El Pasoans react to guilty verdict in Chauvin trial

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — On Tuesday, jurors found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all charges for the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin was found guilty of murder in the second and third degree and manslaughter.

The jury reached its verdict after deliberating about 10 hours over two days in a city on edge against another outbreak of unrest.

While people hugged and cheered outside the courthouse in Minneapolis, similar sentiments were felt all the way in El Paso by some.

“It’s such a bittersweet feeling, like of course I’m ecstatic,” Kyra Lewis, the Vice President of UTEP’s Black Student Union, said.

Lewis joined many other El Pasoans in the protests last summer outside of the El Paso Police Headquarters, Memorial Park and Downtown El Paso following Floyd’s death.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was declared dead after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes on May 25. Floyd was arrested on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a convenience store. 

His death sparked outrage throughout the nation and unrest over police brutality.

Lewis said she waited the jury’s verdict all day, anticipating a guilty outcome because of the witness testimony and evidence including bodycam footage of Floyd’s arrest.

“There was not a lot of room for error in the witnessing so for me that’s what made me anxious to see what the verdict was,” Lewis said.

Lewis said she thinks the amount of attention on the trial, starting from the nationwide protests, had some impact on the verdict.

“I personally feel that this verdict is reactionary, I think because of the outcry, because of the video in the George Floyd arrest, the huge media outcry, the huge public outcry, I think that may have had something to do with it as well,” Lewis said.

Diego Carlos, a local educator, was arrested while protesting in Downtown El Paso last summer. He told KTSM the protests began a conversation nationwide to hold officials accountable.

“The attention painted in this issue is instrumental to holding the people involved accountable, if we didn’t have the video we wouldn’t have the protest,” Carlos said.

He said he teaches his students to look at this case as an example of social justice.

“I let them know that you play an important part here and its vital to how this country is run,” Carlos said. “It is about staying aware and putting pressure on officials to hold people accountable and to hold people who break the law, who murder accountable and this is a great example of how our criminal justice system should work.”

However, Justin Underwood, a local attorney, said he believes in this high-profile case, jurors should’ve at least been sequestered since the beginning of the trial and not just during the deliberation.

“In Texas on a case like this, that jury should’ve and would’ve been sequestered from the onset so any comments that were made while the trial was going on, the jury is insolated from so any comments from politicians or the media,” Underwood said.

Lewis and Carlos said however, the search for social justice doesn’t end with a guilty verdict. They both tell KTSM it isn’t the end of the road and said people need to continue demanding reform and change from their local officials.

The sentencing hearing is expected to begin in about eight weeks, and Chauvin can face up to 40 years in prison for the most serious charge.

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