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'Justice By Video' Made Chauvin Case Different, Floyd Family Lawyer Says

NOEL KING, HOST:

This was the sound from George Floyd's family and his attorneys inside the courthouse yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF INSTAGRAM VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Cheering).

Yes. Yes.

KING: Chris Stewart posted that video to Instagram. He is the co-lead counsel for the Floyd family, and he's with us now. Good morning to you, Mr. Stewart.

CHRIS STEWART: Hey. Good morning. How are you?

KING: I'm very well. What was going through your mind yesterday when that verdict was read?

STEWART: Joy. Joy that we just hadn't felt and I personally hadn't felt in a long time when it comes to civil rights.

KING: Joy, I would imagine, in part because it is really rare to see a murder conviction for a police officer like we saw yesterday. What, in your mind, made this case different?

STEWART: You know, normally, I say justice by video is the only way that African Americans ever, you know, get prosecutions in this type of case. You know, I think back to when I had Walter Scott, which was the George Floyd of his time. I think that the quarantine trapped everybody into reality. You couldn't escape it, you know? Walter Scott was huge. It was worldwide for about a month.

KING: Yeah. I...

STEWART: And then people moved on. You know, you got back to work. You got back to your family. You got back to life. But when George Floyd happened, we were all trapped in our homes. You couldn't move on. You know, there was no going to work. There was no leaving the house. And so people that normally wouldn't care about the death of some Black man in Minnesota cared. And that was a first, but that was the beauty of it.

KING: Walter Scott was one - I was thinking yesterday about the families of Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant - I mean, so many names. And I wonder, what does this conviction mean for Black families across America? Or does it actually, in the end, mean nothing because they don't get their loved ones back, and in all of those cases, justice was not really served?

STEWART: Well, yeah. It's a situation where you want that same feeling that the Floyd family had. You know, and the Floyd family wanted that same feeling that the Walter Scott family, you know, eventually had, where the federal judge gave him 20 years. And the Scott family wanted the feeling that the family of Gregory Towns had, you know, when the judge gave one officer life and another one, I think, 18 months. And, you know, it's just a rare situation. I mean, out of the countless civil rights cases I've had, maybe five have led to situations like yesterday. And...

KING: Maybe five, wow.

STEWART: Yeah. And it's just not right, you know? It's - just because you want to hold an officer accountable does not mean you're against policing because I am actually an individual that has something called common sense. I could support policing, good policing, and I can stand up for civil rights when a cop kills somebody for no reason. You know, we've been pushed that you have to choose a side, which is pure stupidity. You know, you can support good police, and you can support victims that don't look like you, but you know they're a victim.

KING: Let me ask you about some of the subtleties in what you just said. Earlier today, we talked to Nekima Levy Armstrong. She's a civil rights lawyer in Minneapolis. I'm sure you know her name. And she said, this moment did not happen because the system worked; it happened because the people put in the work. What do you think about that? Is the system itself fundamentally broken?

STEWART: Well, the system is the people. And so she's exact right. The system worked because the people put in work, and when something has a bright light shined upon it, it functions properly, you know? So if there were no videos, if there were no bystanders screaming, get off him, if - you know, if no one was paying attention, we never would have heard of this case. I never would have even been brought in, and the world wouldn't have made it go viral. It's hard to not do your job when everybody's watching.

KING: Well, Chris Stewart, co-lead counsel for the Floyd family, I want to thank you for joining us on this day. We really appreciate your time.

STEWART: Anytime.

(SOUNDBITE OF DISTANT.LO'S "SILHOUETTE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.