Celebration is laced with warnings after Derek Chauvin conviction

The former police officer may have been found guilty of all three charges, but Democrats and activists said more needed to be done about systemic policing problems.

Democrats and activists celebrated Tuesday’s conviction of the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd last May, but warned that more needed to be done to address systemic issues with policing and criminal justice.

A diverse 12-member jury found Derek Chauvin, a 45-year-old white man, guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Police were called on Floyd on May 25 over concerns that he paid with a counterfeit $20 bill at convenience store. Police claimed the following day that Floyd died after a “medical episode,” but bystanders had recorded Chauvin pinning his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, ignoring his pleas for oxygen and his late mother as a group of Chauvin’s colleagues stood by without intervening.

It was an act of police violence so searing that it set off a nationwide racial reckoning nearly one year ago. The fact that it was captured on video that reverberated around the world led to the swift firing of all officers involved and likely played a significant role in the jury’s decision to convict Chauvin.

Judge Peter Cahill, who read aloud the jury’s verdict, said Chauvin, who was handcuffed and remanded to the custody of the Hennepin County sheriff, would be sentenced in eight weeks.

The second-degree unintentional murder charge carries a maximum 40-year sentence, and the third-degree murder charge carries a maximum 25-year sentence. The final charge, second-degree manslaughter, carries a maximum 10-year-sentence and/or a fine of up to $20,000.

The trial for the three former officers who stood by is expected to begin in August.

The Chauvin verdict comes after the jury heard 14 days of testimony from 45 witnesses — including Chauvin’s former superior officers — and deliberated for several hours over two days.

“Today, you have the cameras all around the world to see and show what happened to my brother. It was a motion picture,” Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, said at a news conference with the family and civil rights leaders. “The world seen his life being extinguished. And I could do nothing but watch, especially in that courtroom, over and over and over again, as my brother was murdered.”

Philonise Floyd said people from all over the world had told him they wouldn’t be able to breathe until he could. “Today,” he continued, pumping his fist as he spoke, “we are able to breathe again.”

President Joe Biden addressed the nation from the White House, where he presented the moment the country faces now as a potential “giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.”

“Let’s also be clear that such a verdict is also much too rare,” Biden said. “For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors … for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, whose remarks preceded Biden’s, expressed a sigh of relief.

“Still, it can’t take away the pain. A measure of justice is not the same as equal justice,” Harris said. “This verdict brings us a step closer. And the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system.”

Both Biden and Harris called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, with Biden conceding that while no verdict will resurrect Floyd, “through the family’s pain, we are finding purpose so George’s legacy will not be just about his death but about what we must do in his memory.”

The two leaders watched the verdict with staff in the White House Private Dining Room and spoke to Floyd’s family by phone from the Oval Office. Biden had told reporters earlier in the day that he was “praying the verdict is the right verdict,” and deemed the prosecution’s evidence “overwhelming.”

“Nothing is gonna make it all better, but at least now there’s some justice,” Biden told the family, according to a clip shared by family attorney Ben Crump.

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Quint Forget & Nolan D. McCaskill