Following the verdict in the high-profile murder trial of Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, late-night hosts took a break from jokes and began their shows by somberly addressing the conviction.
In one of the most closely watched trials in recent memory, a panel of jurors found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty on all three charges in connection with the May 2020 death of George Floyd.
Late-night comedians addressed the situation on their shows with many opting to put laughter aside in favor of some serious talk.
Stephen Colbert, for example, began his show without the usual fanfare of his band and instead spoke directly to his audience about the verdict and what he said it means for justice and the Black community in America.
“Just before the taping of our show today, the verdict was announced in the trial of Derek Chauvin. He was found guilty on all three counts in the death of George Floyd. After 10 hours of deliberation, a jury in Minneapolis decided that it’s illegal for the police to murder people. That Black lives matter,” the host said. “It’s hard to celebrate, because a man is still dead, but there is a sense of relief that at least this one injustice was not compounded with indifference. It could have easily gone the other way. No matter what you saw on that tape, this nation doesn’t have a great track record on this subject.”
He went on to more directly address Chauvin and the death of Floyd.
“At least in this case, this man faces accountability,” Colbert said. “But justice is a far more difficult goal. America still has a problem of over-policing and systemic racism. But hopefully, this is a step towards a future where police being held accountable for their actions isn’t headline material. And a hope that accountability today is a deterrent for tomorrow.”
Colbert’s late-night cohort on CBS, James Corden, also opted to begin his show with a brief, somber message to viewers ahead of his comedic opening monologue, noting that the verdict is a far cry from true justice for Floyd.
“While we are relieved that some justice has been served, the truth is the real justice will be George Floyd being alive today,” the “Late Late Show” host said. “Real justice would be Black Americans not having to live in fear of being stopped by police and killed, and surely that is a verdict that we need to work towards, and that can be the verdict that one day we can celebrate.”
Meanwhile, on “The Tonight Show,” Jimmy Fallon also took a brief moment to address the verdict before launching into his monologue. He began by highlighting calls for police reform and accountability in America that were sparked by the video involving Chauvin and Floyd.
“The courts did their job and justice was served and while this is a step in the right direction, there’s still a lot of work to be done,” the host told his viewers from behind his desk at the top of the hour. “Too often, justice isn’t served and the need for police reform remains. We all must continue to call out injustice until things change for the better.”
Finally, Jimmy Kimmel took a moment out of his opening in which he pulled no punches in his rebuke of Chauvin, noting that he hopes life behind bars will not be easy for the now-convicted murderer.
“After an emotional day in which three guilty verdicts were read in Minneapolis in the United States. I think we’re all grateful it went the way that it did,” the host said. “In this case the jury made the correct decision, a unanimous decision, which is a step in the right direction.”
“I hope the verdict itself brings comfort to the family of George Floyd and all those who mourn his death,” Kimmel added. “I’d also like to say, good luck in prison, Derek. You’ll need it. That’s right. I hope you’re there for a very long time.”
Cheers and cars honking could be heard outside the Hennepin County Courthouse as the verdict was read. Chauvin’s bail was immediately revoked and he was led away from the courtroom in handcuffs to await sentencing in custody. He is scheduled to be sentenced in eight weeks, according to the judge. His convictions could have him sentenced to prison for decades.