GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Americans across the nation will remember where they were when they heard Minnesota Judge Peter Cahill announce a guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd.
“Are these your verdict? So say you one, so say you all,” Cahill said to the jurors, after deciding on second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges against Chauvin.
A year after George Floyd was murdered, some coastal residents see it as a sign of progress in police accountability.
Morning Star Baptist Church pastor John Whitfield was at his church watching the trial, reflecting on the outcome nearly a year after Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck.
“I’ve gone through many different emotions,” Whitfield said. “This is such an important verdict.”
He joins others along the Coast breathing a sigh of relief after witnessing what they say is accountability for Floyd’s murder.
“There were a lot of people from all walks of life who were really hoping this was the verdict that would come about,” JZ94.5 personality Tabari Daniels said.
Many hope the aftermath of the trial will continue with progress on police reform, criminal justice and racism across the nation.
“How it plays itself out is dependent on how we respond to this verdict,” Whitfield said.
Community leaders want to see people come together on those issues once again like they did after George Floyd’s death.
“Start the conversation again,” Whitfield said.
Both Whitfield and Daniels helped organize some of the unity marches held along the Mississippi Coast. They reflect on last year’s demonstrations and how they brought different races, religions and professions together.
“This wasn’t a case of us against them. This was a case of people in the community saw something wrong and united,” Daniels said.
Ultimately, leaders want to see progress both in ways of life and in communities.
“I hope that we would see there’s a different attitude among people, a better respect, a healthier respect,” Whitfield said.
In Minnesota, the maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years and second-degree manslaughter is up to 10 years.
However, offenders with no criminal history could get less time due to sentencing guidelines.
Former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao, Thomas Kiernan Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng, who also responded with Chauvin to the call that ended in Floyd’s death, are scheduled to face trial in August.