When the Law Doesn’t Contain All the Answers

Here we go again. The video of George Floyd prostrate on the pavement, a police officer’s knee on his neck for nine minutes, is truly sickening to watch. It feels almost pointless to express one’s disgust and anger at the injustice of it because the misconduct of the officer (with that chilling stare directed at the panicked and horrified onlookers literally begging for him to stop) seems so obvious. Who could defend what is depicted in that video? Thankfully, no one really has, but give it time, it’s a big country. Some people have a psychological or financial interest defending the indefensible, so they will. These people should be ignored—their goal is more to provoke than to engage in a meaningful discussion. 

But even if the rest of us on planet Earth, who may not agree on much, are in broad agreement that the Floyd death represents a horrifying example of misuse of the power and authority our legal system delegates to law enforcement with the aim of protecting life, not snuffing it out, that agreement isn’t unifying. It’s sad.

The officers involved were immediately terminated by the city of Minneapolis, and a phalanx of state and federal civil rights investigators and prosecutors have been committed to investigate and presumably prosecute the case. The wheels of justice have begun to turn. Under our system of laws, that’s what should happen, and no one that matters is saying it shouldn’t.

Yet that doesn’t seem enough. People are angry. Of course, if somehow the accused officer escapes punishment as defendants, even guilty ones, sometimes do in our system, we will not want to hear a legal rationale or a chin-stroking reference to “better that 10 guilty men go free, than blah blah blah … ” But even presuming a state or federal conviction, I doubt that many of us will have the feeling that “the system worked.”

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