Keith Ellison, the lead prosecutor in Derek Chauvin's murder trial, admitted in an interview aired on Sunday, April 25, that he "felt a little bad" for the convicted ex Minneapolis police officer.
While appearing on CBS' 60 Minutes, Ellison was asked about his reaction when the jury found Chauvin guilty last week on all three charges — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — in the death of George Floyd.
Following the verdict, the Minnesota attorney general said he felt, “Gratitude — humility — followed by a certain sense of, I’ll say satisfaction. It’s what we were aiming for the whole time.”
However, Ellison's time working in the criminal justice field for so long has reminded him that criminals are humans, too, making him feel compassion.
“I spent 16 years as a criminal defense lawyer, so, I will admit, I felt a little bad for the defendant,” Ellison explained. “I think he deserved to be convicted. But he’s a human being."
When pressed about his statement, Ellison insisted that he was "not in any way wavering from my responsibility," before adding, "I hope we never forget that people who are defendants in our criminal justice system, that they're human beings."
He continued: "They’re people. I mean, George Floyd was a human being. And so I’m not going to ever forget that everybody in this process is a person."
Ellison also discussed the possible motive behind Chauvin's over-nine-minute kneel on Floyd's neck, stating he didn't believe Floyd's murder was a hate crime.
"I wouldn't call it that because hate crimes are crimes where there’s an explicit motive and of bias," he said. "We don’t have any evidence that Derek Chauvin factored in George Floyd’s race as he did what he did."
CBS host Scott Pelley further questioned Ellison on his statement, pointing out that "the whole world sees this as a white officer killing a Black man because he is Black. And you’re telling me that there’s no evidence to support that?"
While not providing a yes or no response, Ellison replied: "In our society, there is a social norm that killing certain kinds of people is more tolerable than other kinds of people."
Despite whatever motive Chauvin — who had 18 complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs — had on that day, Ellison emphasized that there doesn’t have to be "racial intent" for the world to be furious and demand change after the fatal encounter.
"In order for us to stop and pay serious attention to this case and be outraged by it, it’s not necessary that Derek Chauvin had a specific racial intent to harm George Floyd," the lawyer continued.
Ellison added that history has shown that people of color face harsher treatment from law enforcement, and there has been no repercussions for the police in the past.
"The fact is we know that, through housing patterns, through employment, through wealth, through a whole range of other things — so often, people of color, Black people, end up with harsh treatment from law enforcement," he said.
Finishing up the segment, Ellison said he and his team thought long and hard as to why the former police officer would kneel on a man's neck for more than nine minutes, especially when there were bystanders watching.
"I think that if he looks at history, he has every reason to believe that he would never be held accountable … So history was on his side,” he candidly concluded.
The ex-cop can face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for manslaughter. Based on state guidelines and the fact that Chauvin had no prior convictions, his sentence for both second-degree and third-degree murder could possibly be 12-and-a-half years.
The other officers involved in Floyd's death, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, have all been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They will be tried together in August, CNN reported.