After three weeks of riveting and emotionally draining testimony, attorneys for the defense and prosecution came to a rest on Monday, April 19, passing the fate of Derek Chauvin — the former Minneapolis police officer accused of the slow and painful murder of George Floyd — to the trial’s jury. After four hours of deliberation, the five men and seven women broke for the night and headed to a hotel where they will be sequestered until they can reach a final verdict in the highly publicized case. Deliberation is scheduled to begin again later today and will continue until a decision of “guilty” or “not guilty” is reached.
Jeff Zeleny and Kevin Liptak of CNN have reported that President Joe Biden is keeping a watchful eye on the case, “fearful that a controversial verdict could inflame new racial tensions and further escalate a deepening crisis in confidence with the nation’s police forces.”
According to Zeleny and Liptak, the President voiced his concern about the trial’s outcome during a meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus last week. He also expressed unease that the recent wave of mass shootings taking place across the country could ultimately make things even more volatile once a final verdict is actually reached.
“As he begins his fourth month in office, Biden is presiding over a country on edge, as protests in several cities over the weekend underscored the fresh urgency of a national reckoning on racial justice and police reform,” Zeleny and Liptak reported. “The White House is bracing for a week ahead that could be particularly volatile, with a Thursday funeral set for Daunte Wright — another Minnesota man killed by a police officer — along with new revelations from a police-involved shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Chicago, as well as the verdict in the Chauvin trial.”
The ongoing civil push to “hold police accountable for misconduct” along with renewed calls for gun legislation carried over to White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s daily briefing, where the pressure of ongoing events was clearly felt. Psaki said that Biden’s ultimate goal right now is to ensure “space for peaceful protest” while acknowledging the ongoing “pain, trauma and exhaustion” in the Black community, caused by both the Chauvin trial as well as the shooting of Wright last week.
Psaki admitted the administration had been in touch with mayors, governors and local authorities as they prepared for the announcement of the verdict in the case, which could come at any time.
“[Psaki] declined to say whether there are preparations underway regarding the use of the National Guard but said there has been a ‘range of conversations about how to ensure that, no matter the outcome, there is space for peaceful protest,” Zeleny and Liptak reported.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” California representative Karen Bass expressed what many across the nation are feeling.
“I’m very worried,” she said. “I don’t think anyone in Minneapolis, frankly, anyone in the United States or over a good part of the world would understand any other verdict other than guilty.”
Vice President Kamala Harris expressed similar trepidation in an interview with The Grio, saying, “Certainly, we want to make sure that the American people call for justice — we all want to know that those calls are met. And we need to all be aware that when those calls for justice are not met, people rightly express their First Amendment right to speak out, to assemble and to express their concern, their pain, their disappointment — as long as it’s peaceful protests.”
Still, some in D.C. including Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and the highest-ranking Black member of Congress, appear hopeful and believe that whether or not justice actually prevails, the worst may already be behind us.
“The bully pulpit is more than just a bully pulpit,” Clyburn said in an interview with CNN. “I think the President can help set a tone in the country, there is no question in my mind.”
Clyburn also said that regardless of what verdict is announced or whether protests or riots break out after the conclusion of the Chauvin trial, we’re all ultimately responsible for what takes place in our city streets. He’s hoping things can end peacefully and without any additional violence or destruction, for the memory of George Floyd, if nothing else.
“How this ends up is not all in [Biden’s] hands,” Clyburn said. “It’s in all of our hands.”