PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Justice was served. That is the assessment of two prominent local leaders in the Pittsburgh justice system.
During his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dwayne Woodruff was putting himself through law school, and for the past 16 years has been a judge in the Court of Common Pleas.
He watched the Derek Chauvin trial with a legal eye. “You know, based on the evidence and things that I’ve heard that they presented, I thought it was the right and just decision to be made.”
And Criminal Defense Attorney David Shrager agrees, “You know when you have a video that shows someone being murdered in real time as a defense lawyer, you’re going to have a really difficult time. On the third degree, we talk about a depraved heart, murder, or a willful and wanton heart. And if I was teaching a class to students, and I wanted to say here, here’s an example of what that means, it’s that look on that man’s face while he’s doing that. He showed no humanity, and no compassion no care. And that to me is a perfect example of a willful and wanton or to be called a depraved heart.”
Judge Woodruff adds, “I’m not particularly celebrating. At the same time, I’m happy that you know, this is, I consider this to be a turning point in regard to justice, particularly in regard to how police treat you know, Blacks and particularly in minorities in this country.”
As a judge, Woodruff works closely with the police and has a deep respect for what they do, “but your police are just like society. You know, there have some individuals that do a great fabulous job, which we all want to do, and then we have some others that are on the other side of the tracks.”
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Shrager says this verdict is about one police officer acting beyond his authority, not an indictment of all police. “Police officers need to be humans, they need to have compassion and the vast majority do. But in this case, that’s terrible policing it’s inhumane.”
Judge Woodruff believes the sentencing will follow sentencing guideline as required by law, but Defense Attorney Shrager thinks the judge will be tough. “They could give him a consecutive sentence on this, because they convicted him on all three counts. And now about 12 and a half years would be the normative sentence for someone with zero prior record but this isn’t a normative case.”
Shrager says this was an extraordinary case in many ways and “this was going to happen if there wasn’t a conviction in this case, that would have been a miscarriage of justice in my opinion.”
Judge Woodruff is hopeful the shift that started with George Floyd’s death will continue. “You know I remember watching George Floyd’s daughter on television, when she indicated that, you know, my dad is going to change the world. And I believe that is that is happening here today, but we don’t want to lose sight of where we are, where we’ve been, or where we want to go.”
And Woodruff believes the video of Floyd’s death has awakened white America.
“Some people you talk about people being mistreated, you know, a lot of people blow that off. Ah, that’s not true. No, that never happened, but to actually see it, and visualize it yourself, is a big difference in that you can say well you know wow, I didn’t know things like this happen, but they do. And so that to see it, it makes it real to you. We have to make sure we look to the Lord together to change things in this country, because that’s what it’s gonna take to make a true and lasting change.”