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Justice in America

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Jun. 04, 2020 - 8:03 AM

Justice in America

Kevin McMurry is a former prosecutor for the Coweta County District Attorney's Office who now resides in South Asia where he and his family work to combat human trafficking.

I am a follower of Christ, a husband, a father of five, including one amazing black girl, an American, a lawyer and a former prosecutor.

As a former prosecutor, I used to work with law enforcement officers to review and to prosecute criminal cases.

My oath was to seek justice without “fear, favor, or affection.” Over the course of years, I’ve reviewed a number of cases involving police officers and their use of force in the line of duty.

Many of these cases were tough calls. Some were not. Where there was a crime committed, we pursued it. Where there was not, we did not.

As have many of you, I’ve watched the publicly available video of Minneapolis police officers detaining George Floyd.

Like the bystander in the video, I found myself imploring the officer, “Let him up! What are you doing? You have him in custody, just let him up!”

I felt anger and revulsion as the situation clearly grew more urgent and then I watched as the life drained out of Mr. Floyd. Stunned, I sat on my couch in anger and disbelief.

This was murder without a doubt, and it doesn’t take a prosecutor to conclude that. But as a prosecutor, I can affirm this conclusion.

Here, we know not what was in the mind of former officer Chauvin. It doesn’t matter though at least as to the charge of murder in the third degree under Minnesota law.

Maybe Chauvin didn’t plan to take the life of Mr. Floyd. Maybe he just intended to assert his total authority in that moment without regard to anyone or anything else. Regardless, murder in the third degree doesn’t require an intent to kill.

It only requires that the perpetrator cause the death of another by doing an act eminently dangerous to others without regard for human life and safety.

Prosecutors necessarily should be slow and deliberate awaiting all the pieces of the investigation and all the facts before passing judgment on a matter and deciding to charge a case. Moreover, the best practice is to let the emotion pass some before making a decision about a case.

However, this is not a case that needs further investigation in order to know the right course of action. You likely knew the right course of action the moment you saw the video. Had Mr. Floyd just robbed a bank, the course of action required would be no different, and his death would be no more justified.

Justice demands that former officer Chauvin be held accountable. He must and should be charged and prosecuted. Justice demands it. Mr. Floyd’s life demand it. America demands it.

Initially, the prosecutor in this case was slow to respond even intimating and announcing that there is evidence that does not support a charge. The prosecutor was wrong. Dead wrong.

The public saw this video and many felt exactly what I had felt, outrage, anger, revulsion. This should not happen in America. This should not happen anywhere. To say otherwise, is wrong. Dead wrong.

Justified protests ensued. Many of these protests have been hijacked by those bent on destruction, looting, and anarchy, and to the extent this group of protesters cares about justice, which it seems many do not, they cannot bring it about by unjust means. This destruction and violence must stop and it must be stopped by all lawful means.

For those protesters and citizens that care about justice, their outrage is good. It is good because it means that despite our differences, we can agree on obvious injustices and the legal remedy for them.

It would be far more alarming if good people weren’t outraged. Indifference in the face of injustice is choosing the side of the oppressor, to paraphrase a quote from Desmond Tutu.

But somewhere lost in the chants of Floyd’s last words and the bricks flying through windows is the fact that justice is being pursued. Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and he will be prosecuted.

Our system though imperfect, very imperfect, and painfully slow, still works to hold people accountable regardless of their race, ethnicity, wealth or station in life.

As the white father of a black child, I feel the pain a little more acutely, though not as near or as deep as black Americans who live with some level of constant fear that they might be presumed to be guilty of some crime and physically harmed or killed because of it. Did race play a part in Chauvin’s actions? Probably, maybe, I don’t know.

What I do know, is that these incidents, of which there should be exactly none, often occur with black American males being the victims. This cannot happen. I’ve never felt the sting of racism but I’ve felt the stares of those who look at me and my daughter differently because of the contrast between the colors of our skin.

How much more then must a young black American man feel when he is scrutinized because of his skin color, not because of his actions. To pretend this racism doesn’t exist allows it to continue and commits the deniers to the side of the oppressors. This stain and legacy of racism is an injustice that we cannot allow or abide.

So, what then should we do in the face of these injustices? Acknowledge them for what they are. Demand change. Then set about doing whatever you can to be a part of bringing about the change that justice demands. We adopted our daughter because we felt called by God to do so. We wanted to stand in the gap for at least one child that needed a home and a father and mother.

By adopting across racial lines, we began to believe that we could be a small part of mending the deep wound of racial injustice one step and one child at a time. What can you do? Look around. Find a neighbor, a colleague, an acquaintance that doesn’t look like you and start a conversation. Start a friendship. Begin today sowing the seeds of healing wherever God has planted you.

Mr. Floyd cannot be brought back but his death need not be in vain.

"Kevin McMurry is a former prosecutor for the Coweta County District Attorney's Office who now resides in South Asia where he and his family work to combat human trafficking."