Tuesday/ guilty on all charges

Today’s verdict isn’t ‘justice’ .. but accountability is a first step to justice.
– Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General

That a family had to lose a son, brother and father; that a teenage girl had to film and post a murder, that millions across the country had to organize and march just for George Floyd to be seen and valued is not justice. And this verdict is not a substitute for policy change’.
– Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district


I was watching the announcement of the verdict on live television today.
Man! Don’t mess this up for all of us! I thought of the jury.

The guilty verdict of former police officer Chauvin is a relief, but a very rare outcome. In many other egregious cases over the last 20 years, the law enforcement officer had come off scot free.

Sentencing is in 8 weeks, and the remaining officers (Lane, Thao, and Kueng) charged in the death of George Floyd, will be tried together on August 23.

All of this made me think back to the verdict in the OJ Simpson trial, in October of 1995. I had arrived on the shores of the United States that February. My coworkers and I, at Anheuser-Busch in downtown St Louis, MO, rushed down to the lobby to see the announcement on television. That jury handed down a verdict that dismayed many people, but the majority of African Americans supported it. They saw Simpson’s acquittal as a victory in a legal system that systematically discriminates against them.

Tuesday/ a pivotal moment for law enforcement in the United States

The State of Minnesota vs. Derek Michael Chauvin case, related to George Floyd’s death while in custody of Chauvin, started on Monday. It will go on for several weeks.

Ex-police officer Chauvin (he was fired) faces three very serious charges:
Second Degree Murder, Unintentional (up to 40 years in prison if found guilty),
Third Degree Murder (up to 25 years), and
-Second Degree Manslaughter (up to 10 years).

The city of Minneapolis has already settled a wrongful death civil suit with the family of George Floyd for US$27m, the largest such settlement in the state’s history.

Given that, is it still possible that Chauvin can be found ‘Not Guilty’ on all three counts? Well: even under very unfavorable circumstances, police officers have not been indicted, let alone convicted of murder, in the past (see the case of Breonna Taylor).

This could be the landmark case that changes that, though.

Here are the jurors (their names are not known), selected from a pool of some 400 people. As always, every juror must agree to a guilty verdict on a charge, to find the defendant guilty on that charge — a high bar. 

Sunday/ confirmed: Trump, the tax cheat

The New York Times has finally gotten its hands on more than two decades of Trump’s tax returns, up to 2017 (even Congress, with a lawsuit, has so far not been able to get it).

The bottom line: for many years, Trump has gotten away with paying zero federal income taxes. He paid a paltry $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he won the presidency. In 2017 he paid another $750. (Presidents Bush and Obama regularly paid more than $100,000 year each, in federal income taxes).

Tax avoidance is legal, but tax evasion is not. So is a super-complicated scheme of shell companies, and offshore accounts avoidance – or evasion? I don’t know the answer to that, but $750! That’s less in taxes than that paid by the 18-year old cash register attendant at Walmart.

The presidency has helped Trump’s businesses, says the NYT, but has not resolved his core financial problem: many of his businesses continue to lose money.

The NYT reports that Trump appears to be responsible for loans totaling $421 million, most of which is coming due within four years.

Monday/ a landmark ruling ⁠— finally

Gerald Bostock was employed by Clayton County in Georgia and suddenly fired in 2013 after a history of positive reviews at work. He had joined a gay softball league, and that was too much for his employer. When he lost his job, he also lost friends, his home and his health insurance.

Bostock’s case finally made it to the Supreme Court of the United States this year. The Trump administration had urged the court to rule against gay and transgender workers (because of course they did).

So to the surprise of many, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock’s favor. It’s finally no longer legal to fire employees that are gay, bisexual or transgender anywhere in the US. (It has been illegal in Washington State since 2006).  It all hinged on the interpretation of Title VII of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The logic is irrefutable: suppose that a man and a woman each does the same work, or applies for the same job. Also: it just happens that both are attracted to men. If you discriminate against the (gay) man, you discriminate on the basis of sex, which is forbidden by Title VII.

Not only was the ruling 6-3, but Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, and was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee. Lest we forget: George W. Bush supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, in 2004. [Graphic: Associated Press].