Nicolle Wallace and Neal Katyal discuss the increased murder charge against the officer who killed George Floyd. Increased Charges Against Police Are Welcome, But Insist On Long-Term Reform, Too
June 4, 2020

Nicolle Wallace and Neal Katyal discussed Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's remarks after his press conference, wherein he announced increased charges for George Floyd's killer from third-degree murder to second-degree, and also charges for the other three officers on the scene who participated. As the state's AG, the Floyd family wanted him to be the one to head up the prosecution team, and two days after he took over, we can understand why.

One of the most interesting things AG Ellison noted at the end of his presser, though, is that typically police brutality cases are under-prosecuted. Wallace asked Katyal to expand on that.

KATYAL: These cases have, in general, been under-prosecuted. I think he's exactly right and at a sad moment in time, this news today is a welcome development. The under-prosecution was actually even in this very case, Nicolle, because last week you might recall, they charged Officer Chauvin only with third degree murder. Today, those charges were upgraded to second degree murder. Why does that matter? Second degree is a much more serious offense. Under Minnesota law Statute 609 says you can have up to 40 years in prison for it. And third degree murder, actually, those charges were very vulnerable, likely to be tossed out. One defense in Minnesota to third degree murder is bizarrely, "I intended to harm this specific victim, not just randomly intended harm in general," that's a defense to third degree murder. So it's actually second degree murder that captures it. I think the more important point, Nicolle, is the charging of the other three bystander officers. They just stood by and did nothing and it's a bit of a shame that it took so long for these charges to develop, but kind of like Jodie Foster's movie "The Accused," when you have people standing by and doing nothing. What made it worse, these officers were sworn to protect us, sworn to protect Floyd and they did nothing. And these charges today go after those three and I think that's huge.

That's a painfully apt comparison to the real-life court case that inspired "The Accused." If it was so hard to hold civilians accountable for cheering on a crime they could have easily stopped, how much harder will it be to hold police officers accountable, given the Blue Line? Katyal was encouraged that the charges were brought, though, and went on to highlight the longer-lasting change that needs to take place.

KATYAL: The charges I think are a good first step. But I thought what Attorney General Ellison said at the end was really important. He said, "Look, charges are one thing. We have to have the slow process of rebuilding our institutions and demonstrating trust and faith." And certainly, you know, this all didn't start with Donald Trump. Police brutality against African-Americans go back to the antebellum era. And today it's manifest in what counties do, what mayors do, what police departments do. But this president of course poured kerosene on it, and aided by a bunch of local officials and I think to answer your question, Nicolle, when we ask, "What can we do?" the most important thing we can do is, vote and demand reform and accountability. There's a reason why last night, Steven King was crying in his white sheets, and it has to do with the fact that people voted.

Nice subtle shade, there, Katyal...but point taken. Brutality against Black people has been the lifeblood of police departments since the inception of law enforcement in this nation. The longest lasting way to change it is to vote out the racists at every level, from local to national. We can feel happy that Steve King will not be in Congress next year, but how big a victory is it, considering he should never have been elected in the first place, and how long he stayed?

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