In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin arrives for the verdict in his trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Court TV via AP, Pool

Before Tuesday’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial came in, attorney Jim Howaniec had been taking a poll of some other area lawyers. 

Of 11 attorneys questioned, Howaniec said, nine had predicted guilty verdicts across the board while two anticipated a hung jury. 

As stunning as the verdict was for many, it was not an outright surprise for those who had been following the case closely. The video imagery of George Floyd dying under Chauvin’s knee was too much to be discarded by the jury. 

“It’s a tragedy,” Howniec said, “but when when Floyd was handcuffed face down, the dynamic changed. That pretty much sealed the verdict for me. In the end, I just think that his conduct was pretty difficult to explain away and that’s the way the jury looked at it, obviously.” 

Around the community, people reacted in different ways to the verdict. Some weren’t as concerned with the outcome of the trial as they were about what the consequences will be. 

“Regardless of the final outcome, we should be appreciative of our judicial process and all those involved,” said Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque. “It’s imperative that we recognize that the vast majority of law enforcement personal work tirelessly to provide a high degree of service to the communities they serve and should never be typecast by the actions of a few.” 

Lewiston School Superintendent Jake Langlais put out a press release advising restraint even before the verdict was read. 

“With a verdict to be shared soon,” he wrote Tuesday afternoon, “I hope and pray three things: that justice be served, that we pause to reflect on what this tragedy, trial, and outcome has meant to someone who lives a life different from your own, and that space for reflection remains a safe thing.  

“This and too many other incidents of harm weigh heavily on our neighbors and our community,” Langlais wrote. “As pressure mounts we must ensure time and space for processing.” 

Others worry that the verdict will further aggravate what has already been a growing distrust for police. Some officers even fault Chauvin for bolstering those negative stereotypes. 

“What got me was his indifference and obstinance,” said Tim Lajoie, former Lewiston city councilor and longtime officer at the Androscoggin County Jail. “Even when Floyd asked for help and stopped breathing. He just didn’t seem to care, even when neutral bystanders called his attention to it. I don’t care what Floyd did. The law enforcement officer is held to a higher standard. What happened there, in my opinion, is more indicative of the kind of man Chauvin was than what kind of man Floyd was.  

“I don’t think he intended to kill him, but he needs to be held accountable,” Lajoie said. “I don’t think even the pro-law enforcement public liked what they saw. This whole thing is a black eye on the profession, where many good and decent men serve the public with honor. It’s a damn shame — and it will be years before it heals.” 

Howaniec and other lawyers may not have been surprised by the verdict, but they were rather surprised by how swiftly it came. 

“You had some pretty elaborate instructions on multiple options for the jury,” he said. “There wasn’t a single question, a single note from the jury. I was surprised, obviously, when I heard how quickly the verdict came back. That was obviously a bad sign for the defendant.” 

Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson was content with the fact that the case was presented, defended and then ultimately decided by a jury.

“I think this is proof that our justice system works if people give it a chance,” Samson said.

Some were also concerned that outside influences may have prompted the jury to act swiftly in their deliberations. Over the weekend Congresswoman Maxine Waters gave a public speech urging protesters to “get more confrontational” if they did not get the verdict they wanted. 

Even President Joe Biden declared that he was praying for “the right verdict” in the trial, which irked the judge presiding over the case. 

“I was surprised by that,” Howaniec said of Biden’s comments. “As a defense lawyer, you really just get frustrated when something like that happens.” 

Howaniec expects that those matters and others will result in an appeal of the verdict. 

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