President Joe Biden said on Tuesday it was a “step forward” that a jury found former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin guilty of all charges in the murder of George Floyd.
“It was murder in the light of day, and it tore blinders for the whole world to witness systemic racism,” he said from the White House alongside Vice President Kamala Harris.
The jury rendered its decision earlier on Tuesday, a day after the defense and prosecution teams presented their final arguments. Chauvin, who has invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify, was charged with unlawfully killing Floyd last spring by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes while arresting him on suspicion of using a fake $ 20 bill. The ex-white officer was convicted of all charges he faced: second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
Images of Chauvin killing Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, spread widely in the following days, sparking weeks of mass protests across the country and triggering national recognition of the racism.
Courts that hold law enforcement accountable in these situations are “far too rare,” Biden said, referring to the number of officers who have been exonerated in similar murders.
“It seems that it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors,” he added. “A brave young woman with a smartphone camera, a mob that has been traumatized … a murder that lasts almost 10 minutes in broad daylight.”
Biden and Harris also spoke with Floyd’s family by phone after the verdict.
“You have been amazing. You are an amazing family, ”Biden told them. Harris added, “We’re going to make sure his legacy is intact. … We are going to bring something good out of this tragedy.
Biden added during his public remarks, “This can be a time of significant change.”
The President also spoke with members of Floyd’s family on the day of closing arguments in the trial, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. The president wanted to “check with them” and share that the family was in their prayers, she said.
“They are a good family and they call for peace and quiet regardless of the verdict,” Biden told reporters on the second day of jury deliberations. “I pray that the verdict is the correct verdict. It’s overwhelming, in my opinion.
Biden’s team braced for the possibility of a not guilty verdict leading to more civil unrest in Minneapolis and beyond. Community outrage over police brutality has already been high in the area after a policeman from a nearby suburb shot and killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man, during a traffic stop on April 11. . The officer, Kim Potter, said she intended to shoot him with a stun gun and has since been charged with second degree manslaughter.
After Wright’s murder, pressure mounted on Biden to take action to address the disproportionate number of people of color, especially blacks, being killed in encounters with law enforcement. Biden’s administration revealed earlier in April that it was no longer moving forward with an election promise to launch a police reform commission and would instead let Congress pass legislation on the issue.
But it is deeply concerning for police reform activists who say that George Floyd of the Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act, aimed at preventing police misconduct, is unlikely to leave the Senate.
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.
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