NEW YORK – When the verdicts came in — Guilty, Guilty, Guilty — Lucia Edmonds let out the breath she hadn't even realized she'd been holding.
The relief that the 91-year-old Black woman felt flooding over her when white former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted for killing George Floyd was hard-earned, coming after a lifetime of seeing other cases end differently.
“I was prepared for the fact that it might not be a guilty verdict because it’s happened so many times before," the Washington, D.C., resident said. She recalled the shock of the Rodney King case nearly three decades ago when four Los Angeles officers were acquitted of beating King, a Black motorist.
“I don’t know how they watched the video of Rodney King being beaten and not hold those officers to account,” Edmonds said. About the Chauvin verdict, she said, “I hope this means there is a shift in this country, but it’s too early for me to make that assumption." Still, she added: “Something feels different.”
The same sense of relief, of accountability served and crisis at least temporarily averted, was palpable across the United States on Tuesday after a jury found Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in killing Floyd, a Black man who took his last breath pinned to the street with the officer's knee on his neck.
But when it came to what's next for America, the reaction was more hesitant. Some were hopeful, pointing to the protests and sustained outcry over Floyd's death as signs of change to come, in policing and otherwise.
Others were more circumspect, wondering if one hopeful result really meant the start of something better in a country with a history of racial injustice, especially in the treatment of Black people at the hands of law enforcement.
With all the relief and gratitude 68-year-old Kemp Harris, a retired kindergarten teacher in Cambridge, Mass., felt upon hearing the verdict, it was tempered by what he'd seen in the much more recent past: The deaths of Daunte Wright in Minnesota and of Adam Toledo in Chicago.