Minnesota trial of Derek Chauvin (killer of George Floyd) follow along thread

Mods can feel free to move if this is better suited to GD or MPSIMS.

I didn’t see a thread to follow along the trial, so here’s one. I found the dispatcher’s testimony yesterday compelling – I hadn’t known about her alarm about what she saw prior to this.

That was news to me too.

How did they ever find jurors who hadn’t seen that video?

I haven’t seen it - and I lived about eight blocks from that corner and now live eight miles away. I was moving my youngest to their first apartment in Massachusetts when it happened, and spent two weeks out there…without a lot of access to news, just my phone. So I saw my friend’s Facebook feeds (some of them were in the middle of it), but it was really distant.

I haven’t seen it, I don’t think. I didn’t seek it out in any case.

My wife and I (both lawyers) were discussing this case this a.m., in the context of wondering what percentage of lawyer jobs aren’t just horribly boring. We mentioned the Chauvin case as currently one of the highest profile legal matters, and the past several weeks were spent seating a jury. (My wife was recently on jury duty and fell asleep and was awakened by a deputy during voir dire!)

Not suggesting this case is unimportant. Just observing as to the tedium involved in how the vast majority of law is practiced.

I think they said most of the jurors hadn’t seen the full video. I know what they showed in the opening statements was more than I had seen in news clips.
I felt so sorry for the second witness! Some people just don’t live in that space and understand how they’re coming across to the general public. If my very limited understanding of these issues are correct, they needed to have her on the stand if they were going to use her video, so that the defense would have the opportunity to cross-examine. I’m glad they brought her in early and sandwiched her between two very strong witnesses.

Initial impressions from a Minnesotan who’s watching the thing from start to finish and has watched numerous other trials and has not formed an opinion on guilt or innocence:

  1. Unlike some cases where the judge is obviously biased or one of the lawyers is a nincompoop, everyone involved appears to be fair an competent.

  2. Local government seems to be going out of their way to try to direct a guilty verdict by tainting the jury, which is going to create appeal issue number 1 in the event of a conviction. Not just by announcing the civil settlement, but they’ve been publicly calling Chauvin guilty since the original incident

  3. It should be noted that in the even of a conviction, despite the “40 years” thrown out, that’s not going to happen. The upper range of the sentencing guideline for a first offender for either Unintentional Murder 2 or Murder 3 is 15 years, of which 2/3rds must be served before supervised release.

  4. In my opinion manslaughter is probably a shoo-in, the two murder counts are more shaky. To get an unintentional 2nd degree murder (what most states called felony murder but it’s a lesser offense in Minnesota) the state must prove that Chauvin’s restraint was a felony assault on Floyd, not a misdemeanor assault or even a lawful use of force. 3rd degree murder the case law is shaky as to whether the fact fit the charge and while a conviction is more likely is also more ripe for a post-conviction reversal.

  5. Both sides made a strategic error of picking a jury when they had strikes left. The jury seems fair and good go either way.

Yes, people watching online were definately chatting about this one. I won’t repeat what was said.

They could have prepared her better, or failing that, limited it to asking two questions: “What is your name, and is this your video”. Then played the video and left it at that.

I’m getting a real “hostile witness” kind of vibe here.

I understand his anger and wish I could give him some advice, but I don’t have any.

I agree that they have overcharged Chauvin. I watched the opening statements yesterday and felt that even if Chauvin did what the State says he did, it is manslaughter at best, and I think the defense has a fair shot at a full acquittal.

I don’t say that lightly as the portion of the video that we have all seen is fairly damning, but when the State, during its opening statement says something to the effect of “Yes, the decedent had a lethal amount of fentanyl in his system, but had used so many opioids during his lifetime that it shouldn’t be lethal for him, and that we will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this officer caused his death” your case is very shaky.

There’s no way for us to assume this was a strategic error. They knew who was next in line if they exercised another strike. This would include things they learned from their own juror research that wouldn’t be obvious to observers in court.

So, I have a question. The defense’s position is that Floyd did not die directly from Chauvin’s actions. That he had a heart attack brought on by drugs and bad health and adrenaline. Let’s pretend for a second that this is true (which I do not believe).What is Chauvin’s responsibility in that scenario? Floyd made numerous vocal statements that he was in distress. At a certain point he stops talking or moving. And yet Chauvin continues to hold Floyd down, makes no attempt to ascertain if Floyd is, indeed, in distress. Makes no attempt to try and alleviate any distress.
What is an officer’s duty to the health of a detainee? If he neglects that duty, what is the consequence? I’m looking for a legal answer.

Assuming the information that’s been bantered around last year is true that McNecksitter kneeled on the neck for 9 minutes (not sure how long after the cuffs were on) I can’t see how George could possibly have been a threat that long. It seems to me that, by itself would be enough for an assault to stick and if the victim dies that’s manslaughter.

Well, I’m worried that with you using a term like “McNecksitter” that you really aren’t interested in a meaningful discussion, but the defense will point out that this started at the end of a struggle where Floyd refused to get in the car and slid out the other side. They will also point out that the knee is not on his neck, but his shoulder and he was free to lift his head off of the ground and move from side to side. Further, far from being a man struggling to breath, he was speaking in rather articulable sentences.

From the video, the police also had their attention drawn to an increasingly hostile crowd that needed to be observed.

I honestly haven’t made up my mind in this case. I did last year, but after seeing the “before” video it puts the reasonableness of the officers’ actions in better context. I think manslaughter may yet be appropriate once I hear more from the disinterested witnesses about the propriety of that restraint method.

Also, why do you call him “George”? If you don’t know him personally, it seems as if “Floyd,” “George Floyd,” or even “Mr. Floyd” would all be appropriate, but it sounds odd that you and two of the state’s witnesses today have called him “George.”

He went limp while the dude was kneeling on him and then lost his pulse. Just looking (not from a legal perspective) at whether the officers actions were reasonable, they very clearly weren’t. Legally, it’s really hard to make the case that Chauvin isn’t responsible for Floyd’s death considering how he died while under the knee, and the autopsies that all cited the death as a homocide.

The only thing that makes the outcome of the manslaughter charge uncertain is America’s history with stuff like Rodney King.

None of that addresses the question asked, which is why the action would not be considered assault, or why it was necessary to hold him for that long.

People get to have emotions. It’s not wrong. Emotions do not make someone unreasonable–that is a(n informal) fallacy known as “tone policing.”

Again seemingly unrelated to the question asked, since it’s not about George Floyd. It would not change whether or not the action was or was not assault, nor whether or not the action involved caused his death.

Because they’re trying to make the point that he’s a real human being. Using last names is generally a way of distancing people from others. The tone is either formal or academic, depending on context. Since part of the case is arguing that the officer did not see George as human, it makes perfect sense to repeatedly emphasize his humanity to the jury.

I would actually expect this to be in the arsenal of most defense attorneys. There is an inherent bias against alleged criminals to see them as less than human. And unlike, say, having the defendant acting more feeble than they actually are, it’s not deceptive.

And any tactic that is good for the defense can be used in situations like this where the defense is expected to go all out attacking the victim. (And that is how police killing trials usually go. They try to put the victim on trial.)

Of course it is about George Floyd, the crowd, and any other surrounding circumstance. The officers are privileged to use reasonable force to make an arrest. Reasonableness takes into account the surrounding circumstances and Floyd’s prior actions on that day. Further, if he had a lethal level of fentanyl in his blood, that is relevant to causation of his death.

Of course he is a “real human being.” I don’t think anyone disputes that. However, calling him “George” shows a level of familiarity from these witnesses that seems forced. I understand why the State wants to do that, but I don’t think it will work with jurors.

If I was referring to this trial and saying things like “Derek may be convicted of manslaughter” or “Derek needs to testify” or “Derek should bring up point X” then you would rightly wonder why I am referring to him like he is my best friend.

As far as “attacking the victim” that is just a pejorative. As said above, Floyd’s actions are wholly relevant to Chauvin’s perception of the event. Indeed, even the bystanders’ reactions are. Just like this EMT that is testifying right now (4:58 EDT). She is dressed in her professional uniform in court, but on the video, she was off duty and sauntered right into their scene dressed in street clothes (not as she is dressed in court) and filming them with her cell phone. Again, the officers do not know who this person is and the State is criticizing the officers for pulling out pepper spray “on an EMT.”

I think if his attorney is competent, he is on his way for no worse than manslaughter and possibly an acquittal.

I missed this. Yes. it can work at times. Obviously, you don’t want John Smith’s wife to refer to him as “Mr. Smith.” And I might refer to him as “John” because I obviously know him. But to have a stranger, a witness to a strange event, call him “John” sounds odd to my ears. Maybe it is a regional difference,

Sometimes it works the other way. After all, everyone else in court is being referred to by an honorific and if my guy is simply “John” it makes him look less in stature than everyone else.

Ok so the guy who died had two first names. Floyd, George, Boy George, Pink Floyd, take your pick. I don’t know the guy from a post other than from what I’ve heard he was known for lots of criminal activity. Still, I don’t see how Chauvin gets anything short of manslaughter. But, we’ll see how the case plays out.

I thought the witnesses today were very strong. The nine turning ten year old was impressive for her age. After the first defence question to the mma witness I had an idea of where they were heading and he did well sidestepping it.

It is early yet and the defence still has to go.