“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. We are seeing coverage by “legal experts” that makes the term “legal experts” synonymous with door knob dumb. It is not that there aren’t experts out there that have reasonable opinions, rather it is the news media that only accepts “legal experts” that are willing to corrupt themselves in order to keep the failing leftist narrative going.

    1. Alcindor isn’t a lawyer; she isn’t even a paralegal. Nor a legal secretary. She has a B.A. in English and African-American Studies, and an M.A. in Broadcast News. I don’t know why she would be assigned to comment on a criminal trial. Billing her as a legal expert is misleading the public. Perhaps she should be reassigned to lend her opinion to surgical procedures, lol.

      1. Alcindor is simply giving her opinion, her viewpoint, HER perspective as a black woman and calling it “reporting”….

  2. I have only sat as a juror once, and that was at an itty bitty trial of little consequence – other than to the defendant. I was amazed and a bit awestruck at the transformation that occurred amongst the jurors; each took the role very seriously and truly wanted to do the correct thing in the correct manner. We can only hope the spirit of that transformation is alive and well, in spite of the media.

  3. “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.”

    Nonsense. She’s making the totally NORMAL point that the statements by the prosecution and defense are contradictory.

    Once again, JT, your own bias (against specific members of the media) shows through.

      1. Yet another example of Turley only going after women, especially women of color. He has nothing to say about that bottle blondie from Georgia who has proposed giving the Congressional Medal of Freedom to the Minneapolis Police who have now killed 2 unarmed men of color.

          1. Who’s this, another self-hating white person? Don’t ever come to us for help. We will spot your kind a mile away.

    1. A “totally normal” point like that isn’t even worth making. It’s like saying “the attorneys wore shoes today”. That she thought the defense should agree with the prosecution is indeed bizarre.

  4. In the main, TV lawyers are frustrated actors who crave the attention an unwitting, compliant TV audience provides. They give us no law but rather their popular take on complex legal and political issues that most aren’t equipped to understand much less advise us on. Many are hilariously ironic. (Michael Avenatti chastising Trump on integrity and morality, comes to mind). You take their advice at your peril. They are always on the make with this side hustle.

    Thankfully, JT isn’t one of those carney barker legal analysts. He’s not afraid of complex issues and doesn’t sink into demagoguery to get his name out there.

  5. Enough whining about the media already.

    It’s all complete, or in proximity to, propaganda, which absolutely includes those in the media who whine about the media.

    Don’t trust any news source. Ok? Wonderful.

    Can we all move on now.

    1. I dunno. A corrupt media that works in activism and peddling narratives over facts seems like a pretty big deal to me.

  6. PBS and NPR have both been rated “lean-left” by independent media raters. I have no problem with that, as long as the PUBLIC is aware of such. We can choose our news sources according to our own personal views, e.g., CNN vs. FOX News. But I have a real problem when networks ostensibly “informing” the “public” at large (National PUBLIC Radio (NPR); PUBLIC Broadcasting System (PBS)) abuse those designations with left-leaning slant, selective-fact reporting, and opinion presented as fact. Much of the American “public” does not realize how mainstream media (ABC, NBC, CBS) is presenting slanted and selective-fact-reporting national “news.” My biggest fear for America’s future is not an atomic bomb, it is media manipulation and control of the truth.

    1. How any news organization is rated involves the bias of the raters themselves. Many raters, for example, are pro-corporate and ignore pro-corporate slants by the media. Whether you consider pro-corporate to be left or right or something else, it is not neutral.

  7. Thank you, professor, for reminding us of one of the core values of our legal system and our culture.
    It is disconcerting to realize how many people now believe that the accused must prove innocence while the prosecution no longer needs to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and how many accept the judgements of the court of public opinion which convenes on Twitter and takes its instructions from woke journalists on CNN and PBS rather than await a disinterested assessment of the charges in a proper court in which lawyers follow the law and the judge instructs the jury on how they must evaluate the evidence.
    Like free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and other freedoms that those of us in the West once took for granted, the assumption of innocence and the right to due process should be concepts that everyone supports, but it is no longer a surprise that many have rejected them in favor of demagogy, mob justice, and rule by decree, especially after a year in which petty tyrants of all stripes have used an epidemic and a brace of tragic incidents to intimidate, terrorize, and control the rest of us.
    Some days it feels as if I am living through a Monty Python skit in which a gaggle of black-cloaked inquisitors knock at my door and inquire as to whether I might like to join a lynch mob in Minneapolis or Portland. Then I realize that none of today’s social justice warriors (or public health experts) have enough of a sense of humor to appreciate that Monty Python was making fun of the self-righteous rather than the Spanish Inquisition, and instead would view the skit as a model on how to ‘reset’ the world and achieve a ‘new normal’ which copies the dystopian societies of 1984 and Brave New World that will save the planet and assure that some people, like some animals, matter more than others and cancels all those who disagree . . . without due process, of course.
    Chauvin does not need to prove his innocence; the State needs to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and encouraging the jury to believe their eyes is not sufficient because while a picture might be worth a thousand words, our eyes lie all the time, and single frames isolated from a video can be as misleading as a tweet by a woke journalist, just as watching an event without knowing what preceded it can mislead even more than the average politician.

      1. Thank you for the link.
        I grew up watching westerns where the brave sheriff and his loyal deputy stood up against lynch mobs.
        I still like to think there are brave sheriffs and loyal deputies out there and that eventually the mobs will go home with their heads hanging in shame.
        I know, fat chance that will happen, given the behavior of our media and politicians. It is more likely that the mob will destroy their victim and the government will reward them by raising taxes, cutting services, and sending the extra cash to a military contractor to prop up a dodgy regime overseas or blow it on a mistress and some crack.
        But one has to hope, even if hope is only fear’s mirror image.
        DSB is correct — Nelson did a good job, especially given the thousands of pieces of evidence the prosecution dumped on him during the trial. I only hope the jury is as conscientious as the members of the one of which Karen was a member.
        I find it is always interesting to read both Prof. Turley’s analysis and the comments they elicit. They make me think.

    1. Agree. The prosecution (and media, people who don’t want to be bothered with actual inquisitive thought …) want people to believe their eyes. I think Jerry “We wouldn’t want to mislead the jury” Blackwell is proof of how wrong that proposition is. Blackwell tried to get Dr. Fowler to believe his eyes with a photo claiming to show Chauvin choking George Floyd in the back of squad 320. In re-direct Nelson showed the video, which clearly showed Blackwell was lying. Then in closing, Nelson showed the testimony of Dr. Martin “EELV” Tobin which was lead by Blackwell, was patently false with regard to George Floyd’s efforts to breath.

      I agree with Mr. Turley, Eric Nelson did a very fine job in defense. He showed up the team of 14 attorneys for the prosecution. Plenty of grounds for appeal if the verdict goes against the defense.

  8. Jury verdict maybe a mute point since judge opened the door to mistrial because of Maxine Waters. Professor should way in on his contention of that possibility.
    “If you lie to the government it’s a felony, if the government lies to you it’s politics”, author unknown.

  9. What to me is even more frightening than the bias and gushiness of today’s reporters is the fact that their young supervisors think this is okay and endorse it.
    Is there no one left who cares about objectivity? NPR is slavishly biased, which should have been addressed in any one of the recent republican administrations, but wasn’t. Any quasi government media outlet should be fastidiously unbiased. This is definitely not the case with NPR, which is absurdly and unprofessionally left “leaning”. And for any NPR reporter to refer to an incoming administration’s appointees as “superheroes” illustrates how pathetically and sophomorically biased that media outlet has become. To think that a cabinet appointee is a “superhero” – presumably as they replaced a Trump appointee – is ridiculous.

    1. Why is anyone surprised that “our” publicly funded media outlets are “…left leaning…”? One had to do was to look at the arc that the BBC followed in its steady march to well to the left of the UK’s political center to predict what NPR and PBS would become.

    2. You don’t quote anyone. You don’t name a reporter. I just searched the NPR website and cannot find any reference to a cabinet appointee as a “superhero.”

      Unless you produce a quote, there’s no reason to trust your claim.

      1. There’s an embedded hyperlink in the text. Maybe it wasn’t there when you read through the first time, but it’s there now.

        1. No, it’s not there.

          Perhaps it’s browser-dependent, but I’ve loaded the page in two different browsers, so instead of embedding it, just include it as a standard naked URL.

      2. Living, this character is Anonymous the Stupid named for his lack of intelligence. He is also a giant bore and unimaginative. He copies what others say and repeats them whether or not they make sense. His whole reason for existence is to insult others in order to make him feel smarter.

        He is non-credible.

            1. Anonymous says:April 20, 2021 at 4:32 PM

              “To Stupid to recognize who you are, ATS?” [sic]

              Too funny — with an emphasis on ‘too’.

          1. Anonymous says on April 20, 2021 at 4:19 PM

            “No need to put your bio on the page, Allan. It’s not that kind of party.”

            Allan tells us a lot about himself in his 4:03 comment, doesn’t he.

            1. People probably know a good deal about me but one of those things they know is I am not Stupid. You, unfortunately are.

  10. “They said George Floyd had an enlarged heart He didn’t have a large heart. He died because Derek Chauvin had a small heart.”

    1. Well Floyd died because his cardiomegalic heart was overcome with meth, fentanyl and just a burning desire to break the law. Chauvin was just the last guy to see him alive. Let’s get the facts right.

        1. That is ATS claiming bias in another. ATS is the original PC character who knows what he believes as soon as someone tells him what to believe.

            1. Anonymous the Stupid, are you thinking of the old days when you cheered on Cuomo killing nursing home patients in NY? Are you thinking of the excitement you had when you applauded Cuomo’s Emmy?

              That is who you are. You don’t care about the deaths of minority children. You don’t care about slavery on our southern border, drug trafficking or murder. You don’t care about Covid. All you care about is an ideology you don’t understand.

                  1. “Best to ignore him.”

                    ATS, you should take your own advice. Do something useful with your life. I did and that is why in comparison you look Stupid.

                  2. “Anonymous says:April 20, 2021 at 4:49 PM
                    Best to ignore him. He craves attention, and works hard to provoke those he dislikes.”

                    +1000

                    1. ATS the archives are open for anyone to view. Your comments mostly try to take people down so you can feel better about yourself. However, that doesn’t work because you aren’t bright enough to replace anyone you have pulled down.

                1. Don’t need anyone. ATS is a hateful guy happy to see black children die in the streets along with seniors from nursing homes in NYC. All one has to do is look at the archives.

                  1. That is why I fought to stop Cuomo’s policies and fight to continue Charter schools in NYC that have benefitted the minority community tremendously.

                    Your input to those two interests of mine was to applaud Cuomo. You don’t care about education. You feel that you were never well educated so why educate anyone else. You are a fool.

    2. Geoge Floyd likely died because he wanted black leaders to go nuts, (Maxine W) & demand their black followers burn down their local gas stations, waffle houses, biz, etc. to turn their communities in to Complete Ghettos. (black leaders are Racist!) ( well AOC & the Squid also)

      That way Biden/Pelosi/Dems/Rinos can bring in the Illegal Alien Hispanic replacements to clean things up, start bizes for their families.

  11. Journalism and most Corrupt Biased Legal Analyst are BIASED to the Radical Left, there is only one verdict that they want. Chauvin can’t get a fair trial. Now the Mayor has come out and called for Guilty and it has to be what the Left and MSM and Nutty Maxine want. The judge should have allowed tis trial to be moved. This is a Circus not a Fair Trial. Jury receives threats and how are they going to comeback with a fair judgement, they will have to move out of state if they do not give the Radical Left and MSM what they want.

  12. Seemed like the defense in closing argument was admitting to introducing the bogus carbon monoxide claim in order to balance against it the close by saying ‘wow, if there was 98% oxygen saturation in Floyd’s lungs then he couldn’t have died of positional asphyxiation’. But instead that tactic just brought attention to the fact that the original claim was bogus as well as it being a total reach made clear by the argumaent. I’d imagine this is a tactic cautioned against in law schools everywhere. Then again, if you’ve got nothing else to go with you might as well try it.

    I’ll always be curious whether your decision to back the rhetoric on the right, and its talking points, is because of working at Fox or whether you’ve been working a brand not true to your true intentions previous to your Fox employment. A topic worthy of a fascinating feature length biopic if somenoe would finance it. Bet it would generate a decent niche audience on the big streamers, Jon.

      1. William JD:

        Nope, it’s Aninny. Obfuscation, muddleheaded thinking, grandiose proclamations and outright contradiction in terms are her stock in trade.

        1. William JD:

          Nope, it’s Aninny.

          Obfuscation,
          muddleheaded thinking,
          grandiose proclamations
          and outright contradiction in terms

          …are her stock in trade.

          Mess bomb 2021

        2. You call different anonymous commenters “Aninny,” mesblow, and you describe your own comments each time you do it.

            1. Another of Anonymous the Stupid’s pretend friends. When the local psychiatric hospital lets ATS on leave it virtually empties the hospital.

            1. Anonymous the Stupid doesn’t know what gender means. He has been looking through the trash trying to figure out where he dropped his.

          1. For anyone that doesn’t know ‘Aninny’ is the same person as ATS, Anonymous the Stupid.

              1. Over the years you have been here I don’t remember you ever having an intelligent discussion where you were right. No one needs to play games. These games shouldn’t occur and should be discarded as should the anonymous icon.

                Hopefully someone will throw out all of the anonymous comments and the intelligence of the blog comments will skyrocket. Anyone that wants to read something important should stick to those with real icons.

                1. ” throw out all of the anonymous comments and the intelligence of the blog comments will skyrocket. ”

                  rotfl

      2. Watch a recording of the closing argument, feel the pain of what it must be like trying to pull over such a lame excuse for a defense. Then again, maybe not much makes sense to you ever?

          1. Funny, I saw absolutely no challenge of proximate causation. What I did see was someone with nothing of substance to work with.

  13. Advocacy journalism is NOT journalism. It is advocacy. A good friend told me that they would not be on CNN, NPR, NBC unless they knew what they were talking about, unless they were correct and accurate. As Turley says, businesses will burn, lives may be lost, partially because because of this biased style of biased reporting.

  14. You are right about that! It was also extremely disconcerting to see clips of Maxine Waters, an elected official who is paid by taxpayers, fomenting hate and discontent among the protesters. I barely recognize my country in 2021.

    1. Perhaps Ms. Waters should go visit her own district, in which she declines to live. She is and has been inciting violence for some time. Not only is this behavior by a U.S. congresswoman revolting. It is also blatantly illegal. She should have been removed from congress and prosecuted two years ago. But this is worse, way worse. As the judge suggested, it may boomerang big time. But this is truly egregious behavior and to think that she will go unpunished and unchecked is appalling.

  15. Hull

    Ms. Altidor, like so much of the media is now a propaganda arm of the left.

    Ms. Altidor knows what she is doing and no longer cares about integrity.

    The media is working to undermine American values.

    They have become traitors.

  16. You are reading a lot into two tweets. Yamiche did what all good reporters do, she stated fact. You’re framing it as if it were opinion. It was not. What is factually incorrect about her one Tweet? Seems like you are nitpicking.

    1. She is stating her opinion, not legal analysis and has done so as the primal ‘expert”, often the only expert on CNN for the entire trial. Where is Jeffrey Toobin when we …. never mind

  17. The only thing more maddening than watching and listening to Yamiche Alcindor’s lack of honesty, intelligence or even fairness is knowing that our tax dollars pay for this uneducated, radical non-journalist to be in her current position of power.

    Watching the level of journalism being practiced by amateurs like Alcindor and the vast majority of today’s press corp makes it so obvious how low our educational system has gone and how in today’s world achievement, education and excellence are dirty words.

    1. The fact that you think tax dollars pay her salary shows how little you know about the budget of PBS and how little government funding covers the operating costs, how underwriting makes up the bulk of their funding.

      1. TNJ

        Don’t want one penny of my tax dollars going to a propaganda arm of the left.

        You are splitting hairs to obfuscate a fundamental wrong.

        1. I don’t want one penny of my tax dollars going to some other things that you may support. But we don’t get to individually pick and choose. Get over it.

          1. “Get over it.”

            Those three words ‘get over it’ is a tic that Anonymous the Stupid frequently displays.

      2. Junkie, I am able to read in your two posts to know enough that you fail to grasp just what you have in what you posted.

        Yes….PBS does get Tax Money just as does Planned Parenthood and both should be cut off from that funding.

        The journalistic standards indicated by PBS reporting is an insult to even the lowest standard expected of Reporters.

        PBS is to Journalism as Planned Parenthood is to Abortion….and the Leftist mindset that endorses both.

        PBS is just another Leftist Propaganda outlet that should not be receiving any Federal Tax dollars..

        1. Who “should” be receiving tax funds is a matter of opinion. People clearly have strong disagreements about who should get funds. Your opinion doesn’t count for more than anyone else’s.

    2. The only journalism you would likely approve is journalism that aligns with your opinion. You probably don’t want fact telling, you want slanted journalism that serves as confirmation bias for the right.

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