The Derek Chauvin verdict was remarkable because the law is designed to favor police over people
via Hennepin County Sheriff

The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minnesota police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has many breathing a sigh of relief. Even though the disturbing video evidence of Floyd dying under Chauvin's knee is impossible to refute, it's incredibly hard to convict an officer of murder.

The United States judicial system is so preferential to law enforcement that even though the world saw murder in broad daylight, many were skeptical of whether he'd be convicted.

"Most people, I think, believe that it's a slam dunk," David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in policing, told the Washington Post before the trial. "But he said, "the reality of the law and the legal system is, it's just not."


Chauvin was convicted of all three charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. The presumptive sentence according to Minnesota law is 12 ½ years, but aggravating circumstances could raise that number by decades.

"Let's also be clear that such a verdict is also much too rare," President Biden said after the verdict was announced. "For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver a just — just basic accountability."

Since 2005, Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University, has been tracking police misconduct and found the number convicted of murder is incredibly small.

Over that time's he's counted 140 causes of police being arrested on murder or manslaughter charges as the result of an on-duty shooting. Of the 97 cases that have been concluded, only seven resulted in murder convictions. Some were reduced to lesser offenses and more than half were dismissed or resulted in acquittals.

When it comes to justice for unarmed Black men and women, the numbers are even more sobering.

According to NPR, around 135 Black people have been fatally shot by police since 2015 and authorities failed to press charges in 80 of these cases. Only 13 of the officers who received manslaughter or murder charges with only four were found guilty.

There are myriad reasons why it's so difficult to convict police of murder. "The law favors the police, the law as it exists," Harris added.

One major reason is because of the Supreme Court's 1989 Graham v. Connor decision that states an officer's actions must be judged against what a reasonable officer would do. "A police officer can use force, but it has to be justifiable," Neil J. Bruntrager, a St. Louis-based attorney, told Washington Post. "And what the Supreme Court has told us is we have to see it through the eyes of the police."

via Fibonacci Blue / Flickr


Officers can avoid convictions by claiming they killed someone out of fear for their own safety.

"If a civilian is displaying a weapon, it's very hard to charge [the police officer] with murder for taking action against that civilian," Kate Levine, a professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, told FiveThirtyEight. "And even if a civilian doesn't have a weapon, it's hard to charge a police officer if [the officer] can credibly say they feared for their life."

Police also enjoy the protection of unions that provide high-priced legal services immediately after an incident. There is also a built-in conflict of interest in the legal system. Prosecutors often depend on police so they're inclined to protect those relationships.

Police defendants are more likely to refuse plea deals because their high-quality representation makes them more likely to win a trial. "The quality of the lawyering is very different from regular criminal cases," Brandon Garrett, professor law and Duke University, told CNN. "For the typical criminal defendant, it's incredibly risky to go to trial."

Finally, police are protected from being held accountable by qualified immunity, a judicial doctrine that makes it nearly impossible for individuals to sue public officials. "Qualified immunity fosters an environment where government agents, including police, may feel empowered to violate people's rights with the knowledge they will face few consequences," the ACLU said. "Under qualified immunity, lives can be taken with impunity."

Officers are able to hide behind qualified immunity because of a clause that says their misbehavior must be "clearly established" somewhere in case law.

Lawmakers across the country are working to hold police accountable by striking down qualified immunity. In 2020, former Republican and current Libertarian Representative Justin Amash of Michigan unveiled the first bill to end qualified immunity on a federal level for all public officials. Unfortunately, it went nowhere.

However, it looks like qualified immunity's time could be coming to an end at the local level. Bills addressing qualified immunity have been introduced in 19 states and Connecticut, Colorado, and New Mexico have all passed laws curtailing its power. New York City recently became the first municipality to restrict its use.

It's too early to say whether the Chauvin decision marks the beginning of a new era where police are held accountable for their on-duty behavior. But the result of the trial is a great example of what can happen when Americans come together in support of truth and justice.

"For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors, "President Biden said, "a brave young woman with a smartphone camera; a crowd that was traumatized — traumatized witnesses; a murder that lasts almost 10 minutes in broad daylight for, ultimately, the whole world to see; officers standing up and testifying against a fellow officer instead of just closing ranks, which should be commended; a jury who heard the evidence, carried out their civic duty in the midst of an extraordinary moment, under extraordinary pressure."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via Fox 5 / YouTube

Back in February, northern Virginia was experiencing freezing temperatures, so FOX 5 DC's Bob Barnard took to the streets to get the low down. His report opens with him having fun with some Leesburg locals and trying his hand at scraping ice off their parked cars.

But at about the 1:50 mark, he was interrupted by an unaccompanied puppy running down the street towards the news crew.

The dog had a collar but there was no owner in sight.

Barnard stopped everything he was doing to pick the dog up off the freezing road to keep it safe. "Forget the people we talked to earlier, I want to get to know this dog," he told his fellow reporters back in the warm newsroom.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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