Below is my column in USA Today on the approaching trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for its alleged murder of George Floyd. Up to now, many in the media have failed to flex their particular weight to go over the countervailing proof in the case. Indeed, there’s a real danger of a cascading collapse in the instance in which a reduction in the Chauvin instance might bring down the cases against all four officers. This possible domino effect is the end consequence of making the 3 other cases dependent on the foundation murder/manslaughter fee against Chauvin.
Here’s the column:
The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin at the passing of George Floyd is scheduled to start March 29 after the difficult job of choosing a jury. The difficulty is not in finding a jury which reflects the community however, finding one that does not.
1 juror was dismissed by then after he admitted that he feared his or her family would be harmed if Chauvin was acquitted. Another was dismissed after saying land damage through the Black Lives Issue protests might have been necessary to achieve justice. Their problem was that they mirrored their community all too well.
Judging in the encampment around the waiver together with barbed wire, fencing and safety, police are conscious of the prospect of violence. The best danger, however, might be seen in how the prosecution has organised the case — and also the danger of a cascading collapse of not only the Chauvin case however of these cases against all four officers.
An unstable and vulnerable approach
The prosecutors assembled the cases against Chauvin, Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and also Tou Thao like an upside pyramid resting on a certainty of Chauvin. The main charges against Kueng, Land and Thao are as aiders and abettors to Chauvin’s alleged murder or manslaughter. In case Chauvin is acquitted or the prosecution hangs on the chargesthe prosecution of the other 3 officers becomes exceptionally difficult.
Prosecutors are conscious of the uncertainty and vulnerability of the strategy. For that reason, they fought to reestablish a third-degree murder claim to give the jury yet another alternative for a compromise verdict between the second-degree murder assert along with the second-degree manslaughter case. In a case that’s best suited for a manslaughter assert, there’s a probability of overcharging a case that undermines the narrative of the prosecution. The second-degree murder assert does not need intention to murder Floyd but nevertheless needs a murder perpetrated in the course of another felony. The third-degree murder fee requires a showing that Chauvin committed”an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, with regard to individual life. “
There are a number of very important challenges for the prosecution, even with all the infamous videotape of all Chauvin together along with his knee on Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes. There is a definite fear that mentioning countervailing defense arguments will trigger claims of racism or insensitivity to police abuse.
►When called to the scene due to Floyd supposedly passing counterfeit cash, Floyd denied using drugs but afterwards said he had been”hooping,” or taking drugs.
►The autopsy didn’t conclude that even Floyd died from asphyxiation (though a household pathologist created that finding). Rather, it discovered”cardiopulmonary arrest while still being restrained by law police officer(s).” The state’s criminal complaint against Chauvin said the autopsy”showed no actual findings which support an investigation of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health issues such as coronary heart disease and hypertensive heart disease.”
►Andrew Baker, Hennepin County’s chief medical examiner, strongly suggestedthat the primary cause was a huge amount of fentanyl in Floyd’s method:”Fentanyl in 11 ng/ml — this is higher than (a) chronic pain patient. If he had been found dead in home alone & no other obvious causes, this might be acceptable to predict an OD (overdose). Deaths have been licensed w/levels of 3.” Baker also told researchers that the autopsy showed no actual signs indicating Floyd died of asphyxiation.
►The toxicology report on Floyd’s blood also reported that”in fatalities from fentanyl, blood concentrations are variable and have been reported as much as 3 ng/ml.” Floyd had almost four times the level of fentanyl considered possibly deadly.
►Floyd especially repeatedly said that he couldn’t breathe while sitting at the police cruiser and before he had been restrained on the ground. That is in agreement with the level of fentanyl within his system which could cause”slowed or stopped breathing.”
►Finally, the restraint using an officer’s knee in an uncooperative defendant was a part of the practice of officers, and jurors will observe training videotapes employing the same type of restraint just as official policy.
Considerable challenges in proving this case
These facts do not violate a claim of manslaughter because Floyd was obviously in distress, and Lane suggested that the officers proceed Floyd in light of the complaints. Chauvin overruled that suggestion.
Despite a manslaughter conviction, however, the case against officers like Lane will be tough. Lane is shown as the officer who first confronted Floyd after he refused to reveal his hands. Lane yelled at Floyd to show his hands. After Floyd responded,”Please don’t shoot me, man,” Lane said,”I’m not shooting at you, man.” Afterwards, when Floyd struggled not to get into the police vehicle and he cannot breathe, then Lane is noticed offering to sit with himroll down the windows and turn the air conditioning. It’s also Lane (who’d just been on the drive a couple days) who encourages Chauvin to move Floyd in the knee restraint position.
Lane might never find a trial in the event the case against Chauvin fails and triggers a cascading collapse. Not only could Chauvin be acquitted or left having a hung jury, however, also the effect might be the collapse of all four cases. That will probably be up to the prosecution. However, if there’s violence after the verdict, then it’ll be far worse if the people is not aware upfront of the severe challenges in proving this circumstance.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @JonathanTurley
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