New Time Period Suggests Civil Case Settled Too Soon and For Too Little Money
Four early take-aways are evident after the first three days of testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
First, there is no doubt that Chauvin used excessive force from the get-go on Memorial Day 2020. After banging on the driver-side door of an SUV driven by Floyd, Chauvin immediately drew his firearm and pointed it at Floyd. The officer’s approach caused Floyd to cringe and beg for his life. He asked Chauvin to not shot him. Floyd never physically attacked Chauvin or any other police officer on the scene. He initially gripped the steering wheel of his SUV as he asked the officers why they were bothering him.
Second, with a bit of prodding from the police officers, Floyd was removed from the SUV. He was handcuffed and walked under the officers’ control to the sidewalk where he was placed in a sitting position against a building wall. Floyd sat in this position until the officers pulled him up and escorted him across the street to a police SUV. The police were unable to place Floyd in their vehicle. Besides his sheer weight, Floyd did nothing to prohibit the officers from placing him into their car. He did not kick the officers, head butt them, or punch them with his cuffed fists. Floyd was not an angry, out of control Black man. He was frightened and told the officer he was suffering from an attack of claustrophobia during the brief period he was in the police SUV.
Third, every eyewitness — from a nine-year-old girl to a 61-year-old elder of the community — that has testified is suffering from metaphysical guilt in the murder of George Floyd. Each witness broke down into tears on the witness stand as they relived seeing Chauvin cut off the flow of oxygen to Floyd’s brain. The eyewitnesses expressed remorse because they did not do more to remove Chauvin’s knee from Floyd’s neck before he expired before their very eyes. Every witness on the scene has pleaded guilty for being complicit in the murder of Floyd except Derek Chauvin and his blue brothers and sister.
Four, the civil rights lawyers representing George Floyd’s family in the wrongful death cause of action settled the civil claim too soon. The evidence presented in the first three days suggests that the $27 million settlement is insufficient to make the Floyd family whole. The family’s attorneys based their case on eight minutes and forty-six seconds of pain and suffering before Floyd’s death. In contrast, the State of Minnesota established its prosecution on nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds. Chauvin tormented Floyd 83 seconds longer than the high-profile civil rights lawyers knew about when they settled the Floyd family’s claim. The lawyers gathered the family and Rev. Al Sharpton in front of the courthouse just before opening statements. They asked those watching on international television to kneel with them for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. Moments later, when the trial began, we learned from the lead prosecutor, Jerry Blackwell, that Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck 83 seconds longer than had previously been known.
How much difference does one minute and twenty-three seconds make? A heck of a lot. Those precious seconds meant life or death to George Floyd, it meant more excoriating pain for Floyd, and it points out the blatant disregard Chauvin had for the life force loved by the Floyd extended family. In terms of dollars and cents, the additional 83 seconds means the difference between a $27 million settlement and a civil jury verdict ranging from $50–100 million or more when you consider the award of punitive damages. There have been many discussions about defunding the police; nothing achieves this objective faster than a jury verdict in this range. Municipalities throughout the country would notice that if they do not reform police procedures and better screen the officers they employ, they will go bankrupt defending themselves from cops who think that Black people should be policed more aggressively than whites from the get-go on the streets of America.
Harold Michael Harvey is the Living Now 2020 Bronze Medal winner for his memoir Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. He is the author of a book on Negro Leagues Baseball, The Duke of 18th & Vine: Bob Kendrick Pitches Negro Leagues Baseball. He writes feature stories for Black College Nines. Com. Harvey is a member of the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and a member of the Legends Committee for the National College Baseball Hall of Fame. Harvey is an engaging speaker. Contact Harvey at email@example.com