Gayle King on George Floyd Verdict: 'It's Too Early for a Victory Lap' (Exclusive)

King says it's 'too early' for a victory lap but sees the verdict as a sign of what's possible.

Gayle King was finally able to sleep at night after the Derek Chauvin trial verdict came out on Tuesday.

The CBS This Morning co-host tells ET's Kevin Frazier that she was so anxious before they announced the verdict that she couldn't sleep or eat because "there was so much at stake."

The former Minneapolis police officer, who was seen in videos kneeling on the late George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was found guilty on all charges. 

Before the verdict was revealed, King recalls people being tense and afraid. She shares that it was her first time in Minneapolis and at the George Floyd memorial. "It was such a sacred place and you can see what this city is going through," she says. "I was afraid. It's the first time I’ve ever been on a trip on the road where security asked me what's my blood type. I was like, 'Uh am I going to need a blood transfusion?' I've never been asked that question so that was a little daunting coming in." 

When Chauvin's three guilty counts were given, King says the general mood was "pure jubilation" and happiness. "You know many people had prayed for this verdict to come out this way but three for three -- even the most optimistic people didn't think that would be the outcome," she adds. 

On Monday night, King and CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell co-hosted The Chauvin Verdict, a live, one-hour special on the trial of Chauvin for the death of Floyd. The special featured CBS News correspondents looking at the trial, the impact of the case on policing and what Floyd's death means for the country going forward. The anchors drew comparisons between the trial and the 1992 acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King, resulting in widespread rioting. 

King brings up the Rodney video with Frazier, pinpointing it as a prime example of why many Black people weren't sure Chauvin would be convicted. 

"We did an interview with [Governor Tim Walz] this morning and he said something very interesting. I asked if he was surprised and he said, 'You know, as a white person I was not surprised, how could it turn out any other way?' But every Black person I know, every Black friend said, 'Well, I don't know,'" she notes. "Isn't it something that you can have something that appears to be so concrete and still not feel confident? But I don't know anybody of color who thought, 'Yeah, this is a slam dunk.' And if you doubt that, look at the Rodney King video. We did a primetime special last night where I hadn't seen that video in years. He was beaten within an inch of his life. Twenty-five years old at the time and all of those officers were acquitted."

Despite any joy in Chauvin being held accountable, King notes that it's "too early" for any victory laps or to see if this case will truly spark a change in future situations. But, the moment should still be "savored" as it's a historical one.

"You know so many cases, time after time after time, where people didn't feel that police were held accountable. It's extremely rare for a police officer to be convicted, and certainly to be convicted of killing a person of color," she says. "It has never happened in the state of Minnesota ever. I think that it remains to be seen, but Kevin, I have to tell you, it sure feels like a change... We're all very sorry that George Floyd lost his life the way he did -- we'll never get that image out of our mind. But we are now hoping that maybe, just maybe things will be different. People are at least talking about it in a way they haven't before."

CNN correspondent Sara Sidner echos King's sentiments, telling Frazier that she'll be remaining in Minneapolis to continue her coverage after the verdict because "there are people more important than myself who need space to talk and take it in and tell their story."

She adds: "This is not the first time that something like this has happened between police and the Black community and it is not the last time. There is the funeral tomorrow of Daunte Wright, there is a wake today for Daunte and so, there is more to be said, there is more to be told and there are people there to tell it."

When asked how the country moves forward after the trial, Sidner admits that she doesn't know the answer. "I don't even know how I'm gonna move forward. So, I don't know how the country moves forward; but I know one thing. It will," she says. "I know that in my heart. We can get better, we can heal. All of us. Black, white, Latino, Asian -- we can all get better. We can all move forward together. It's gonna take some work. It's gonna take some work. Hard work. But we can do it."

King agrees, although she notes that this historical moment does not mean she -- or anyone else -- can relax. "We all know there's going to be another one of these. This isn't the last one," she says. "There's going to be another one because the systems are not in place yet, I get that, but at least I see maybe there is light at the end of a very dark tunnel... There's still a lot of hard work to do but what I sense is that there are people who want to do the work."