Talking Points

Keith Ellison's strategy in the Derek Chauvin trial paid off

The Derek Chauvin trial is over, and the verdict is guilty on all charges. The former Minneapolis police officer has been convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd. The video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds while Floyd begged that he could not breathe and then went limp sparked probably the largest protest movement in American history.

This is a huge victory for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who orchestrated the prosecution. He made the unusual decision to add the second-degree murder charge, selected the legal team, and worked on the case personally. Prosecuting police officers is notoriously difficult in the United States, because of the wide deference typically granted to law enforcement in trials. Indeed, this is only the second time in Minnesota history that a police officer has been convicted of murder over an on-duty incident, and the first time for a white officer.

Ellison was previously a prominent progressive member of Congress before he resigned to run for the state attorney general position. Since taking office, he has recommended sweeping reforms to address police brutality, and was under a lot of pressure to deliver a fair prosecution of Chauvin. By all accounts Ellison got the job done. Chauvin had his day in court, with experienced legal representation, and a jury of his peers judged him according to the evidence.

Speaking after the verdict was announced Tuesday, Ellison said, "[W]e need true justice, that's not just one case, that's a social transformation that means nobody's below the law and nobody's above it."