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'The right verdict': U.S. lawmakers praise Chauvin conviction in George Floyd's death

Several members of Congress called for further legislative action to address policing in the United States.
Image: Senators Hold Weekly Policy Luncheons
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in Congress widely praised the jury that rendered guilty verdicts on Tuesday against former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd.

Several lawmakers also called for further legislative action to address policing in the U.S.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only Black Republican in the chamber, said the outcome offers "renewed confidence in the integrity of our justice system."

"George Floyd died because Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck and stopped him from breathing for more than nine minutes. There is no question in my mind that the jury reached the right verdict," he said in a statement, adding that there was more work to be done to "repair tenuous relationship between law enforcement and Black and minority Americans."

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., the most recently elected Black member of the chamber, called for legislative action.

"The reason why we've all been waiting with bated breath for this verdict is we've seen the opposite outcome so many times, and we have yet to put forward the kind of legislation that will create a different outcome," he said. "So we must do our job in this chamber."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who represents the state where the murder happened, praised the conviction.

"And while Black Americans continue to be subjected to a system that keeps mothers and fathers up at night worrying about whether their children are going to come back home every time they get in the car, we know our work is not done," she said in a statement. "It's long past time the Senate moves forward and passes police reform to hold officers accountable for misconduct, increase transparency in policing practices and improve police conduct and training, including banning chokeholds."

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he's "glad that the judicial process has worked its way through."

"As you know, as a former prosecutor, I tend to trust the judgment of juries," he told reporters. "So I have every expectation that this jury obviously deliberated for a number of hours, were very thoughtful about it. And, you know, and the defendant, if he doesn't like the verdict, he can appeal. But this seems to me like a good example of a system working the way that we hope it would."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he's "thankful" that "justice has been served."

"This guilty verdict serves as an official proclamation of what so many of us have known for nearly a year: George Floyd was murdered by an officer who was sworn to protect and serve," he said.

Still, Schumer warned not to "mistake" the verdict as evidence that "the persistent problem of police misconduct has been solved." He vowed to "remain diligent in our efforts to bring meaningful change to police departments across the country."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., echoed calls for legislative action.

"This isn't justice," she said in an Instagram live video outside the Capitol. "Justice is George Floyd going home to his family tonight."

"I also don't want this to be framed as the system working. Because it's not working. And that's what creates a lot of complexity in this moment," she said. "It's really important that this verdict is not used as a replacement for policy change."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the verdict was "a step in the right direction for justice done" and called it a clear response to the video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck.

"We all saw it on TV. We saw it happen. And thank God the jury validated what we saw," Pelosi said at a news conference alongside members of the Congressional Black Caucus. "So again, thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice."

"Your name will always be synonymous with justice," she said. "And now we have to make sure justice prevails in the sentencing."

Some said they hope the verdict reduces the temperature.

"I have trust in our justice system and the great institutions that have always formed the basis of our society. Obviously pleased that the temperature will hopefully be brought down a bit," said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also weighed in.

"The jury's verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd," he said. "Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person."

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who came under fire for her remarks encouraging an escalation of demonstrations should the jury find Chauvin not guilty, also responded.

"You know, someone said it better than me: I'm not celebrating, I'm relieved," she told reporters.