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'Justice Requires Repetition' — Elie Mystal On Chauvin Verdict

The prosecution of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd “will be studied as a playbook for how to convict a police officer,” said Georgetown Law Professor Paul Butler. But is it repeatable?

The prosecution of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd “will be studied as a playbook for how to convict a police officer,” said Georgetown Law Professor Paul Butler. But will future prosecutors be willing and able to repeat it?

Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation and a defense attorney, was not optimistic about the legal landscape for convicting murderous cops post-Chauvin. Appearing with Butler on The ReidOut Friday, he called Chauvin’s conviction “a great victory” for Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison, but “not repeatable.”

MYSTAL: It's like Ellison looked at, like, [O.J. Simpson prosecutors] Marcia Clark and Chris Darden and was like, I ain't going out like that. Right? ... He brought the A team, B team, the C team. As you pointed out, he brought in defense attorneys. He had Neal Katyal, who was a former acting solicitor general of the United States, likely working on appeals issues. So, like, they brought everything to bear.

But will the same effort go into any case against the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright? Or the Columbus, Ohio officer who shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant? Mystal was doubtful.

“If this is what it takes, if this is the mountain that we have to climb to get one level of accountability. I just don't know how repeatable that is,” Mystal said. Host Joy Reid pointed out that the Wright and Bryant cases involved split-second decisions made by the police, whereas Chauvin spent a horrific 9+ minutes killing Floyd. “I already saw the ‘yeah, buts,’" in those other cases, she said, meaning that people have been fingering Chauvin as a lone bad apple.

But three other cops are also facing charges for aiding and abetting Chauvin. Butler, also a former prosecutor, thought those prosecutions could impact policing even more than Chauvin’s conviction might.

BUTLER: Too often, when officers see another officer crossing the line, they don't stop him. Cops enforce the the law against Black and brown people, but not against their fellow officers. If these three officers are convicted, they face the same 40-year sentence as Chauvin. That would send a strong message to other officers about the duty to intervene, when they see a cop abusing his or her badge.

The awful thing is, there are sure to be far too many opportunities to find out whether or not the Chauvin conviction resonates in cases to come.

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