Derek Chauvin. Photo: ABC screenshot
Derek Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, filed a motion asking Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to keep any comparisons of George Floyd to Jesus out of the trial. The comparisons don’t need a lot of massaging to make a case that for some, Floyd’s death is symbolic of Jesus and the crucifixion. It was after all, law enforcement officers who led the charge to put Jesus on the cross and kill him.
Both the prosecution and the defense are feverishly preparing their opening and closing statements. Be assured that for months they have been strategizing. Creating versions of compelling narratives to capture the jury’s attention. These statements all boil down to great storytelling. Settings, characters, plot and conflict. Like the stories in the Bible, they want theirs about May 25, 2020—the day of Floyd’s murder—to be persuasive yet precise in designing the arc of humanity that we are reckoning with right now.
Nelson reportedly noted that any comparison of Floyd to Jesus would be prejudicial. Of course, he didn’t say what he really wanted to say. Specifically, Nelson doesn’t want any comparisons of George Floyd to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Why? Because a poor man died on display—a humiliation tactic used by the Romans to remind the world to follow the law. Leading the charge to carry out the law and crucify Jesus was a centurion—a Roman officer in charge of others to lead police actions. Nelson wants to erase any potential thought about how scientists, who have crucially examined and reenacted the path of Jesus, note that his severe beatings, carrying an 80 pound cross on his back and hanging for six hours led to a death brought on by cardiac arrest or asphyxiation.
Biblically speaking, consider this: Several times, Floyd called out for his mother before he died and on the cross Jesus said “Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26-27 NIV). Floyd, in his last breaths said, “They’re going to kill me”. George Floyd called out, “Momma, I’m through”. Just before he breathed his last breath on the cross, Jesus uttered the phrase, “It is finished.” (John 19:30 NIV)
Three days after Floyd was killed, former officer Derek Chauvin agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder and spend at least 10 years in federal prison. The possible deal was then rejected by then attorney general William Barr. Chauvin knew his fate and it seems even he believed in the transformative power of what happened. He’d seen how Floyd’s death shook the world. It was three days after Jesus’s crucifixion that even the Roman law officers who killed him were compelled to believe in the power of Jesus’s death. After they felt the earthquake before Jesus’s resurrection they declared “Surely he was the Son of God!’ (Matt. 27:45-54 NIV).
I’m just sharing text and truth.
It must have crossed the minds of prosecutors to tell the story about a man of little means, who said he wanted to save the world, then died at the hands of the police, igniting protests in over 40 countries in every continent except Antarctica, shaking the moral foundation of structural racism. Chauvin’s attorney doesn’t want this power play in court. He has thought this through.
The brooding irony is that every witness who takes the stand will, more than likely, place their hands on the Bible as a commitment to the truth. The system can throw the book at you, but any mention of what’s in the Good Book has no place.
Finally, consider this: the trial begins on March 8, 2021 when there will be predictably two weeks of jury selection. This puts opening statements starting just a few days before Easter on April 4. Like my Grandmother used to say, try if you want to remove him, but Jesus is everywhere and like Chauvin’s attorney knows all too well—you can’t beat Him.