Virtue signaling or just playing fair? Houston contemplates posthumous drug case pardon for George Floyd

A Houston, Texas attorney has jumped on the George Floyd memorial bandwagon, insisting the man had been arrested by a dirty cop and wrongfully convicted of a drug charge, and urging the court to “correct the record.”

Harris County Public Defender Allison Mathis explained the gesture was unrelated to “merit or worthiness,” but was instead about “correcting the record.” Floyd had not actually committed the crime of which he had been convicted, Mathis insisted, pointing to the involvement of former police officer Gerald Goines, who is now himself facing two charges of felony murder.

Floyd was arrested by Goines and charged with selling crack back in 2004, when he still lived in Houston. He pleaded guilty in return for a shorter sentence of 10 months rather than the lengthy prison stay his already substantial criminal record would have gotten him. After serving that sentence, Floyd moved north to Minnesota rather than risk the further perils of parole violations and other on-paper crimes.

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Officer Goines came under scrutiny following a disastrous drug raid in 2019, in which two suspects were killed and four police officers injured. Initially claiming he had an informant, he eventually admitted he had purchased heroin from the suspects himself to obtain a warrant for the botched raid. Some 160 drug cases ended up being dropped as a result, and many of the other officers involved in the drug unit also ended up indicted over their connection to the ‘bad apple.’

“No one bothered to question the word of a veteran cop against that of a previously convicted black man,” Mathis said in her application for posthumous parole for Floyd, arguing it was now “clear” that Goines invented his confidential informant to detain Floyd and that it was high time that Texas pardoned Floyd for his drug conviction.

While Mathis acknowledged a pardon “wouldn’t erase the memory, personal or institutional, of this thing that happened to” Floyd, she argued it would “set the record straight” in Texas and produce some of the accountability that Black Lives Matter protesters said they were seeking.

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Floyd, 46, died in May 2020 during an attempt by several Minneapolis police officers to arrest him after he allegedly used counterfeit money at a grocery store. His death touched off protests that quickly devolved into violent riots and spread from the Twin Cities to the rest of the US.

Derek Chauvin, the officer who was filmed kneeling on Floyd for several minutes during the arrest, was fired right away and charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Last week, a Minneapolis jury found him guilty on all three counts. He will be sentenced in June.

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