“Believe Your Eyes, Chauvin’s Knee Killed Floyd”: How The Line Between The Press and The Prosecution Disappeared In The Chauvin Trial

I previously wrote a column warning that media coverage of the George Floyd trial of Derek Chauvin was dangerously incomplete and slanted. The concern was that the public was not being informed of strong defense arguments that would be used at the trial. The danger is that any acquittal or hung jury would then come as an even greater surprise — contributing to more rioting and violence. The coverage of the final day of the trial only magnified those concerns as legal experts and journalists seemed more set on advocating than reporting on the underlying issues.

Those concerns were evident within minutes of the defense starting its closing argument. Defense attorney Eric Nelson did a remarkably good job in defending his client. However, CNN’s senior legal analyst, Laura Coates declared “Defense begins the closing by defining reasonable doubt, not with why #DerekChauvin is innocent. Think about that.”

Many of us did “think about that,” particularly those of us who are criminal defense lawyers.

My guess is that over 90 percent of defense arguments begin with defining reasonable doubt since that it is the framing standard for jury decision. It is the virtual mantra of the defense. We start by reminding the jury of its burden, particularly after a prosecutor has given a more fluid understanding of that standard.  The last thing that you want to do as a criminal defense attorney is to suggest that the jury should focus on whether a defendant is innocent. The burden is on the prosecutor to prove that he is guilty.  The defense does not have to prove a thing for acquittal. As emphasized by Judge Peter Cahill (and all American judges), the jury must focus of the burden of proof shouldered by the prosecution. The defendant is presumed innocent . . . at least outside of CNN.

Another such moment arose with “PBS NewsHour” correspondent Yamiche Alcindor who has been repeatedly criticized for bias in her coverage during the Trump Administration, the riots, and the Biden Administration, including referring to Biden appointees as virtual “superheroes.” Alcindor also defended Rep. Maxine Waters after her inflammatory call for protesters to get more “confrontational” and not accept an acquittal in the Chauvin case.

As with Coates, Alcindor went on attack the minute the defense rose to make its closing argument.  Alcindor declared: “Chauvin’s lawyer said it flies in the face of common sense to say Floyd’s death was not caused at least in part by his underlying conditions or drug use,. This argument is in direct contradiction to the prosecution’s case which says believe your eyes, Chauvin’s knee killed Floyd.”

 

The statement is so bizarre that it is breathtaking. Alcindor appears aggrieved that the defense had the temerity to directly contradict the prosecution on the question of guilt.

The coverage was striking in the glowing accounts of the prosecution’s closing arguments as opposed to the criticism of the defense. More importantly, the coverage shows little concern over the rights of criminal defendants or appreciation for the position of defense counsel.

We saw the same trend during the Trump Administration when legal experts adopted ridiculously broad interpretations of criminal provisions in a blind obsession to find any way to charge Donald Trump or his family. Some of us from the defense bar warned how dangerous such interpretations would be — and how they ignored both the element and controlling case law.  Legal experts dismissed abuses disclosed in prior investigations involving defendants like Michael Flynn and Carter Page. They disregarded the implications of sweeping definitions of crimes like obstruction or the Logan Act.  They defended judicial bias when it worked against Trump officials.

The saddest aspect to this trend is that legal analysis was once largely immune from such open bias. I have worked as a television legal analyst for thirty years on various networks. I have watched as legal analysts in both television and print have become part of the echo journalism model — offering reassuring analysis for viewers who want continual reaffirmation of their own political preferences.  We have now lost any semblance of objectively or neutrality.  That is consistent with the trend in journalism at large where there are growing calls for advocacy in journalism. This includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Even Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. The result however has been the steady decline in trust for the media.

The cost of such bias is often ignored. However, the failure to inform the public of the countervailing arguments in trials like the trial of Eric Chauvin fuels our social divisions and the ongoing violence in our cities.

203 thoughts on ““Believe Your Eyes, Chauvin’s Knee Killed Floyd”: How The Line Between The Press and The Prosecution Disappeared In The Chauvin Trial”

  1. Jonathan: In your column you say Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson “did a remarkedly good job in defending his client”. This is clearly not the case. In trying to rebut the overwhelming testimony by prosecution medical experts that Floyd died from asphyxiation Nelson put on Dr. David Fowler, Maryland’s retired chief medical examiner who said Floyd died from heart disease (caused by drugs) and from possible carbon monoxide from a vehicle exhaust. The jury clearly didn’t buy Fowler’s opinion. Now the AG in Maryland, along with 400 doctors,. has written a letter calling for an independent review of people who died while in police custody. The letter says, in part about Fowler’s testimony: “The cause of death opinion, particularly the portion that suggested open air carbon monoxide exposure as contributory, was baseless, revealed obvious bias, and raised malpractice concerns”. An investigation is underway involving Fowler’s whitewashing of police killings over his long career as the state’s chief medical examiner. It is clear Nelson made a huge mistake in calling Fowler to testify. That does not seem to be a “remarkedly good job in defending his client” by any reasonable standard!

    1. You can have your 400 doctors over for coffee, but the defense attorney did his job as best he could, and I think he was effective creating reasonable doubt.

  2. An issue on appeal is the inconsistency inherent in the verdicts. A jury cannot find defendant reckless and intentional in his acts at the same time. The State of Minnesota has agreed. See State v. Baynes, (Minn. Ct. App., 2009, where the issue was discussed but not decided, and State v. Moore 458 N. W. 2d, where the court ruled the proper remedy was not a merger into the most serious charge, but a new trial.

  3. Frankly, I am perplexed about the guilty verdict on three counts. However, I don’t think Chauvin could ever get fair verdict in that city and am surprised there was not a change of venue. He and the other officers on scene were judged guilty before the investigation was even begun and the charges issued. To me the verdict on all three counts smacked of jury fear/intimidation, if not directly, then indirectly. I don’t know why the jury wasn’t sequestered from day one.

    1. What happened was: the tactics used by Amnesty International to give voice to people killed by their governments in politically driven murders on foreign soil were used on American soil. Because people repeatedly were able to view a murder committed by police in roughly ten minutes of footage, there was no place for the first Minneapolis police version to survive. First press releases by MPD had Floyd dying in an ‘unexplained medical event’ at a crime scene. The visual evidence provided by the public demolished that point of view. The blue wall couldn’t contend with the evidence by breaking on the scene accounts into ‘he said/she said’ denial fragments. In other words, the visual evidence crushed ‘reasonable doubt’. It’s opened the door to an entirely new reckoning for standard blue wall policing. They’ll be forced, slowly obviously, to adjust.

        1. There are multiple anonymous commenters. Turley gives people that option. Whether someone posts anonymously, pseudonymously, or with their name doesn’t determine their level of belief.

          1. Jaws3, I should also have explained that Anonymous the Stupid has a lot of pretend friends littering the blog. He is a coward and keeps reminding people of the existence of other anonymous figures. He doesn’t want anyone to realize he posts from morning till night in such quantity that he dwarfs the posting done by all other anonymous combined. His other name is the Fighting Gerbil in part because he is in a maze he can’t get out of.

        2. Jaw3, there is little hope of that. Give him a little leeway or a bit more rope and Anonymous the Stupid will probably hang himself.

    2. I’ve been saying the same thing. He was guilty period on day one because of Antifa, BLM and the left. He didn’t have a chance. Timothy McVeigh that did the bombing of OKC had his trial in a different state. Mr Chauvin didn’t have a fair trial at all and it should be appealed and thrown out because of it.

  4. “We have now lost any semblance of objectively or neutrality.”

    Our children are no longer learning truth and objectivity, but the subjective—only feelings and opinion matter. Why mathematics is being destroyed by the pedagogy of there are no wrong answers. 2+2=5.

  5. Derek Chauvin should have been acquitted for any responsibility by a proper investigation by the internal police department which occurs in any homicide, killing or death of any suspect.
    Actually, as proven by many, which every single human can prove, without any doubt, is perform the same knee pressure upon the side of the head and neck, to pin and restrict the movement of the head on the ground, floor, pavement [which is actually more than Officer Derek Chauvin actually did; he allowed the suspect to raise his head].
    This proves it does not restrict breathing any amount, which the reason this method of suspect restraint is approved and taught within Law Enforcement, though it certainly is extremely uncomfortable and maybe somewhat painful, especially to the neck.
    News, The placement of handcuffs on both wrists, with the arms behind the back, is uncomfortable, painful, and limits movement, position. Again, if someone has this done, each will experience this, what it does. [have actually experienced being handcuffed, placed in a vehicle, and the pain caused to my neck, which was removed after the cuffs were removed, and time for my body to recover.
    Add, a person test of any level of pressure upon the neck, all areas, sections, and points, what occurs. The only area or section which has any affect is the front area of the neck near the trachea, which is the lower section just below the voice box, just above the “v” shape of the collar bone. Self testing, examination, clearly shows an proves pressure in this area, section results in a very uncomfortable sensation and some pain, which limits swallowing, but not breathing, Thus the pressure in that area, section is often called to cause “chocking”, and a hold from behind, which puts pressure in tht area, section of the trachea is called a ‘choke hold”, but does not strangle, limit breathing.
    In addition, the physiology is proof to this, since in that area of the trachea, the tube is split into the two: esophagus, tube leading and connected to the stomach as part of the digestion system, and the tube leading to the respiratory system into the bronchial tubes, then to the lungs.
    Thus, it is not possible to cause disruption, limitation, restriction to the breathing tube there, without the level of pressure to first damage the structure from the outside inward, then penetrate through the esophagus. Similarly, there cannot be any restriction, limitation to the tube from any other area or above the trachea significant penetration of force into and through the physical structure of the neck, which protects the tube and other necessary physical organs inside, without noticeable and significant damage to the neck structure. The amount of pressure required to cause any level of limitation and restriction of air flow, would certainly damage the structure, which certainly did not occur, as proven by the facts and verified by the medical examiner.

    This assessment, evaluation and conclusions, with focus upon the act of the knee pressure placed upon the head and neck alone.
    This alone is enough to acquit Derek Chauvin from any responsibility in any means of contributing or cause of death of the handcuffed, arrested suspect of passing, using a forgery US $20 bill, identified as George Floyd which is verified and confirmed by the Marapin Country Coroner. Medical Examiner and his report of George Floyd aka Floyd Perry.

    That same report also clearly indicates the actual cause(s) of death of George Floyd aka Floyd Perry. The report includes the hospital blood tests performed showing the measured levels of a few very important, critical substances,; the presence of fentanyl, as extremely high, which is enough to be toxic, the presence of amphetamines, which were significant, recent and detrimental, especially in combination with the presence of fentanyl, opiod, which is known to result and cause severe depression of cardiac and pulmonary function, thus clearly the cardiopulmonary arrest which the body of George Floyd aka Floyd Perry experienced and thus the physical life ceased and thus died.

    Then, the additional evidence seen in the Body CAM videos from he arresting officers, J. Alexander Heung and Thomas Lee, clearly indicates the series of events that occurred from the arrival of the officers to the scene through the attempts to revive the suspect. This also includes the actions, responses and state of th suspect which clearly shows his refusal to exit the vehicle, from the driver’s seat, per request by the primary officer, J. Alexander Heung, suspect’s responses which include whimpering and paranoia, which continues throughout the handcuffing, arrest, leading to the police vehicle, attempt to enter the suspect into the back seat area of the vehicle, suspect’s refusal, whimpering claims of claustrophobia,assurance of officers and setting windows down to provide more air flow, suspect’s refusal to enter, beginning claim of “… can’t breathe”, which continued, suspect’s attempt to oppose being in the vehicle, slithered down, out from the back seat onto the pavement along the side of the vehicle, to which the two arresting officers who held the suspect on the pavement, and his attempt to flee by movement upon the pavement, similar to slithering, while they are awaiting the backup officers and EMT personnel. The video also contains statements of the primary officer to the store manager, who called the police reporting a forgery, a US $20 bill forgery, which was used, and identifying the person who passed the bill for a purchase,and gave the forgery note to the officer, and the store manager stated he noticed the person who gave the forgery note, the suspect, he saw the suspect had a number of bills folded together in his pocket, identified the suspect, and current location in the car across the street, then the approach of the officers to the vehicle. The complete set of Body CAM videos from all officers, and the building along the side adds more to the complete picture of the events and only confirm the issues with the suspect, and the proper behavior of the officers involved.
    The additional evidence of the remnants of the fentanyl and amphetamine tables which were found in the back seat of the police vehicle, which match the drugs present in the blood samples that hospital tested from the suspect, George Floyd aka Floyd Perry, is more proof the tablets were placed in his mouth just prior to the approach and arrest, some still in his mouth, which he ingested and thus had such a serious affects, results and correlated with the toxic levels measured.

    How could these clear, obvious, conclusive evidence have been ignored by the plice department investigators, Chief of Police, legal authorities, specifically the district attorney, prosecutor, and including the defense attorney ??!!
    Clearly there has been biased, influence, interference of events, evidence and conclusions., which include personnel from within the Minneapolis, Minnesota Police Department, Police Chief, Mayor, Governor, District Attorney, Prosecutor, Defense Attorney and numerous others including other elected officials, and certainly the nearly all media channels, platforms, as We have seen with the Election Voting Fraud, UN/WHO -Plandemic”, “Russia Collusion”, etc.

    The USA, along with All Government, Society, Media, Medical, Authoritative groups, organizations,are in a seriously, distortion, false, incorrect, invalid, misleading information, misinformation, disinformation state. This is clear indication, representation, and manifestation of what actually is occurring, existing in society and within the people themselves.
    There are known sources of the these issues is actually clear, obvious and easily shown and proven. However, most of the “Western World” who follows a common philosophy which is based in a system of thought which has existed and affected the masses for over a Millennium and for many centuries more. However, most of the people who are presented with the falsity of their philosophy, thinking, basis, will nearly always object and remain in their false basis without thought, rather as a reactive, “knee jerk” type of reaction.

    Rather than be allusive, in my effort to be clear, and transparent, am now stating the source of False Philosophy, Basis, and Thought:
    Chrixtianity/Jesus/”New book”, and their continued development of the religion, following, leaders, priests, deacons, bishops, preachers, ministers, reverends, kings, followers and massive population of This False Religion, which is disguised as God, but actually contains False Gods, which is distorted from The Actual G-d/Almighty and His Original Creation, Writing, Words, Transmission through the people He Created, Chose, Gave, Revealed Himself to, simultaneously, several million individuals who experienced this.
    The other slightly later group and religion which developed , also as another variation of The Original, through one man [also], named Mohammed; Muslam/Islam. Their religion and philosophy does retain much more of the The Original, especially many of the basic, essential concepts of G-/Almighty; Allah, and other essential aspects of requirements, responsibilities, obligations, duties in This World, Judgment, Reward/Punishment and relationship of their individual chosen actions. They have their distortions too, but at least they have much of their basics in order. Their distortions also lead to improper use, misuse, abuse in the extreme similar to those of the Chrixstians; force, killing, murder under the guise of their religion.
    They do move the people from their previous Pagan Religion Mythology, with the Muslim/Islam/Mohammed/Quran shifting completely from Pagan, while Chrixstianity/Jesus/”New book” retains some elements of the previous Greek/Roman Mythology in their Mythology with multiple Gods, especially within their false, nonsense of “The Trinity” and a few other concepts of other powers like “The Devil” and “Satan” and other misconceptions of spiritual beings and “The Soul”.

    At least they are still better than other religions, especially which are Pagan; Buddhist, Hindu, etc.

    Am very aware the mass multitude which will immediately object to this information about the source of falsity.
    However, there is such clear proof more than any of the information stated above, and with each of the other stated compromised topics too. The proofs are from within their own texts, and the comparison and contradictions which deny the explicit texts of The Original.
    However, as usual the people will reject thinking, logic, and reason, which is the result [intentionally] of these religion philosophies, and mythology.

    When viewed in this manner, it becomes clear and obviously similar to exactly what has been occrring within each tf the topics mentioned and with every aspect of society.

    All The Best,
    Sincerely

    1. Well said on everything that you said! Regarding Christianity, I’m in the process of unlearning the nearly 30 years I spent as a dedicated follower, after doing everything that I was taught but still being systematically mistreated and maligned; completely in contradiction to the teachings they espoused to follow. I left battered and bruised, but with a wisdom and resolve to seek out the truth of what our creator actually intended before it was manipulated and warped for the benefit of those seeking to deceive us all.

  6. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune yesterday went so far as to publish a complete list of everything known about each one of the jurors from the record. Although the information could be gleaned by an internet search, most people in the Twin Cities would not take the time to do so. It seemed to me that the Star-Tribune intentionally was providing its readers the information needed to identify and dox the jurors in the event that they did not render a guilty verdict.

    The jurors were allowed to keep their phones so that they could call their loved ones. How many of those loved ones informed jurors that all information was in the 3rd most read story in the Star-Tribune yesterday? I would say quite a few, and I wonder what the effect was on those jurors considering that those demanding a guilty verdict on all counts have shown themselves to be capable of direct action against just about anyone who stands in their way.

    1. I’m shocked at how Pirro caved to the mob & media with her words. Justice was not served today. It was trampled on by intimidation, mob rule & cowardice.

  7. I am an 83 old former attorney and can not understand how Chauvin can be convicted of 2d degree murder, 3rd degree murder and manslaughter for the same incident. These are all lessers of 1st degree murder. Am i missing something. What about double jeopardy? Three totally different charges for the same act.

    1. These 2 interviews of 2 attorneys were record a few hours before the verdict.

      The 1st one Norm Pattis answers your direct question at some point in. The 2nd is Robert Barns. I found both interesting.

      Start the video at around 90 minutes in, the attorneys end about 130 minutes in, around 40 minutes.

      https://banned.video/watch?id=607f510443ad51377cb0c771

    2. R. Cramer,
      This confused me, too. How can someone be guilty of manslaughter and various degrees of murder for a single incident? It is my (albeit limited) understanding there are different degrees and charges for different degrees of intent and severity. I thought manslaughter did not carry the malice or intent, whereas 2nd degree would have some intent but be characterized by impulsiveness or some kind of strong emotion? Therefore, wouldn’t only one of those apply to the situation? A person couldn’t have malice and not have malice or have intent and not have intent simultaneously.

  8. Less than a year ago, we heard from Chattanooga police chief David Roddy about George Floyd’s death:

    “There is no need to see more video. There no need to wait to see how “it plays out”. There is no need to put a knee on someone’s neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this…turn it in,” Roddy wrote.

    —David Roddy (@ChiefDavidRoddy) May 27, 2020

    1. A lot of people virtue signal. You do it all the time. I think a lot of people agree that Chauvin went above and beyond. That is not the question.

      Did Chief Roddy believe Chauvin should be convicted of second degree murder?

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