NEW YORK — The Derek Chauvin jury voted with their eyes.
The infamous video of Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed, unresisting and prone George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds, leading to Floyd’s death, was simply too much for the defense to overcome.
It’s impossible to look at the video and to think that it was normal police procedure. Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter.
But the outcome of the trial, one of the most closely watched in history, isn’t likely to immediately unite America’s battling political factions.
Those on the left said they were relieved and gratified by the verdict. But as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris said in a joint appearance afterward, much work still needs to be done when it comes to racial justice in America.
Many on the right, despite agreeing that what Chauvin did was wrong and deserving of punishment, wondered how someone can be found guilty of both murder and manslaughter. They think that Chauvin is being thrown to the wolves of the woke mob.
For the left, justice never comes fast enough. The right says that liberals will never be satisfied. That’s the rub.
But the Chauvin verdict showed that there can be justice in a case of a police-involved death. Or at least accountability. That hasn’t always been in the case in this country. It’s progress, even if for some it’s too incremental.
The reading of the Chauvin verdict was another of those ever more rare moments when Americans were tuned in to one event, either watching on TV, looking at their phones or listening to the radio.
The reading of the verdict against O.J. Simpson was like that. As was the verdict against the Los Angeles police officers accused of beating of Rodney King, another horrific moment caught on video for all to see.
So it was a moment of American unity, at least in some small way.
And even though demonstrators broke store windows during a protest Tuesday night in Portland, Ore., the overall tone across the country after the reading of the verdict was celebratory. We didn’t see widespread violence, not even by anarchist types who look to disrupt at every opportunity, no matter the issue at hand. That was encouraging.
The Floyd case isn’t done yet, of course. Chauvin has yet to be sentenced. There will be appeals. There will no doubt be dissatisfaction on both sides of the aisle over whatever punishment is eventually meted out.
And there are other cases of police-involved deaths yet to be adjudicated out there, each one another potential tinderbox.
And we must continue to have the debate in this country over the appropriate use of force by police. Because sometimes force has to be used. Cops can’t be afraid to do their jobs.
Even though police must show restraint, we simply can’t allow suspects to disagree to be arrested. The cheering for defunding of the police stops when it’s you or your loved ones who are threatened. There has to be a balance.
And Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) needs to formally answer in Congress for her incendiary call for protestors to be more confrontational if the Chauvin verdict wasn’t to their liking. It was dangerously irresponsible and Waters should be called out, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.
And Biden in the future must refrain from giving his opinion of ongoing criminal cases. It’s not for him to announce that Chauvin should be found guilty, as he did before the verdict was handed down. His defense that he only did so after the jury was sequestered simply doesn’t hold water.
America has a long way to go no matter where you look.
(Tom Wrobleski writes for the Staten Island Advance in New York.)