“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 have lost faith in one institution after another – academia, journalism, public education…and now the criminal justice system. All have been perverted by the Left.

    Democrats – I want you to do a thought experiment. You know all those Democrat riots that have been going on for so many months, and the Autonomous Zones? I want you to imagine all that violence was perpetrated by Republicans. Do you think the media would stand in front of burning buildings and call it “mostly peaceful”? Compare and contrast how police stand down in Democrat cities, allowing riots to continue, while the one single time that a few Trump supporters (along with Antifa) stormed the Capitol building, Democrats brought in the National Guard for months, surrounded the Capitol with razor wire, and claimed Trump’s urging “peaceful protest” caused it all.

    Think about how Democrat politicians have openly called for riots to continue, while Trump called for “peaceful protest.”

    See how Democrats openly threaten jurors and entire cities. If they know what’s good for them, they’d better find Chauvin guilty. The juror intimidation is open. Top Democrat politicians have participated.

    Imagine if Trump did that. Imagine if Republicans threatened nation wide riots, looting and arson unless a jury decided a case as they were told. You would imagine Republicans would censor Republican violence, as they unified and did for that one single instance of Capitol Hill B&E.

    What would Democrats do if Republicans behaved as they have been?

    Now look at how Democrats have reacted to Democrat violence and jury intimidation.

    You know you’re doing wrong if you would be upset if other people did the same thing.

    1. Why do you continue your anti-Democrat campaign? You begin your tirade with the faulty premise that there are “riots”, and then you blame Democrats for them. There aren’t any “riots” going on now, and when protests have turned violent, it was not because of Democrats. No Democrat ever openly called for anyone to “riot”, much less threatened nationwide “riots”. That was your fat hero. You have the arrogant gall to demand that Democrats owe you a “thought experiment” as if you are someone entitled to demand anything from anyone. Your pathological hatred of Democrats, based on your lack of education and devotion to alt-right media, has become a sad obsession.

      Next, being the dupe that you are, you continue claiming that ANTIFA was responsible for the attack on the Capitol. That is a lie. It has been proven to be a lie over and over again, but since you watch Fox, News Max and OAN, who keep harping on this and claiming they have flimsy proof that it was really ANTIFA, you believe because you are a dupe. Trump is responsible for this insurrection primarily due to his narcissistic mental illness that will not allow the possibility that he lost the election, despite never obtaining even a 50% approval rating in 4 years’ time, despite polls predicting his loss, and despite losing the popular vote in 2016. At taxpayer expense, he whipped up the faithful by going on post-election “Stop the Steal” tours. He encouraged his disciples to try to stop Congress from accepting certified vote totals. He continued to lie about losing the election, claiming that he won in a “landslide”, as if this could be possible for someone with consistently low approval ratings and dozens of polls consistently predicting otherwise. The one off-hand remark about “peaceful” protests was just that–one “off hand” remark, to prove a counter argument when the inevitable happened. And, he let it go on for hours and hours because here was tangible proof of his power and glory. He was loved. He didn’t care that the faithful intended to lynch Pence if they got hold of him. He not only never apologized, he keeps doubling down. And, dupes like you keep believing.

      1. Do you find it curious that it took 3.5 months for the DC medical examiner to reveal that Officer Sicknick’s cause of death – which was a stroke, in other words, “natural causes”?

        Everything the media told us about his death was a lie. Everything the media told us about January 6 was a lie.

        You regurgitate lies.

          1. False. Here the self hating white liberal Natacha persists in falsehoods even after they have been exposed.

            Don’t ever look to us for help lady. We loathe your kind.

          2. “Natacha says:April 20, 2021 at 3:00 PM
            The stroke could well have been brought on by the blows to his head and bear spray.”

            Yes. And he had two strokes, as I understand it.

      2. Natacha – Democrats have rioted with regularly for many months now. You can deflect all you want.

        It’s sad that all you know is ad hominem.

        1. Where did you get the idea that those who riot are Democrats? What and where are the “regular” riots going on “for many months now”? Is there a “riot” going on now?

          Facts don’t matter much to you, do they?

    2. ” You know all those Democrat riots that have been going on for so many months, and the Autonomous Zones? I want you to imagine all that violence was perpetrated by Republicans. ”
      For the past fifty years, people most likely to identify as Republicans have been leading the way on domestic terrorism and the FBI under Trump prepared a report (which they naturally didn’t release) indicating right-wing hate groups to be the leading threat to the country.
      I don’t have a problem with you objecting to protests and violence from those on the left. It’s the pretense that Republicans are so innocent that irks me. Let me guess, January 6, 2021 was all ANTIFA?

      A question for you. The Republican Party at one time garnered over 90% of the Black vote and now the opposite is true. Why do you think that is?

      1. Because the heirs of the old Democrat party, the new Democrat party, understand black people to their very marrow. From, the days of slavery until now.

        It’s you Mister Enigma who needs to answer why.

        LBJ was the bridge, the one who understood how to bring the votes black on the plantation for good

      2. Enigma – why do I think black people began voting Democrat? There is a reason why there is the allegation that the notoriously racist LBJ said he would have (bad word) black people voting Democrat for 200 years.

        People want free stuff – more benefits, more money, etc. Poor populations vote for the party that offers the most free stuff. They aren’t worried about paying for it. The media does not disclose the catastrophic results of those Democrat policies for black communities.

        Democrats have claimed that Republicans are racist for decades. By taking over Hollywood, academia, and the media, they have flooded black communities with anti-Republican propaganda, while deflecting the well established Democrat history of racism.

        Enigma, doesn’t it bother you how normalized it is for Democrats to call conservative blacks racist slurs? They still haven’t changed. Blacks who don’t vote or voice opinions Democrats want are attacked. Democrats might not use the KKK anymore as their terrorist enforcers, but they’re still out on the streets using terrorism and riots for political purposes.

        Democrats STILL teach their followers to judge everyone based on skin color. They use racist identity politics, the racist Critical Race Theory, and the factually inaccurate 1619 Project. Kids graduate from Democrat-run high schools having absolutely no perception that slavery existed since the dawn of our species, and is still commonly practiced in Africa. They don’t see the US as at the forefront of abolishing slavery.

        We’ve all become used to Democrats threatening violence against an election goes how they want, or a jury verdict goes how they want. You are to do what they want if you know what’s good for you.

        I think Democrats are trained to turn a blind eye.

        As for that study you do know that a great many instances of violence weren’t counted, right? No, January 6th was not all Antifa. It was preplanned. They were breaking in while Trump was still speaking about peaceful protests. A few participants were identified as Antifa, but there were definitely many Trump supporters who participated. I have said this many times.

        Enigma – answer truthfully. Will you admit that Democrats, through BLM, Antifa, and others, have rioted, looted, burned, and even seized entire city blocks for many months, while there was just one instance of Trump supporters breaking into the Capitol on Jan 6th? Will you admit that Democrat politicians refused the National Guard, and allowed riots to continue, but when Trump supporters one time broke into the Capitol, they called in thousands of National Guard for months, put up razor wire, and accused Trump and all his voters of sedition?

        Democrats, including the Biden/Harris team, bailed out looters. Democrats urged these riots to continue.

        Republicans condemned the Jan 6th breaking. But apparently it’s a bridge too far for Democrats to openly condemn their own violence, violence that we’ve all come to expect. Businesses don’t board up their windows because they’re afraid of Republicans.

        Even Democrats are afraid to publicly disagree with Democrat policies, for fear of being canceled or attacked. They might hate the racism of the CRT curriculum in schools, but they’re afraid to oppose it.

        Get it? Many people in the country is afraid of the violence, intolerance, and cancel culture of the Democrat hegemony.

        One way for thee, another for me. If you won’t acknowledge Left violence then you’re either in denial or not being honest with yourself.

        https://youtu.be/g_a7dQXilCo

        1. ” why do I think black people began voting Democrat? There is a reason why there is the allegation that the notoriously racist LBJ said he would have (bad word) black people voting Democrat for 200 years.”
          What he said was Democrats lost the South for a generation which he highly underestimated. I’d love for you to document your alleged quote.
          A few Republicans did initially oppose the insurection on January 6th but they’ve all fallen back into the fold. Kevin McCatrthy after cursing the President during the event, humbled himself and trekked down to Mar-a-Lago to ask forgiveness. How many like Nikki Haley are saying they would vote for the leader of the insurrection again .
          As far as what is being taught in the schools, you perhaps prefer the Texas model which plays down slavery and promotes American Exceptionalism. In Oklahoma they don’t teach the Black Wall Street decimation of a community in 1921, In Orlando in 1920 where I now live, the Ocoee Massacre is not taught. The local newspaper brings it up once a decade but at the time of the event they reported about the “Two Whites Killed.” Ignoring the hundreds of Black people killed and routed from their homes.
          I challenge you to show BLM holding cities hostage. They get all the band credit for actions of white people with motives of their own. I don’t defend or care much about ANTIFA but their actions don’t compare to those of the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Oathkeepers, Klan, and white supremacists that this country has ignored for several decades. The people that should have gone after them didn’t because they are them. They instead saw Black Identity Extremists as the only problem worth pursuing.
          Black people saw who was fleeing to the Republican Party (starting in 1948 long before LBJ) and based on their actions including the Southern Strategy of Nixon, both Bushes, and Donald Trump.
          There is a degree of left violence, it isn’t BLM which was easy to target and their motives are many. You talk about “many people in the country” being afraid of violence, intolerance, and the new catch phrase “cancel culture.” What you fail to understand or acknowledge is that there are whole races of people afraid of the right wing and their intolerance and abuse.
          Police forces, the Second Amendment, and a few parts of the Constitution were designed to maintain slavery and control immigrants. Little has changed since then, especially since the filling of the federal courts with those that have the same goals.

            1. Once again you are trying to climb the ladder by pulling another down. The statement is unproven according to Snopes, but consistent with the history. Take note, they would say not true if there weren’t significant evidence saying the opposite.

              I note you never responded Karen’s comments directed to you. You can’t, because you are only able to Google and Snopes things. You are unable to think.

  2. The trial nearly came undone just before Close of Evidence over the carbon monoxide tailpipe issue, which I’m left to believe was a
    contributing factor explaining “I can’t breathe” when GF’s chest cavity is on video taking 22 breaths / minute. If you’ve ever experienced breathing concentrated tailpipe exhaust, that phrase perfectly fits the sensation felt. The Koeng body-cam clearly shows that Cruiser 320 was left running when he pulled up to Cup Foods, and the video captured condensate formed below the tailpipe.

    The lame attempt by Swisher and Blackwell to pooh-pooh the CO poisoning scenario by citing Floy’s Emergency Room blood O2 saturation level is discredited by the fact that Floyd had already undergone resuscitative re-oxygenation of his blood by EMTs and ER staff — the whole point of which is to bump up the O2 sat level enough to save the patient. If brain death has occurred, the O2 sat can nonetheless be brought back up to 98% in an asphyxia or CO poisoning case by artificial means. So, those blood gas numbers are not reliable evidence of the patient’s status before the EMTs arrived. I think Nelson did not impeach at that moment because he was looking at the long game….setting the table for appeal, based on prosecutorial misconduct — concealment of their CO exhaust investigation from discovery.

  3. You mean the media and academia/law professionals as a whole have an extreme liberal bias? Hmmm… really?…. Seriously?.. No, honestly?

  4. Well, who would have thunk it?

    That well known Racist, Al Sharpton, is reported to be headed Minneapolis with his normal mouth full incendiary language on his private jet for his slaves. (Get Whitey)

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