Two Valley lawyers who have worked on police officers' criminal cases say the Derek Chauvin verdict may be a turning point in how the justice system handles crimes involving on-duty law enforcement officers.
On Tuesday, Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts against him, including second-degree murder, for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.
Defense attorney Craig Mehrens represented several Arizona officers accused of murder at various stages in their cases. His clients include former Chandler Officer Dan Lovelace and former Mesa Officer Philip Brailsford. Both officers shot unarmed people while on duty. Both former officers stood trial for second-degree murder and were acquitted.
Mehrens said policing is "a tough job." He differentiated these Arizona cases from Chauvin's case on the basis of decision time.
Brailsford and Lovelace made split-second decisions to use deadly force.
"Conscientious jurors understand that and appreciate that argument," Mehrens said.
Chauvin made a decision to put his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.
"He continued to make it long after when any reasonable person would have done something differently," Mehrens said.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley charged Lovelace in 2002 and former Phoenix officer Richard Chrisman in 2010.
Chrisman killed an unarmed man during a domestic violence call. The ex-officer pleaded guilty to manslaughter to avoid a second trial after the jury couldn't come to a unanimous verdict on the second-degree murder charge.
Romley said decisions to charge officers were difficult and he often faced backlash from police unions.
"I think that [officers] get beyond the benefit of the doubt," Romley said. "I think it's very difficult for someone to ever convict a police officer, regardless of the circumstances."
Romley said Floyd's death and Chauvin's trial have started the discussion all over America about how policing, in general, should change.
"I hope that, that this will, throughout the United States, maybe let some departments or some officers think a little differently," Mehrens said.
Minneapolis's police chief knocked down the "blue wall of silence" to testify about his officer's crime. Mehrens said that may lead other police leaders to also condemn officer misconduct in the best interest of justice.