To our MoFo community,
On September 23, 1955, after deliberating for only 67 minutes, an all-white, all-male jury failed to convict the men who lynched 14-year old Emmett Louis Till.
Thirty-seven years later, on April 29, 1992, a 12-person jury failed to convict LAPD officers in the gruesome beating of Rodney King.
On April 20, 2021, almost exactly 29 years after the Rodney King verdict was handed down, Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third degree murder, and second-degree murder of George Floyd.
As we reflect on Tuesday's guilty verdict in the trial against Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, we are reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s profound words, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
A single guilty verdict does not eradicate the pain of so many lost Black lives, nor should it lead anyone to celebrate the end of systemic racism in America. Nevertheless, it is our hope that April 20, 2021, will be remembered as the day when we, as a society, took our first step toward changing the trajectory of a long history of racial injustice in America.
There is a tremendous amount of work left to be done. Since George Floyd’s death in May 2020, more than 180 Black people have been killed at the hands of the police, including Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, who was shot just last week by police officer Kimberly Potter during a traffic stop less than nine miles from where George Floyd was murdered.
Yet Tuesday's verdict is an important moment in our history. It marks a step forward, culminating a year of protests by people of all races and ethnicities around the world, a year of unprecedented engagement, a year of conversations arguably more honest and transparent then we have ever witnessed before. This verdict was also a tribute to our men and women who honorably serve this country as policemen and women. There is new precedent that allows us to say what happened to George Floyd last May is not condoned police conduct and that such behavior is distinguishable from the honorable work of good officers who remain committed to protecting and serving the people, all people.
As we watched the judge announce the guilty verdicts, so many emotions came into play. We felt some measure of relief that justice has been served in this instance. But more than that, we felt anger that this murder happened and that we had never felt sure that justice would be served in this case. We felt deep, profound sorrow for George Floyd, his family, for Black people across this country, and for the entire nation. We felt some hope, too—a sense that justice being served in this case could be part of a deeper, lasting change. We hope the verdict provides some measure of closure for the Floyd family and for the millions who were outraged and deeply affected by the senseless murder of George Floyd as we regroup and refocus on the long road ahead. We remain committed to doing more to fight racial injustice and to doing it together.
Larren and Natalie
Larren M. Nashelsky, Chair
Morrison & Foerster LLP
Natalie Kernisant, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
Morrison & Foerster LLP