By: Alyssa Wilson
In April, the prosecutors in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin presented their case. A jury found him guilty on all counts.
Special Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, who worked on the case pro bono, became a key player in the trial. He joined Start Your Day with Sharon Reed and Mike Hill to discuss why he decided to work on the case.
When asked if he felt pressure to get a conviction, Blackwell said no, citing that he felt called to work on the case. “I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced anything you felt was a spiritual calling where your rationale doesn’t really matter. You’re weighing pros and cons,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter. You just know this is something you were called to do.”
His usual clients are Fortune 500 companies across the globe. The Chauvin trial was his first criminal case. Blackwell admitted that he thought he’d work in the background to help with strategy, but he served as trial counsel.
Meditation, techniques intended to help with the development of a heightened state of awareness and focused attention, is one of Blackwell’s passions. He said it is a tremendous help that he encourages the Black community to try.
“There’s some days at the end of the day you just feel out of sorts and can’t even put a finger on why. It’s because you’ve dealt with so many of these microaggressions that add up kind of during the day and take a toll,” he said.
During the trial, several police officers with the Minneapolis Police Department testified against Chauvin. Blackwell said he hopes it’s the “inspiration for a new day.” He said lawyers are vocal in their criticism of other lawyers and police could learn from that.
Blackwell hopes that the Chauvin trial is a lesson for officers to speak when they see misconduct. “I hope that it’s an inspiration for other good police officers to speak up. Evil flourishes when good people say nothing and do nothing and when good officers say nothing and do nothing,” he said.
Since the jury rendered the verdict two weeks ago, Blackwell said his life has been surreal, but he’s happy that the ruling inspired and gave people hope.
When the jurors returned a guilty verdict for Chauvin, many saw it as an inflection point for the country. Blackwell, who doesn’t believe in inflection points, said the Black community should have a “realistic perspective” on what racial progress is.
“Equal justice, racial justice does not roll like a wheel. It moves like a brick and you have to flip it over end by end because the landscape is always full of social and moral inertia we have to fight against all the time,” he said. “And you can either curse the opposition and the inertia or you use that same energy to be a light in the darkness or to take your hand to the brick and flip it one more time because that’s all we can ever do.”
If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by police violence, resources are available for you here.