The George Floyd murder verdict – and the problem of systemic racism in the legal system

21st April 2021

Yesterday a former police officer was convicted of the murder of George Floyd.

The evidence was overwhelming and, to most people who followed the televised trial, compelling.

Indeed, some would aver (in my view, correctly) that the evidence was compelling even before the trial.

But due process is due process, and even those charged with the most vile of crimes are entitled to due process.

And the former police officer received due process, and the former police officer was duly convicted – unanimously.


Until the very last moment the verdict was uncertain.

Anyone watching the verdict being handed down was braced for an acquittal.

Regardless of the starkness of the evidence – and of the weakness of the defence case, even taking it at its highest – it seemed extraordinary that a white former police officer would actually get convicted of the murder of a black person.

And even if the evidence was as twice as compelling, and the defence case twice as weak, one would still realistically expect an acquittal.

For that seems to be the nature of the criminal justice system.

There is here a gap between knowledge and expectation – and this gap is systemic racism.


By ‘systemic’ is meant that the racism is a feature of the system.

It would not matter which white police officer was accused, and which black person was the victim of a wrong, the operation of the system will tend towards certain outcomes.

Black people will tend to be the victims of police violence and there will never be any sanction against those who inflict the violence.

Any fatality will tend to be the subject of misdirection and misinformation by the police to the media.

Any victim will tend to be disparaged, if not demonised.

Any police violence will tend not to be filmed or similarly documented.

Any accused police officer will tend to be given the benefit of the doubt – and if there is no room for doubt, they will be given the benefit of some excuse.

Any other officers will tend to stay quiet.

Any prosecution will tend not to be brought.

And any prosecution brought will tend to lead to an acquittal.

The reason for each of these swerves away from justice will be different from case to case.

But the overall bias of the system will mean that the gravity pull will be against any conviction.


The solution to this problem is not to dilute due process – but to be open and frank about the factors which will distort the process as a whole.

Indeed, everyone should have the benefit of the strict approach to due process that is accorded to police officers and other privileged defendants.


It is all very good to say there are systemic problems, some will protest, but what about solutions?


There is plenty of sensible and constructive thinking out there about other faults in the system – for example, see these two threads which should be read carefully.


A systemic problem needs a systemic approach to the solution.

Picking on any individual element of the system will not be sufficient, as long as other elements still tend towards injustice.

Accepting the importance of a systemic approach – and of the existence of system (or institutional) racism – will be for many an intellectual and emotional pain barrier.

Racism in legal systems is not just about the wrongness of individual acts – but a realisation of the impacts of swarms of wrongful acts which means that – unless there are exceptional circumstances – white police officers will get away with whatever violence they can against black people. 


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8 thoughts on “The George Floyd murder verdict – and the problem of systemic racism in the legal system”

  1. Excellent blog.

    Many years ago a black client of mine was accused of assault pc in execution of duty. I referred the CPS to case law on the execution of duty point and the CPS withdrew that offence replacing it with simple assault. Client, not under arrest and not a suspect walked away from a PC who then threatened to Taser him. Client turned and took his coat off and tried to use it as a shield. The officer fired the Taser.

    All white and middle class bench convicted the defendant of assault. In xx officer had shown a truly remarkable lack of knowledge on his powers of stop and search, arrest and the use of force but none of that made any difference to the outcome.

    That officer is now climbing the greasy pole as an Inspector and my client suffers heart problems that only appeared after being tasered to this day.

  2. I appreciate the focus of this issue is fundamentally discrimination and/or racism (in the USA)

    I don’t think this exclusive to black people, or any other specific nationality. I think it about the ‘establishment’ and its authority and power and how, if one challenges that, one is likely to lose, no matter what the facts and evidence.

    This also occurs in the UK from my experience.
    I have suffered extreme injustice (civil matters) out of the UK courts. Most judges have been variously lazy, disinterested, incompetent, and some downright corrupt.

    I think a lot of this is due to the sinister underworld of the Freemasons (which many believe is the UK ‘establishment’)

    Until there is a truly honest and decent system which does not discriminate against ‘non-affiliated’ included members, injustice and discrimination will prevail in UK.

    The automatic view is that judges are right. I can prove categorically this is not so, but the ‘establishment’ is neither concerned or interested in justice – merely in maintaining control. As history has shown, these can be very different things.

    There is a much bigger, hidden picture behind much of what goes on.

  3. Great post. The system also allowed the Chauvin to continue his bullying behaviour for weeks in court, causing great distress, inconvenience, and expense. This may be “due process” but it is another ugly aspect of the system.
    The girl who kept on filming deserves a statue.

  4. Racism in the police is certainly a major issue, but I believe there’s a ‘powerism’ that drives it. Everyone can be a victim but minorities are easier to pick on with less risk of consequences. The notion that everyone joins the police to ‘serve the community’ is nonsense.

    I was born in Brixton in the 1950s. White kid with dad working for the ‘Gas Board’. We moved out in the 60s to Sutton in the suburbs and when I got a car I decided to visit the area in which I went to primary school. My visit was in the mid 1980s.

    As I drove past my old address I came to a T-junction. In front was a police car. I waited for him to turn. Out got the two officers and one approached me. “You’ve got your headlights on” he said. Surprised I said that I had. “Why is that?” he said. It was around 8pm in the late summer and I said “I live in Sutton and just drove across Mitcham Common. It’s misty there”.

    Without another word he turned and they both got in their car and disappeared, presumably because I wasn’t local. There’s a power kick for a large minority of police that they will exercise if given the opportunity irrespective of the victim’s background – but minorities provide a less risky target.

  5. “white police officers will get away with whatever violence they can against black people.”

    The ironically named Chauvin was fully aware that he was being recorded as he restrained Floyd

    Therefore he either believed his actions were warranted and proportionate, or he believed there would be no consequences for him if Floyd was injured or died

    Immediately before Chauvin’s trial, Daniel Pantaleo was petitioning to get his job back after being fired for killing Eric Garner with an illegal choke hold in similar circumstances

    This suggests to me that US Police officers believe they can act with impunity

    Hardly surprising when you consider that origins of the US Police was Slave Patrols formed to catch runaway slaves

  6. David – it would be fascinating to see your forensic analysis of Tucker Carlson’s commentary on Fox News. One standout quote : “ Keep in mind that no one has ever shown that race or skin color played any role in the death of George Floyd. If you watched the trial, you know that. ” Millions of Americans will agree with him… It is a stark reminder of how divided the nation is.

  7. a belated comment. I think one problem with the popular conception of the police and racism is that many people do not really understand the term “systemic (or institutional) racism” (I assume these are synonymous). Thus one sees comments which point out the prevalence of black on black violence compared with white police violence, the implication being that the former constitute a much more serious problem than the latter. Well, maybe so in terms of simple official numbers, but this ignores the facts that so much police violence is hidden by the system and that more could and must be done to combat it

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