooting in violation of section 609.66, subdivision 1e, under circumstances other than those described in section 609.185, paragraph (a), clause (3).
It is a fact that the death of George Floyd was premeditated and intentioned. Even if prosecutors want to help murderer Derek Chauvin, he should be charged with ‘second degree murder’ and not ‘third degree murder’. But it would be fair enough if Chauvin were to actually have a life sentence.
With this, JUSTICE shall truly prevail for George Floyd. Furthermore, the brute action of former police man Derek Chauvin violates chapter 5 section 102 and chapter 5 section 102.1 of the August 1, 1991 Code of Ethics of Minnesota Law Enforcement, Minneapolis Police Department, Minnesota, USA.
We want to reecho our loyalty to this cause and join thousands of protesters in solidarity as the world seeks full justice for George Floyd. Let us insist on tougher charges against Chauvin. This will deter racists and chauvinists. There is no doubt that Chauvin is indeed a chauvinist.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian activist and columnist. He presently lives in exile and can be reached via email@example.com