Statement by Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, Jr. On Conviction of Derek Chauvin, Systemic Racism, and Peaceful Protest


April 20, 2021

“The guilty verdict in the murder trial of police officer Derek Chauvin delivers a powerful message to our nation – and the world – affirming the intrinsic value of George Floyd’s life while repudiating the barbaric actions of his killer and the excessive use of force by police in general. For millions of Americans, this trial awakened fresh feelings of heartbreak, horror, and outrage that they experienced upon first watching video of Mr. Floyd’s senseless and brutal murder.
 
With this landmark verdict, our justice system faces an inflection point. Our arrival here owes as much to centuries of systemic racism embedded in the very fabric of our society as it does to Mr. Chauvin’s reprehensible disregard for Mr. Floyd’s life. Because while this conviction brings a modicum of much-needed justice to the family of George Floyd, it does not, of course, bring him back nor does it deliver justice to the families of the numerous Black men, women, and children whose needless deaths at the hands of police resulted in no criminal accountability – whether in recent years or across every generation of American history.
 
Reversing this enduring, traumatic, and deeply unequal legacy isn’t up to twelve jurors in Minnesota. It’s up to us. And for law enforcement leaders, the only way to meet the moral imperative of this moment is to enact policies which move our justice system forward and show every citizen in every community that Black lives matter and police violence is a crime. 
 
During last summer’s demonstrations, my Office established a new policy to decline to prosecute arrests on charges of Unlawful Assembly and Disorderly Conduct. With our city and nation once again at a crossroads in our continuing endeavor to confront systemic racism and police violence, I want to make clear that the Manhattan D.A.’s Office will continue to protect New Yorkers’ right to peaceful protest in the aftermath of this trial. More broadly, as prosecutors, we will continue to recognize our profound power and responsibility to implement anti-racist policies that reform our justice system and help build a more just, fair, safe, and equitable society.”