Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was the lead prosecutor in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, admitted on Sunday that he “felt a little bad” for the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted in the murder of George Floyd last week.
While being interviewed on “60 Minutes,” Ellison was asked about what his reaction was when they jury found Chauvin guilty.
“Gratitude — humility — followed by a certain sense of, I’ll say satisfaction. It’s what we were aiming for the whole time,” Ellison responded. “I spent 16 years as a criminal defense lawyer, so, I will admit, I felt a little bad for the defendant. I think he deserved to be convicted. But he’s a human being.”
When asked about his compassion for Chauvin, Ellison said he was “not in any way wavering from my responsibility.”
“But I hope we never forget that people who are defendants in our criminal justice system, that they’re human beings,” he explained. “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.”
As for Chauvin’s motive, Ellison said that 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.”
“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?” host Scott Polley asked, pressing on.
“In our society, there is a social norm that killing certain kinds of people is more tolerable than other kinds of people,” Ellison said in response. “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 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 continued. “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.”