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Martin A. Schwartz Martin A. Schwartz

The tragic killing of African American George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin placed in focus serious deficiencies in §1983 excessive force law. The Supreme Court’s jurisprudence is so heavily tilted in favor of police officers and municipalities sued under §1983 that excessive force claimants often do not have a realistic chance of recovery.

Chauvin killed Floyd by placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill to pay for cigarettes. A videotape shows that Floyd was not resisting and presented no threat to Chauvin. Three other officers at the scene failed to intervene to protect Floyd from Chauvin’s infliction of deadly force. The incident sparked nationwide protests of police uses of deadly force and racism in law enforcement and criminal justice systems. All four officers were fired. The state filed homicide charges against Chauvin and aiding and abetting charges against the other three officers.

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