The Chauvin Trial So Far
Added 04-08-21 09:31:02am EST - “Here in Minnesota and around the country, all eyes are on the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the alleged murder of George Floyd. We are nearing the end of the prosecution's case, so this is perhaps an…” - Powerlineblog.com
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Here in Minnesota and around the country, all eyes are on the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the alleged murder of George Floyd. We are nearing the end of the prosecution’s case, so this is perhaps an opportune moment to assess what has happened so far. While not listening to every moment of the testimony, I have followed the trial closely. Much could be said, but here are a few big-picture observations:
* The defense got off to a slow start. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s only in-court lawyer, was rather passive during jury selection and, I thought, delivered a sub-par opening statement. But he has gained steam during cross-examination of the state’s witnesses, which he has done skillfully. And the jury has seen him as one fallible man standing against the immense power of the state. This might create sympathy in unexpected quarters.
* The state preemptively showed the officers’ body cam videos that revealed, not just the last minutes while Floyd was being restrained on the street, but the 20 minutes or so that preceded. This was certainly a revelation to most or all of the jurors. Based on their answers during jury selection, they had all seen the famous last nine minutes that were posted on social media by a bystander, but had no idea of how George Floyd, big and strong and out of his mind on drugs, had battled police officers to a standoff, culminating in their acceding to his demand that he lie on the street rather than sit in the back of their squad car while waiting for an ambulance. Jurors also were probably surprised to learn that Floyd had been foaming at the mouth and complaining of not being able to breathe from the moment when officers came on the scene.
* George Floyd’s girlfriend was a key witness. The state tried to present her as a let’s-go-for-a-walk-in-the-park flower child, but it soon became evident on cross-examination that she and Floyd were drug addicts. This was the first time the jury learned that Floyd’s death may have been caused by a fentanyl overdose, not by police officers kneeling on him. In fact, Floyd overdosed on fentanyl in March, just two months before his death, and spent five days in the hospital. Perhaps he took just a little bit more, a fatal overdose, in May.
* The state presented a parade of Minneapolis Police Department witnesses, including the Chief of Police, who threw Chauvin under the bus, alleging that he violated MPD policies in his restraint of Floyd. They were followed by use-of-force expert witnesses. But how did the jury view this testimony? Jurors may have been surprised to learn that there was nothing wrong with kneeling on Floyd on the street. That was consistent with MPD guidelines, and the experts agreed it was fine. Their complaint is that Chauvin and the others should have gotten off Floyd when he stopped struggling and grew quiet, and should have turned him over on his side. But there is no MPD policy that clearly states this. Rather, the Chief and other witnesses expressed their opinions as to how the broad, general use-of-force policy should be applied in this instance.
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