Bad cop, coerced verdicts
We cannot say the verdict of guilty on all three counts in the George Floyd trial today is unwarranted. It’s certainly not surprising. But it may be as political as it is judicial.
Every state writes its own criminal statutes. Conviction on second-degree murder feels like a stretch. Officer Derek Chauvin did not kill Floyd while committing a felony. Chauvin was not robbing the store or (for that matter) passing a counterfeit bill. (Which is the same thing, actually.)
On third-degree murder, Minnesota requires an action that was “eminently dangerous” and carried out with a “reckless disregard.” Driving an automobile at high speed through a pedestrian mall at noon on Saturday would qualify. (You may not intend to kill anyone but it would be a miracle if you didn’t.)
Is that the same thing as pressing one’s knee on the neck of criminal suspect who had vigorously resisted arrest but doing so a minute or two beyond what proved necessary? Because that is what it comes down to: a minute or two of indiscretion. Or was it depraved indifference? Or was it murderous intent? That’s a lot of parsing.
If Derek Chauvin had cried out, like Johnny Cash in that song, “You’re going to die” — case closed. But no such invective was heard. An appeals court might whittle the case down to second-degree manslaughter. requires only “culpable negligence.” Poor police procedure, for which Chauvin was justly terminated from the force.
Where was Henry Fonda …
… in Twelve Angry Men? In any event, the jury made quick work of the case. Too quick, given the subtleties of the laws in question, the dangerous drugs running through Mr. Floyd’s system, and those two or three minutes. Not even a full day of deliberation. No requests for clarification.
The Chauvin/Floyd trial may not have been a political show trial. That said, the shortest straw in policing is to have a black man die on the call of a white officer, post Michael Brown, Ferguson MO (where the police officer was clearly acting in self defense) and so many others. Too many, for all kinds of reasons — not all of them racial.
Before the trial ever began, the City of Minneapolis paid out millions of dollars to the bereaved family. The jury was sent home for the weekend, allowing it to “marinate” on the shooting death of another black man, Daunte Wright, in a Twin Cities suburb. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters flew in from either Washington D.C. or Los Angeles CA over the weekend to roil the crowd, to “Get more confrontational” if Chauvin were acquitted. In a city that was already burning. Rep. Waters was only the point of the spear. When has a presiding judge almost invited an appeal?
Let’s put it this way: Guilty on all three counts was the course of least resistance. Do you want to be the brave soul who hangs the jury and frees Chauvin? Better pray you don’t get doxxed by a juror who voted to convict.
Face time for the Reverend
There was the biggest race huckster of all time, Al Sharpton — the inspiration for Jussie Smollett, in front of the cameras. Followed by speaker after speaker (including George Floyd’s rather impressive brother, Philonise), Sharpton never once stepped out of the camera’s view.
If this criminal trial were the least bit political, it would not be the first. O.J. Simpson was found not guilty and Captain Alfred Dreyfus judged guilty (as was an itinerant preacher in ancient Judea).
The archives recall a State of Wisconsin functionary who endured trial for “steering” a minor government contract to a travel agency whose owner had contributed to the campaign of Gov. Jim Doyle. The company made the low bid, it met all the specs, the campaign contribution was legal. But the zeitgeist of the early 2000s suspected government corruption in every corner. The TV reporter who broke the story reaped journalistic awards. The woman was convicted and sent to a federal penitentiary. Only months later was she released by an appalled appeals court that found the evidence against her “beyond thin.” (Story here.)
Another down payment for racial justice?
What is Derek Chauvin’s life expectancy if he spends any time in prison — a white police officer convicted of killing a black man amidst what statistics tell us will be a predominantly black prison population? Anyone remember the fate of Jeffrey Dahmer?
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Mainstream law enforcement needed a Derek Chauvin to throw over the side. The crowd got its Barabbas but will it be appeased?