Members of the Westminster community viewed an hourlong webinar April 19 titled “The Killing of George Floyd: A Conversation About the Criminal Justice System in America.” It featured a discussion moderated by Lisa McGrath, Westminster’s dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, with guests Moy Ogilvie Johnson ’86, who is a lawyer at McCarter & English and serves as the managing partner of its Hartford office, with her areas of practice including product liability, toxic tort, pharmaceutical matters and a diverse array of business litigation matters, and Soledad O’Brien P’19, ’20, ’24, ’24, an award-winning documentarian, journalist, speaker, author, philanthropist and CEO of Soledad O’Brien Productions.
Moy provided a recap of the Minneapolis trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of murder April 20 in the death of George Floyd in 2020, and the circumstances that led up to it. She explained the strategies of the prosecution and the defense and how the jurors are only supposed to consider the evidence presented in the trial.
Soledad said it was “a good time to have this conversation” and encouraged questions during the discussion.
“This is a historic case,” said Moy, describing how rare it is for a police officer to face a homicide charge and be convicted. “You will remember where you were when the verdict comes down.” She added that it is important to talk about it, process it and recognize that individuals will all deal with it differently.
Soledad added that the case was a turning point even though it is not the first time a video has recorded such a killing. She said that part of the conversation is about how the police treat people they are supposed to protect and serve.
One of the questions for the guests was how the pandemic affected publicity of the case. Both Moy and Soledad said it did have an effect since people were limited in their activities at the time and were a captive audience. The circumstances of the case also stood out.
Both guests responded to a question about where they were when they first heard about the case and their reactions. “You have to do what is right for you,” said Moy, about processing the news and taking next steps, including thinking about what to do. “Be true to yourself and give grace to yourself. At the end of the day, you have to take care of yourself. It is very traumatizing.”
“You have to decide what works for you,” said Soledad. “I rarely protest. My reaction is I want to dig in and understand the story. … What always makes me feel better is research.”
“Everybody is different,” said Moy. “This might not be your issue, but you can be empathetic. Being empathetic goes a long way. Think of others and what they might be going through.”
Soledad pointed out that most of the students’ Black and Brown classmates have had some version of this experience in their own families. She gave an example related to her brother.
Moy added, “Maybe we need to be talking more about it and realize we need to be more open as a community.” She went on to say that a lot of the frustration comes from the issue of reasonableness and proportionality of police tactics.
“I think in speaking and talking and not pretending that we can all be optimistic that our country can get to a better place and that we can all play a role,” said Moy.
Lisa closed by saying that although these conversations can’t be perfect, “We need to be talking about it as a school.” She also thanked the guests.