PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — After less than two days of deliberation, a jury convicted the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd Tuesday, April 20.
Jurors found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The second-degree unintentional murder charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
The guilty verdict heard around the country is also hitting home in Peoria. Marvin Hightower, president of Peoria’s NAACP branch, said the emotional verdict was a long time coming.
“I was happy that justice has finally been served in a case that the world saw,” Hightower said. “We’ve seen this play out over and over again and some officers end up acquitted, even though we catch it on film. But in this particular case, a former officer was held accountable for his actions.”
Hightower said the murder of George Floyd sparked national outrage but wouldn’t call Tuesday’s guilty verdict a relief as the Floyd family is still left without their loved one.
“At the end of the day George Floyd lost his life, his family and his daughter will be affected for the rest of their lives, their whole dynamic has changed,” Hightower said. “But I’m glad the jurors took all the information they had and made the right decision.”
He said he believes Chauvin’s conviction is a sign that the tide is turning and hopes it sends a message to police officers that it’s okay to step forward and do the right thing. He said the verdict is a small victory and there’s still work to be done.
“We have to use this moment and turn it into a movement,” Hightower said. “The world was watching this, the world was watching what was the United States going to do about this, and today the verdict said the United States will stand for justice.”
Hightower said the next step is to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act signed. He also said the Illinois Black Caucus is working on a criminal justice reform act which includes police reform.
“Despite all the claims to the contrary, the criminal justice system in the United States works, even when the person accused of a crime is a police officer. The trial and unanimous conviction on all counts of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota conclusively demonstrates that officers can be, and in fact are, held to the same standards of justice as all other citizens in our nation, as they should be.”National Association of Police Organizations