POLITICS

President Joe Biden Calls Chauvin Guilty Verdict 'A Step Forward'

The former police officer was convicted of three charges in the killing of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday it’s a “step forward” that a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all charges in the killing of George Floyd

“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see systemic racism,” he said from the White House alongside Vice President Kamala Harris

The jury came to its decision earlier Tuesday, a day after the defense and prosecution teams delivered their final arguments. Chauvin, who invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify, stood accused of unlawfully killing Floyd last spring by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes while arresting him on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. The white ex-officer was found guilty on all of the charges he faced: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter. 

Footage of Chauvin killing Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was widely shared in the following days, sparking weeks of mass demonstrations across the country and setting off a national reckoning on racism.

Courts holding law enforcement accountable in these situations is “much too rare,” Biden said, referencing the number of officers who’ve been cleared in similar killings. 

“It seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors,” he added. “A brave young woman with a smartphone camera, a crowd that was 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 came in.

“You’ve been incredible. You’re an incredible family,” Biden told them. Harris added, “We are going to make sure his legacy is intact. ... We’re going to make something good come out of this tragedy.”

Biden added during his public remarks: “This can be a moment 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 in with them” and share that the family was in his prayers, she said.

“They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is,” Biden told reporters during the jury’s second day of deliberations. “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. It’s overwhelming, in my view.”

Biden’s team has been preparing 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 an officer in a nearby suburb fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop on April 11. The officer, Kim Potter, said she had intended to shoot him with a stun gun and has since been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Following Wright’s killing, pressure has mounted on Biden to take action to address the disproportionate number of people of color, particularly Black people, killed during encounters with law enforcement. Biden’s administration revealed earlier in April that it’s no longer moving forward with a campaign promise to launch a police reform commission, and will instead let Congress pursue legislation around the matter.

But that’s deeply concerning to police reform activists who say Democrats’ George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, aimed at preventing police misconduct, has little chance of moving on from the Senate.

Hayley Miller contributed reporting.