CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It took more than 10 hours of deliberation for the jury to reach a guilty verdict. Derek Michael Chauvin, 45, was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
“I think it’s going to provide relief to a great number of people,” said Matt Manning, a partner at Webb, Cason & Manning, P.C. and former prosecutor with the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office. “I think it’s going to provide relief to people around the world as well because there are people around the world who watched with bated breath to see how America was going to handle this inflection point in its history.”
It was just after 4 p.m. central time when it was announced that Chauvin had been found guilty on all three counts.
“Presumably, they’ll proceed upon the highest level charge, which is the second-degree murder in this case,” said Manning shorting after the verdict had been announced on TV. “In the state of Minnesota, unlike the state of Texas — judges do the sentencing there, in Texas, our juries can actually also sentence the person and give them the amount of time they’re going to have in prison.”
NPR reported the 12 jurors observing the trial included five men and seven women. Racially, it included six people who were white, four who were black and two who identified as multiracial. Manning said that’s important.
“It’s very important that we know that the jury is comprised of people of all walks of life in all colors because that’s emblematic of who we are as a country,” he said.
In his time observing parts of the trial, Manning said the prosecution placed a lot of effort into cementing the facts of the case while also holding onto strong parts of witness testimony.
“I think what this really speaks to is the idea that this jury saw unequivocally and unquestionably, that what happened here was not only violative of our general moral feelings, but it is something that the law prescribed as inaction and that someone needed to be held (accountable.)” Manning said. “The prosecution seemed like it was very fastidious about putting forth every single witness to show that in fact the charges in this case were substantiated and I think that the use of those experts both emotional and the medical experts surely culminated in showing the jury a comprehensive picture of exactly why what officer Chauvin did prescribed by the law and violated both law law and therefore justified his conviction.”
Manning — a black man himself — has previously spoken at a peaceful protest for George Floyd within Corpus Christi wanted to make sure that his expertise as an attorney didn’t combine with his personal opinions on the results. Still, he believes this decision will effectively create more trust within the justice system.
“I think it provides assurance that the system can in fact work for people who feel like the system historically has not worked for them because we’ve seen a number of abuses and injustices,” he said. “I think that this is going to have an effect in Corpus Christi. We’re having a national conversation about policing — we’re having a worldwide conversation about policing, about criminal justice, about social justice, about restorative justice.”
Jeremy L. Coleman, the Corpus Christi NAACP’s new president, reaffirmed that the verdict shows that the justice system can work.
“From every situation — even his death — not only opened individuals’ hearts, but our eyes, our minds, it made us reevaluate the systems that we have in place,” Coleman said, reflecting on the death of George Perry Floyd Jr., who was 46 when he died under the knee of Chauvin on May 25, 2020. “Even though Mr. Floyd is dead, and he’s no longer with us here physically, but he has left a major impact worldwide for sure.”
While the public awaits the sentencing of Chauvin, Coleman said locally and nationally, communities should try to connect with law enforcement agencies.
“Communication needs to really, really open up,” he said. “I think locally here, with our local law-enforcement — for the county, for the police department that their — that communication has been recently opened up in the past few years, and it just needs to continue, continue to grow.”