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Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges he faced for the murder of George Floyd, capping a trial that captivated the nation nearly a year after Floyd’s death set off a reckoning over racial injustice and police brutality.

Cheers greeted the verdict in Minneapolis outside the courtroom, while lawmakers in the House were photographed embracing in the halls of Congress after the news.

President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE and Vice President Harris — the first Black American to hold that position — phoned Floyd’s family shortly after the verdict, expressing relief at the decision by the 12 members of the jury.

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“We’re all so relieved, not just one verdict but all three. Guilty on all three counts. It’s really important,” Biden told the family in a video posted by attorney Ben Crump. “I’m anxious to see you guys. We’re going to get a lot more done. We’re going to do a lot. We’re going to stay at it until we get it done.”

“In George’s name and memory we are going to make sure his legacy is intact and that history will look back at this moment,” Harris said. “But we really do believe that with your leadership and the president that we have in the White House that we’re going to make something good come out of this tragedy.”

Guilty verdicts against police officers accused of killing Black people are rare, and the nation had been bracing for the possibility of unrest if a not guilty verdict had been delivered.

Biden earlier on Tuesday had confirmed he spoke to Floyd’s family before the verdict, and that he was praying for the right decision. Biden also said he believed the case was overwhelming.

Judge Peter Cahill read the jury’s verdict against Chauvin on all three counts one by one just after 5 p.m., telling the people in court, as well as a nationwide audience, that the jury had found the former police officer guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin’s defense had argued that Floyd didn’t die from Chauvin kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes, but rather from drugs in his system and underlying heart disease.

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It was a strategy that ultimately failed, as the prosecution called numerous medical professionals who told the court Floyd died from low oxygen.

Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker, who performed Floyd’s autopsy, told the court that his opinion of Floyd’s death hadn’t changed, affirming that he died of “cardiopulmonary arrest [the stopping of both the heart and lungs] complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Testimony by police officers in the case was also pivotal, with the chief of police in Minneapolis among those appearing as witnesses for the prosecution. They said Chauvin broke from police practice by pinning him to the street in an arrest over the use of a counterfeit $20 bill.

Graphic videotape that sparked last summer’s demonstrations was central to the trial. It showed Chauvin putting his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than 9 1/2 minutes, even as Floyd said he could not breathe, pleaded for his life and asked for his mother as horrified witnesses looked on.

Many of those witnesses also offered haunting testimony about how their lives had been changed forever by the ordeal of watching Floyd’s murder.

Tensions surrounding the case were only inflamed further recently when Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by a white police officer during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, roughly 10 miles from where Chauvin was standing trial.

Friction over the trial had been evident over the past 48 hours, culminating in a House vote on a GOP motion to censure Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden address to Congress will dominate busy week Maxine Waters: Judge in Chauvin trial who criticized her was 'angry' GOP, Democrats grapple with post-Chauvin trial world MORE (D-Calif.) over weekend remarks she made in the Twin Cities.

Waters had called for demonstrators to be more "confrontational" in the event of an acquittal, drawing criticism from Republicans who felt she was encouraging violence should there not be the desired verdict.

The party-line 216-210 vote against censuring Waters was a reflection of the bitter divide in the House, a division highlighted during the 2020 presidential election when former President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE’s campaign focused on a law and order message in reaction to demonstrations over Floyd’s death.

While lawmakers and activists exhaled with the announcement of the guilty verdict, tensions over policing and racial inequality will remain. Wright’s shooting just outside Minneapolis earlier this month underscored the ways in which police violence persists even with a guilty verdict, and it’s unclear whether lawmakers at the federal level will find common ground on policing reform legislation.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would overhaul qualified immunity and outlaw chokeholds and no-knock warrants at the federal level, passed the House this year. But its path to 60 votes in the Senate before Biden can sign it into law remains muddled at best.

“I'm thankful for George Floyd’s family that justice was served. America was forever changed by the video of Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd,” Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHow to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “However, a guilty verdict doesn’t mean the persistent problem of police misconduct is solved.”

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“This verdict is justice served—but it is not justice for George Floyd,” Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerBush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Never underestimate Joe Biden MORE (D-N.J.) tweeted. “True justice would be a country where George Floyd would still be alive today.”

“There is no question in my mind that the jury reached the right verdict,” Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottUpdating the aging infrastructure in Historically Black Colleges and Universities McConnell amid Trump criticism: 'I'm looking forward, not backward' The instructive popularity of Biden's 'New Deal' for the middle class MORE (S.C.), the lone Black Senate Republican, said in a statement.

“We must all come together to help repair the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and Black and minority Americans,” he added.