DES MOINES, Iowa – Attorney General of Iowa Tom Miller said he was “pleased” with former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the death of George Floyd last summer. U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said that justice was served in her response.
Chauvin was found guilty by a jury on Tuesday afternoon on all counts of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The verdict came back less than 24 hours after the three-week trial concluded on Monday.
Floyd died during an arrest when Chauvin placed his weight on Floyd’s neck. The incident was caught on video after the Minneapolis Police were called to respond to a forged check. Chauvin’s defense argued Floyd’s death was the result of fatal levels of fentanyl in his system and heart disease. The Hennepin County (Minnesota) Medical Examiner determined Chauvin’s actions to be partly responsible for Floyd’s death.
Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protesting, rioting, and calls for police reform by some, and calls to abolish the police by others. Des Moines, Davenport, Iowa City, and Waterloo all saw incidents of civil unrest last summer. Des Moines and Davenport also saw several nights of rioting.
The Iowa Legislature passed and Governor Kim Reynolds signed a police reform bill last summer that abolished chokeholds, gave the Attorney General the authority to prosecute police misconduct, prevents law enforcement officers with proven misconduct to move from agency to agency, and requires annual de-escalation training for law enforcement officers.
“I am pleased that there was accountability for the murder of George Floyd. Justice prevailed in this case. I acknowledge, however, that the struggle for equity and fairness in the justice system continues,” Miller said in a released statement.
He congratulated Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and his office for a successful prosecution and their “commitment to justice.”
“For years, my staff and I have worked on policies to address the disparate impact on people of color in the criminal justice system, especially concerning sentencing reform. Legislation addressing chokeholds and officer misconduct passed in Iowa last year in the wake of Floyd’s murder. I am committed to work for more reforms,” Miller said.
Before the verdict was read, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down 210 to 216 a resolution introduced by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., censuring U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., for a statement, she made about the trial that according to critics had the potential to incite violence. Waters attended a Black Lives Matter rally in Brooklyn Center, Minn, the site of another police shooting over the weekend.
“I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don’t, we cannot go away. We’ve got to stay on the street. We get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business,” she said responding to a reporter’s question.
Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over the Chauvin murder trial, denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial but stated she gave the defense grounds for appeal.
“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” he said.
The House vote was split along party lines with Iowa’s Republican U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Randy Feenstra voting in favor of the censure resolution and Axne voted against it.
“I support Leader McCarthy’s resolution to censure Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Words have consequences. As leaders, our words hold even more weight. Congresswoman Waters incited violence, and while leaders of her party are minimizing it, there are real consequences for Minnesotans whose streets and storefronts are being destroyed. She should be held accountable and we should all work together to lower the temperature in our nation’s political discourse,” she said.
Axne, late Tuesday afternoon, was silent about the vote but released a statement approving the verdict.
“For nearly a year, George Floyd’s memory and name have been the rallying cry of millions of Americans determined to see change in their communities, our laws, and the systems that still hold deep biases against Black men and women across this country,” she said. “Today, our nation took an important step forward in that struggle — proving that accountability is possible for such unmistakable abuses of power like those exhibited by Derek Chauvin last summer.”
“And while justice was served today, the efforts undertaken in George Floyd’s name – efforts to combat injustice and systemic racism — are unfinished. For the sake of all those whose justice is still unwritten, we must continue to demand the reforms that will protect people of color in this country from discrimination, bias, and abuse,” Axne added.