6/4/2020 KELLEY KIDD I saw the video of the killing on the day it occurred. Of course I was horrified by the video of the killing of George Floyd. The death appeared to be the inevitable result of the kneeling officer’s continued pressure on the neck of his helpless prisoner while the prostrate, handcuffed prisoner begged for his life. It was murder, and the actual death was preceded by the torture that deliberate and callous violence is calculated to produce. And it was just as obvious to me that the supporting officers were aware of what was happening while they not only did not try to intervene, but actively warded off the efforts of bystanders to prevent the killing. They were clearly accomplices under Minnesota law, and they would have been clearly “parties to the crime” under Georgia law.
I immediately did a little research into Minnesota Law relating to murder. The State has three degrees of murder, the first of which requires premeditation, a state of mind that summons ideas of advance planning. Since the encounter between George Floyd and the officers appears to have resulted from a reported “forgery” a very short time before, that charge would be extremely difficult to predict ending in a Guilty verdict as the resolution of a jury trial.
But second degree murder appeared to fit what happened here. One of two bases for that charge requires proof of a “predicate” felony. If the prosecution can convince the jury that the officer whose prolonged kneeling killed Mr. Floyd committed the crime of felonious assault, then the predicate offense will be the replacement for the usual requirement that the prosecution show the officer was animated by malice. This “felony murder” provision is a standard feature of most states’ statutory definitions of the crime of murder. In Minnesota conviction for felony murder carries a potential punishment of 40 years in prison. I also believe the prosecution will have some chance of convincing the jury to find malice. But premeditation would have been more difficult.
The other officers should have been charged with aiding and abetting the crime of murder. My problem from the first day of this case with the way it was handled boils down to this. Anyone other than a police officer who did what these men did would have been arrested by warrant on the same day. Of course I knew that the prosecutor would not do that. The delay in prosecuting officers for violence to Black men has become as inevitable as hot weather in July. It has never been excusable. That delay, coupled with the County Attorney’s half hearted announcement that he would be investigating to see “if any crime has been committed’ two days later, has played a huge part in igniting the huge pssionate protest now erupting all over this country.
I am more than grateful that this case has resulted in the rivers of righteous anger that continues to be poured out here. This old man never dreamed he would live to see the time when so many people from all walks of life–including miltary and police–have responded to the call for nonviolent and continuing protest and demand for change. A very conservative Republican white woman told me a few days ago that it has taken this horror to wake her to the call for justice that she has ignored for so long. “Finally now I am beginning to see” she said. Yes.
At terrible cost George Floyd is truly changing the world. May that change continue. Please God. Help us to continue this until the oppression of African Americans becomes only the long sad pages of our history for four hundred years. Amen.