WASHINGTON, April 20 (Reuters) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday called the guilty verdict in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd "a giant step" toward justice in the United States.
Derek Chauvin, a white officer, was convicted after kneeling for more than nine minutes on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, during an arrest last May that set off worldwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
The 12-member jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty of all three charges — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter — after considering three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses.
"It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see," Biden said in nationally televised remarks. "Systemic racism is a stain on the nation's soul."
The Democratic president said the protests seen in the United States after Floyd's killing were something the nation had not witnessed since the civil rights movement and had unified people of different races.
"Nothing can ever bring their brother and father back," he said of the Floyd family, "but this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America."
Vice President Kamala Harris also delivered remarks, urging the U.S. Senate to pass the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act," which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and aims to stop aggressive law enforcement tactics that have targeted African Americans and other minorities.
"A measure of justice isn't the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer," said Harris, the first Black person, first Asian American and first woman to be vice president.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was praying for the "right verdict."
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Nandita Bose; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)