Md. Lawmakers on Chauvin Murder Conviction: ‘We Still Have So Much Work to Do’

Police reform protesters gather at Lawyers Mall. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

As the nation reacted following the verdict that declared former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts for the murder of George Floyd, Maryland lawmakers said that it isn’t enough and there’s more work to be done to prevent police brutality.

“There is never anything Just that comes from extrajudicial killings in the US,” tweeted Del. Julian Ivey (D-Prince George’s). “Mr. Floyd should still be here.”

Over the course of the General Assembly’s interim last year, Ivey tweeted pictures of the victims of police brutality every day for well over 100 days in a call for leadership to convene a special session to address police brutality.

That special session never happened.

But House and Senate lawmakers were hard at work crafting a sweeping police reform package that passed earlier this month and will go into effect without the approval of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).

“Accountability,” Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) tweeted moments after the verdict was announced. “And yet, we still have so much work to do together to avoid having to hope for a just verdict in a future case. Most importantly, we need to do the work to implement the reforms that will stop injustice in the first place.”

Lawmakers who championed the police reform package breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday, both in regards to the verdict and the possibility that their work could prevent other tragedies and quash doubts about officer accountability in future deaths.

“I’m not surprised by the verdict,” said Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City).

She told Maryland Matters in a brief phone interview Tuesday following the jury’s decision that she had quietly predicted this among friends earlier in the day.

Based on the prosecution’s summary of the facts delivered during their closing argument, Carter felt like the case had been made.

“I have to think about this in connection with Maryland’s legislation we just passed,” she said, highlighting the use of force policy, specifically. “I think it would be clear [under this law] that the actions that Derek Chauvin” and the other officers that neglected to intervene took ”violated the use of force.”

House Judiciary Committee Vice Chair Vanessa E. Atterbeary (D-Howard), who chaired Speaker Adrienne A. Jones’ workgroup that made police reform recommendations, said that the General Assembly worked to create preventative measures so that incidents like Floyd’s murder don’t happen.

“What we did here in Maryland and what we tried to do” regarding officer intervention and training “was preventative,” she told Maryland Matters. “All of these things are on the preventative side. The whole use of force statute … it’s preventative.”

Atterbeary said that Floyd’s murder was the “beginning of our legislative movement.”

“As tragic as what happened to him is … what happened to him was not in vain” because it’s reignited the march towards police reform — “which has been around for a long time,” she said. “I think the whole country was just waiting on the edge of their seats to see what the jury would do, and I thank God that it was guilty, guilty, guilty.”

“Bad police officers be on notice. Period.”

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Editor’s note: For on-the-ground coverage of the Chauvin verdict and its aftermath, we recommend checking out the Minnesota Reformer.

Hannah Gaskill
Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.