State and local officials as well as legal experts applauded the guilty findings against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd Jr.
The killing of Floyd drew national attention after video showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds as Floyd pleaded for his life, leading to protests and riots across the country. The video was played repeatedly for the jury during the trial over the last three weeks. After little more than 10 hours of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict on all three counts: unintentional second-degree murder while committing a felony, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd, a Black man, was killed during an arrest after a store clerk alleged he had passed a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis. Chauvin was one of four police officers who arrived on the scene but was the only one shown kneeling on Floyd's neck.
"I'm not surprised by the verdict," said Lawrence police Chief Roy Vasque. "I expected it. Based on the evidence of the case anything but a guilty on all three counts would have been another injustice."
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, Massachusetts, said "today’s verdict is proof that police officers are not above the law, and equally important, that Black lives matter. Still, a single conviction doesn’t fix our system. Nor does it change the fact policing in the United States has a violent, flawed history. That history will continue to repeat itself if we fail to entirely transform the institution of policing."
He added: "We must root out racist police officers, create systems of accountability within the ranks and establish stronger relationships between cops and the communities they serve. America isn’t a perfect country, but at our best, we believe we can be. It will take work from everyone to finally live up to the promise of America—the promise of liberty and justice for all, including for Black Americans. We can’t wait for the next hashtag to make this a reality.”
Haverhill defense attorney Marsha Kazarosian, who has represented victims of police misconduct, said the verdicts against Chauvin "sent chills down my spine."
"Finally there is some justice and accountability," she said, adding, that the verdicts "were sad for everybody."
She also noted that Chauvin and this case does not represent all police officers.
"So many put their lives on the line to help people and protect them," said Kazarosian, who is considered a civil rights and discrimination expert.
She hopes the verdicts spark a "sea of change" and "a ray of hope for so many people who have had no hope for so long. Even Chauvin being charged was a ray of hope."
Kazarosian has been appointed to the newly created Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission — POST for short. She is one of nine members of the group.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a joint statement with Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, who together co-chair the Democratic Attorneys General Association, that there was "accountability for George Floyd’s murder. But the work for justice continues. Democratic AGs stand in solidarity with people across the country who are fighting to bring equity and fairness to the justice system.
“Today, we recommit to working to end the injustice of police killings without consequence – disproportionately affecting Black, Brown and other communities and families of color.”
She added: “To those marching in the streets for continued justice and progress, know that we stand with you in the fight for reforms, and are working to make sure systemic change happens at the state and federal level.”
Gov. Charlie Baker applauded the verdict and the response from state and local officials across the country who have enacted "significant law enforcement reforms, including here in Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts enacted one of the most comprehensive police training, transparency and accountability laws in the country at the end of last year. We owe it to all those whose lives have been lost to do all we can to successfully implement that law, and sustain its aspirations far into the future.”
Baker added, "Nothing can reverse the pain, suffering and agony of George Floyd’s family and friends, but this decision does make clear that Officer Chauvin was not above the law. He was given a fair trial, found guilty, and he will pay a price for his actions."
Baker signed an order that will make up to 1,000 members of the Massachusetts National Guard available in the event that local officials request their assistance in case of unrest in Boston.
“As we do for all potential large-scale gatherings in the Commonwealth, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security has been working with our local, state, and federal partners to ensure public safety personnel can be on hand if the need arises,” said EOPSS Secretary Thomas Turco. “These are standard precautionary measures to protect the rights and safety of all residents, and there is no indication of any public safety risk in Massachusetts.”
Andover police Lt. Eddie Guy said members of the Andover Police Department were deployed to Boston as part of NEMLEC, a regional SWAT team.