Testimony kicked off this week in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, argued that Floyd’s death was caused by a combination of drug use and preexisting health problems, but millions of American’s watched Chauvin brutally dig his knee into Floyd’s neck.
Valerie Castile was one of those people. Her son Philando Castile was killed by a St. Anthony, Minnesota, Police officer after being stopped for a supposed broken taillight in the summer of 2016. Officer Jeronimo Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm but ultimately was found not guilty.
“Not getting that accountability opened the door for them to continue that murderous trend. [Seeing George Floyd] took me back to that day of my son taking his last breath saying, I wasn’t reaching,” said Castile. “He made a dying declaration, but did that matter?”
Castile now reflecting on Derek Chauvin’s trial. Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, manslaughter and third-degree murder after kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Previous reports showed that Chauvin held his knee to his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
“They’re not losing anything. Up until the point that these officers have something to lose — they’re going to keep doing it,” added Castile.
While the Floyd family is due to receive a $27 million settlement from the city of Minneapolis, Castile says more needs to be done, telling Atlanta Black Star that it’s time to organize and make changes.
“When you’re dealing with systemic racism, it’s not that easy,” she said. “This is something that has been embedded for hundreds of years, so you’re not going to see a significant change. But that’s why I go hard for my son and these kids and my people.”
The trial is expected to last roughly two to four weeks at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis. If convicted on the most severe charge, Chauvin faces a maximum of 40 years in prison.
“You got to be a damn fool if you think he is not guilty. You had 8 minutes to change your mind but instead, you stuck your hands in your pockets and you repositioned your body to put more pressure on that young man’s neck until you squeezed the life out of him,” said Castile.