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Minnesota Attorney General Calls Chauvin Guilty Verdict 'First Step' Toward Justice

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, here in September, praised the witnesses and jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial on Tuesday.
Stephen Maturen
Getty Images
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, here in September, praised the witnesses and jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial on Tuesday.

Minutes after the three guilty verdicts against former officer Derek Chauvin were read aloud in court Tuesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison thanked the public, saying he was grateful to have been given the space to pursue justice "wherever it led."

He said the guilty verdicts against Chauvin for killing George Floyd last May were the culmination of "long, hard, painstaking work." But he said Tuesday's outcome, after three weeks of testimony, should not be called justice.

"I would not call today's verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration," Ellison said. "But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice, and now the cause of justice is in your hands."

He noted all of the people in Floyd's life who loved the 46-year-old Black man and will always feel his absence in their lives, saying, "George Floyd mattered." But beyond mattering to only those who knew him, Ellison said, Floyd mattered "because he was a human being."

The people who witnessed Floyd's slow and painful murder on the streets of Minneapolis, and stopped to plead for his life and try put a stop to the killing, recognized the man's humanity without knowing anything about him, Ellison said. Borrowing a phrase from prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell, Ellison called the bystanders who stood as witnesses and documented the tragic arrest last May 25 a "bouquet of humanity."

"They stopped and raised their voices, and they even challenged authority because they saw his humanity. They stopped and they raised their voices because they knew that what they were seeing was wrong. ... And they were right."

The same group, most of whom testified against Chauvin, "performed simple yet profound acts of courage," he said. "They told the truth and they told the whole world the truth about what they saw."

He continued: "We owe them our gratitude for fulfilling their civic duty and for their courage in telling the truth."

Ellison acknowledged the millions of protesters who raised their voices against police brutality and injustice after Floyd's murder.

"His death shocked the conscience of our community, our country, the whole world," Ellison said.

But he urged protesters to honor Floyd's legacy "calmly, legally and peacefully."

"I urge everyone to continue the journey to transformation and justice."

Ellison addressed the Floyd family who he said had to relive the trauma and pain over and over again. "They have shown the world what grace and class and courage really look like."

"Although a verdict alone cannot end their pain, I hope it's another step in a long path toward healing for them. There is no replacing your beloved Perry, or 'Floyd,' as his friends called him. But he is the one who sparked a worldwide movement, and that's important."

Speaking of the jurors who were quick to find Chauvin guilty of all the charges against him, Ellison said, "They answered the call, and they served in a landmark trial."

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Vanessa Romo
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.