By Claudia Yoo
I’m sure you are receiving countless messages, full of hate, full of threats, full of blame, full of rage and full of emotions. You may never read this, but it’s more effective than staying silent and hopelessly stewing in my own sadness and rage at the current state of this bleeding failing country.
When I was sworn in as an attorney, I made an oath to my community, county and state to represent the law and to zealously advocate for my clients. We are required to put the law first and to interpret any given situation under the law. That is our job and our duty, so long as we have our licenses.
Police officers also make an oath and a sworn promise to protect and to serve the citizens in their communities.That is their job and their duty, so long as they have their badges. The taxpaying citizens in your community, expect in return, to feel protected and served by their local police department – not endangered, scared and fearful to lose their lives based on the color of their skin. It’s 2020 and it’s absolutely unacceptable – frankly unbelievable – that this racially driven police brutality is still happening in this country.
As a lawyer, I know that nobody is (supposed to be) above the law. Too many times though…we have all seen men in a position of power and men in blue abuse their authority and for some inexplicably enraging reason, get away with some of the most heinous and illegal acts. This has been going on for centuries. Technological advances have fortunately helped reveal the ugliness of this ongoing systemic issue. This is the product of a severely broken and severely antiquated criminal justice system, stained and plagued with racism and corruption. We cannot allow this to persist any longer; this has to change now.
You are either racist or anti-racist and you have to pick your side.
Derek Chauvin must be convicted of second degree murder and not third degree murder. Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng must be charged, arrested and convicted of third degree murder. I have hope and faith that the FBI investigation, the DOJ and the civil rights attorneys’ findings will result in further punishment by bringing additional charges against these individuals as well, so that they pay a minimal fraction of the price for unjustly taking another innocent Black man’s life away for no reason whatsoever. George Floyd would be here today if he never encountered these four racist violent individuals, disguised in blue uniforms.
We must mobilize together, your office included, to instigate this much-needed reform and change. It is your duty to help properly charge, convict and sentence these racist . Though there is no legal basis behind this, we all know that this would have never happened to a White man or woman. It is undeniable.
You are either racist or anti-racist and you have to pick your side.
The natural emotional reaction to have when watching the video footage of the murder of George Floyd is to feel sick to your stomach, to feel excruciating pain and to feel deep sadness and rage. It’s absolutely devastating to watch.
In the city of Minneapolis, the disturbing videos capture the entire murder of Floyd by four police officers in broad daylight and in front of other civilian bystander witnesses, even while these officers knew that they were being recorded. Even while the civilian bystander witnesses plead with the police officers to stop. What does that say about the normalcy of police brutality in this country? What does that say about men abusing their power and expecting to get away scot-free? You see it in the video yourself. These four men act so nonchalantly, Chauvin with his hands in his pockets at one point, while Floyd is pinned to the ground, dying – pleading for his life and suffocating to death in front of their very eyes.
A White man actually once infamously claimed himself that he wouldn’t lose votes even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue in NYC.
It is clear to anyone who has a pulse and an ounce of humanity in them that what happened in the video footage is blatantly morally wrong, corrupt and despicable, but it also serves as clear and sufficient legal evidence that can be used to properly charge, arrest, convict and sentence Chauvin, Thao, Lane and Kueng. I believe that in a court of law, if advocated in the right way, these crimes can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt with the evidence that is at hand.
These guilty murderers are a danger to your community. These are the criminals your office is supposed to be protecting its citizens from.
“I can’t breathe” means I can’t breathe. There is no other context when someone is pleading, “I can’t breathe”. It is both morally, logically and legally clear that there is absolutely enough evidence to convict Chauvin of second degree murder – NOT third degree murder.
Section 609.19 Subdivision 1 defines murder in the second degree as “an intentional murder that causes the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation”. It is both audibly and visibly clear in the video footage that Chauvin is forcing his knee into the back of an unarmed, clearly compliant and handcuffed George Floyd’s neck. Chauvin continues to press his knee down with deadly force for close to nine (9) minutes even while Floyd audibly says he cannot breathe and continues to press his knee down even after Floyd clearly loses consciousness. Though without premeditation, this is sufficient and clear evidence that Chauvin intentionally and knowingly effected the death of Floyd. “I can’t breathe” means I can’t breathe. There is no other context when someone is pleading, “I can’t breathe”. It is both morally, logically and legally clear that there is absolutely enough evidence to convict Chauvin of second degree murder – NOT third degree murder. Chauvin undoubtedly had intent. When your action is causing someone to say they cannot breathe a few times, there is intent to harm. When the desperate pleas continue and you continue said action for 9 minutes straight, 3 minutes of which that person is clearly unconscious, there is intent to kill.
Knowingly watching and helping to suffocate someone while listening to that person plead until his literal last dying breath is not only arguably psychotic, sickening and morally bankrupt, but it is also third degree murder under Section 609.195.
Section 609.195 defines murder in the third degree as unintentionally causing the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life. Thao, Lane and Kueng are clearly seen in the video, surrounding George Floyd and watching Chauvin forcing his knee against Floyd’s neck while Floyd pleas with them and makes it clear that he is suffocating to death. At one point, Lane is holding Floyd’s legs down while Kueng kneels on Floyd’s back while Chauvin continues to forcibly press his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck. Actively assisting in and allowing the continued blatant deadly force against an unarmed handcuffed man, who is clearly not resisting arrest, while listening to the pleas of this dying man is an act that is so eminently dangerous to others and evinces a depraved mind without any regard for human life. Knowingly watching and helping to suffocate someone while listening to that person plead until his literal last dying breath is not only arguably psychotic, sickening and morally bankrupt, but it is also third degree murder under Section 609.195.
It is your duty to help bolster the argument that you know is the truth. Not only have you already made oaths as police officers to protect and serve your communities, but now that charges have been brought against Chauvin, you will also eventually be making an oath and offering testimony that will carry weight in the final conviction and sentencing of Chauvin and hopefully the eventual conviction and sentencing of Thao, Lane and Kueng as well.
Your reputation is already ruined and you have already lost your community’s trust. It is now your time to try to help your community heal. Honestly disclose all the prior misconduct of Chauvin and Thao, admit fault for choosing not to investigate Chauvin or Thao further, express your disdain and disgust at their actions, acknowledge that a murder occurred at the fault of these 4 men, take accountability for the fact that your office did not reprimand or require more training of Chauvin and Thao (I do not know police regulations, but I would be surprised if the prior records of these men did not warrant punishment, suspension or termination), take accountability for your massive mistakes of ignorance and inaction, think of George Floyd, think about his family, watch the video footage, listen to his crying pleas to breathe, listen to him plead for his mama, think about the fact that he is a mother’s son, a brother’s brother, a friend’s friend, think about the fact that he is dead because of racist murderers, who worked with you in your building and wore and (mis)represented your badge.
Please restore hope to your community and work with your community – not against it
You are alive right now and have the ability to do the right thing while Floyd is dead for no reason whatsoever. If you justify that there was a reason for the officers’ use of deadly force and for Floyd’s murder, the only justification you can come up with is Floyd’s alleged use of a $20 counterfeit bill, a non-violent allegation. He did not resist arrest, which is clear from the videos. And if you do make that dangerously irresponsible and pathetic justification, you are saying that a Black man’s life equates to a $20 counterfeit bill.
Though the uniforms have been taken away, these men ALL should have been properly charged and arrested 4 days ago.
Without an actual live reenactment of the actual scene, what other evidence is required to properly charge and arrest Chauvin, Thao, Lane and Kueng? A live reenactment is not possible when George Floyd is dead. Chauvin killed George Floyd and Thao, Lane and Kueng watched him suffocate to death.
There is visible audible video footage and witnesses that were at the scene of the murder. One witness asked Chauvin, Thao, Lane and Kueng multiple times if she could take Floyd’s pulse and those pleas were also ignored by these criminals. What more is needed? Accountability is needed and it’s required by law. And our communities are desperate for accountability and justice.
Be angry and sad with us and express the dire need for change. Offer honest testimony, prior records and admit fault where admission is due.
Please do the right thing and please remember what your badge really stands for. Please restore hope to your community and work with your community – not against it. Become a peaceful part of the much needed reform. It will eventually bring peace, harmony and trust between both sides again.
(About the author, Clauia Yoo: I am a Korean American, born in New York, raised in New Jersey and currently living and working in New York City. I am licensed in New York and New Jersey and have been an attorney for about 4 years now. My main practice areas are in Commercial Real Estate and Corporate Law. I am a strong advocate for education empowerment and have been volunteering with a wonderful nonprofit organization, Legal Outreach, Inc., for years now, where we work with low income college-bound high school students by coaching, mentoring and training them to participate in mock constitutional law debates that discuss difficult and relevant legal issues. As a female minority, I have always been drawn to and passionate about civil rights activism, racial equality and gender equality. It is important to keep a dialogue about these issues going, to mobilize by peacefully protesting, to call and try to speak with local officials, to sign petitions, to do your due diligence and your research before voting in local and federal elections, and to remember to act. There are so many times where people, including myself, feel hopeless and powerless. In numbers, we can make a difference so long as we continue to peacefully act and to speak out.)
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