Criminal Justice

ABA president responds to George Floyd’s death in police custody and subsequent protests

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George Floyd protests

Protesters march in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody Monday. Image from

As protests over George Floyd’s death continue to erupt in Minneapolis and other parts of the country, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez implored Americans that “tragic events must not define our nation” and that “we stand unified in the principle of equal justice for all.”

In a statement Friday, Martinez said the ABA is “troubled and saddened by events in Minneapolis and other places that underscore the violence against people of color—including police brutality—that still plagues our country despite the great strides our nation has made in recent decades to advance justice and civil rights.”

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died Monday after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground, pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck and ignoring Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. The officer, and three other officers at the scene, were fired after a video of the incident was released.

Floyd’s death is under investigation, and according to CNN, the police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and he was taken into custody by state authorities Friday.

The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, who were also black and unarmed, have also sparked national outcry in recent weeks. Arbery was shot in February by two white men while jogging outside Brunswick, Georgia, while Taylor was shot in March in Louisville, Kentucky, by plainclothes police officers who broke into her home looking for items that belonged to her ex-boyfriend.

Martinez contended that while society relies on the rule of law, the law “must be fairly applied and enforced.”

“All citizens need to have faith that our justice system is fair, and our laws are applied equitably,” she continued. “It also is essential that laws and authority are respected and followed.”

Martinez said she also recognized that most police officers, prosecutors and judges “do their jobs with honor, fairness and integrity,” just as most protesters exercise their rights to assemble and speak freely “in a peaceful and orderly manner.”

“Public trust must be rebuilt and fortified,” Martinez said. “Reforms must be introduced. The ABA will join efforts to develop and implement solutions.”

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