Editor’s note: This week’s Future View discusses the meaning of the Chauvin trial in Minnesota. Next week we’ll ask, “What’s the single best or worst thing President Biden did during his first 100 days in office?” Students can click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before May 4. The best responses will be published that night.
The response to the
case indicates how little faith Americans have in the integrity of the judicial system. Liberals and Democrats expressed relief at the verdict, while many conservatives criticized it. Many on both sides seemed to believe they knew the “right verdict” in advance, and then reacted to the jury’s decision accordingly. Few showed any inclination to trust the jury’s deliberation and judgment on their own terms. Since judicial bodies are designed to be authoritative sources, this is highly concerning. If Americans no longer hold any special reverence for institutions of jury and court, the legitimacy of the entire legal system is at risk.
—Thomas Brodey, Amherst College, history
‘To Decide for the Judges’
The events of the Derek Chauvin trial revealed that even in the U.S., the rule of law is challenged by the desires of the mob. This isn’t a new dynamic. In Book Eight of “The Spirit of the Laws,” Montesquieu warns that when the people “fall into a spirit of extreme equality,” they “want to manage everything themselves, to debate for the senate, to execute for the magistrate, and to decide for the judges.” Plato also described it in Book Eight of “The Republic,” warning that the mob will “cease to care even for the laws. . . . They will have no one over them.”
Even a guilty verdict wasn’t enough. After the trial, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warned against viewing it as an example of the system working, because it doesn’t and it needs to be torn asunder. But all is not lost. The Constitution establishes appellate jurisdiction and due process. With a renewed commitment from the people, these achievements can be secured.
—Micah Veillon, Georgia Institute of Technology, history, technology and society
The System Remains Intact
After the Albany Movement (1961-62) failed to desegregate public spaces in southwest Georgia,
Martin Luther King Jr.
desperately needed a victory. He turned his sights to Birmingham, Ala. The 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade had Americans glued to their televisions, witnessing the mercilessness of police commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor. Birmingham police used high-pressure fire hoses and set dogs on nonviolent elementary and high-school student protesters.
In 2020 the world watched Derek Chauvin murder
Alongside three other police officers, Mr. Chauvin pinned Floyd face down, knee on his neck, neglecting to administer aid as Floyd pleaded for his life.
In both cases, the crimes were so inhumane and the evidence so damning, America had to pay attention. Even still, the country waited for the Chauvin verdict with bated breath, unsure whether he would be found guilty. It’s rare for police to be held accountable. The year after the children’s crusade, Connor was elected president of the Alabama Public Service Commission.
America rejoiced when Mr. Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges. But he is one bad cop—the system remains intact. What the country needs is another civil-rights movement that will finally bring justice for black victims of police brutality.
—Diana D’Souza, Dartmouth College, government and economics
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