Justice for George Floyd Statement

April 20, 2021

Dear Washburn Community Members:

Today the process of justice was concluded in the case of Minnesota v. Chauvin with a verdict from a lawfully constituted jury. That jury heard evidence consistent with the requirements of due process guaranteed to Derek Chauvin and every criminal defendant charged with violating the rule of law. Our founding fathers understood that a group of decision makers is smarter, and will produce a more equitable outcome, than any one individual. Consequently, our system of criminal justice rests on the sanctity of the jury. The trial of Officer Chauvin brought to the forefront ethical questions about who is protected from whom in our society and who is served by the police. The jury has spoken: the police officer's duty is to protect and serve all of us, even those suspected of violating a criminal law.

With today's verdict, we see an endorsement of the value of Black life. We see that Black life has come to matter in America. As a native Oklahoman, I can't help but be mindful that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the largest massacre of Black people in American history, the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. At that time in our nation's history, Black lives did not matter. Black lives could be snuffed out by an angry white mob with no legal consequence to the white murderers. No white person was ever convicted, charged or even arrested for the killing of a Black person during the Tulsa Race Massacre, despite the fact that hundreds of Black people lost their lives during this reign of terror on the Greenwood district of Tulsa. But a century later, America is living up to its principles of equality and justice for all. America is holding accountable those who violate the rule of law regardless of their occupational status or their race. Today's verdict will not bring Mr. George Floyd back to his family and friends who loved him, but it does give me hope that collectively as a nation we will learn from this tragedy and never repeat it.

Today has been a stressful day for many Americans awaiting the jury's decision. Some members of our Washburn community may need support in the current environment. Students, faculty and staff members can receive that support from the Washburn counseling service (email counseling@washburn.edu or call (785) 670-3100) that is available to everyone on campus who needs assistance. Please take time to take care of yourself, and check in with someone else in our community to offer support.

I know that many of our law students will want to engage in student activism to help our criminal justice system continue to improve and fulfill its constitutional mission. There are many organizations that students and lawyers can engage with around the goal of improving our criminal justice system. Some of those include the National Bar Association; the National Black Law Students Association with a local chapter at Washburn; the Kansas NAACP under the leadership of Kenya Cox with chapters across the state of Kansas; and the National Urban League, with an affiliate in Wichita, Kansas under the leadership of Tracee Adams. I encourage you to join with other lawyers and law students to continue to work to make our profession and the criminal justice system the best that it can be.

Yours in the commitment to justice,

Carla Pratt