“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 were told he died from violence by protesters. His cause of death was held over 3 months. That is how the left creates opinion and violence that should never exist.

    Capitol Police Officer Sicknick Died of Natural Causes From Strokes After Capitol Breach: Medical Examiner

    https://www.theepochtimes.com/mkt_breakingnews/capitol-police-officer-brian-sicknick-died-from-natural-causes-the-day-after-capitol-riot-medical-examiner_3782540.html?&utm_source=News&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=breaking-2021-04-19-2&mktids=a4fbd1e0857f9cf008e7e600867f1bb7&est=l2jRMes3df2ThriRf%2BGsh%2FeAGxorm9EH5Q%2BEsQyVjMnBZwbsbMBKiEzoiWEEvpS2C9I%3D

  2. Dershowitz: Maxine Waters’ Tactics Similar to Those Used by Ku Klux Klan

    Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was clearly trying to influence the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial when she traveled to Minnesota and said Chauvin should be found guilty, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz charged on Tuesday.

    “Her message was clearly intended to get to the jury—‘If you will acquit or if you find the charge less than murder, we will burn down your buildings. We will burn down your businesses. We will attack you. We will do what happened to the witness—blood on their door,’” he said during an appearance on Newsmax, referring to how the former home of defense expert Barry Brodd was recently vandalized.

    “This was an attempt to intimidate the jury. It’s borrowed precisely from the Ku Klux Klan of the 1930s and 1920s when the Klan would march outside of courthouses and threatened all kinds of reprisals if the jury ever dared convict a white person or acquit a black person….

    https://www.theepochtimes.com/mkt_breakingnews/dershowitz-maxine-waters-tactics-similar-to-those-used-by-ku-klux-klan_3783973.html?utm_source=News&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=breaking-2021-04-20-2&mktids=42eae8a9bef817222e957a990cb80b1c&est=htJwEV21rWO7yWfrGNL6a%2FK4piQVlHlusnCSOV5pethhJWd5O6rT8buBxDyA%2F6hjxLo%3D

        1. The evidence points in a different direction. Then again I forget, you don’t bother with evidence.

          SM

    1. Next time the cop in Derek’s position comes in contact with a George Floyd career criminal, knowing that in big cities that communities won’t support Law Enforcement the cops are going to bend over & pickup & hand Floyd his dope back he dropped, hand him a $20 & say have a good day Mr Floyd.

      Massage: Flee the Commie Democratic Blue S’hole Cities/States as fast as one can or Stand Up against.

  3. For those that aren’t interested in the news and watch CNN for confirmation bias. That means you aren’t watching news.

    Project Veritas released a new video today exposing CNN Director Charlie Chester, who admitted that his network engaged in propaganda to benefit Biden’s candidacy during the 2020 election to the detriment of then-President Trump.

    Chester also said CNN has a pre-determined agenda when reporting on COVID-19 and climate change.

    Here are some of the highlights from the video:

    CNN Technical Director Charlie Chester: “Look what we did, we [CNN] got Trump out. I am 100% going to say it, and I 100% believe that if it wasn’t for CNN, I don’t know that Trump would have got voted out…I came to CNN because I wanted to be a part of that.”
    Chester: “[Trump’s] hand was shaking or whatever, I think. We brought in so many medical people to tell a story that was all speculation — that he was neurologically damaged, and he was losing it. He’s unfit to — you know, whatever. We were creating a story there that we didn’t know anything about. That’s what — I think that’s propaganda.”
    Chester: “We would always show shots of him [Biden] jogging and that [he’s] healthy, you know, and him in aviator shades. Like you paint him as a young geriatric.”
    Chester: “I think there’s a COVID fatigue. So, like whenever a new story comes up, they’re [CNN’s] going to latch onto it. They’ve already announced in our office that once the public is — will be open to it — we’re going to start focusing mainly on climate.”
    Chester: “It’s going to be our [CNN’s] focus. Like our focus was to get Trump out of office, right? Without saying it, that’s what it was, right? So, our next thing is going to be for climate change awareness.”
    Chester: “It [COVID] will taper off to a point that it’s not a problem anymore. Climate change can take years, so they’ll [CNN will] probably be able to milk that quite a bit…Climate change is going to be the next COVID thing for CNN…Fear sells.”
    You can watch the video here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv8Zy-JwXr4

  4. NO DEATHS

    NO DEATHS OCCURRED AS SHOULDER RESTRAINT PROCEDURE USED 237 TIMES BY POLICE
    ______________________________________________________________________________

    “Minneapolis Police Used Neck Restraints 237 Times, Left 44 People Unconscious Since 2015, Records Show”

    Minneapolis Police Department officers have used neck restraints to subdue at least 237 people since 2015, according to an NBC News report published on Monday.

    The report, which analyzed Minneapolis police records dating back roughly five years, also found that officers’ use of the disarming restraint tactic caused subjects to lose consciousness in 44 of those instances. Data showed that 60 percent of individuals restrained by police using this method were black, 30 percent were white, and the remainder were Native Americans.

    – Newsweek
    _________

    Research revealed that 44 people were left unconscious by the shoulder restraint and the subject in the Chauvin case merely appeared unconscious.

    Obviously, the criminal suspect was the critical variable, as the procedure was prescribed and utilized consistently without alteration in results.

  5. I have only been able to catch parts here and there of the Chauvin trial. Media summations really don’t replace viewing it.

    What is everyone’s opinions of the case as presented? Did the prosecution prove its case that the use of excessive force killed George Floyd? Or was it excessive force concomitant with Floyd’s OD/CO death? Or was it a combination, in which case the restraint contributed, but was not the only cause, of Floyd’s death?

    Let me know your opinion. Did you find the prosecution or the defense most effective? Did the defense prove a reasonable doubt?

    1. I watched 90% of the trial. It wasn’t exactly the same as being there. In some things, the jurors know more than I do about the case. In other areas (medical and automotive exhaust), I know more than they do. I feel strongly that Chauvin acted as would a cop with “street burnout”, desensitized to the mission of serving and protecting, even protecting a person (e.g. Floyd) who appears to be making the job difficult. You’ve heard too many falsehoods bellowed out to avoid arrest — you’ve heard them all. So, when the time comes where a claustrophobic person is deathly afraid of the backseat of the squad car, you are not going out of your way in terms of sensitivity. As a cop, you simply are not being paid by the public to be manipulated into laxity by forked tongues. Yet, Chauvin defied a half-dozen or more rules for handling arrestees, the last of which was not calling his supervisor immediately to report being involved in a use-of-force incident. A guy who flaunts the rules at that level doesn’t deserve the trust and the badge. Do I want to see an example made of Chauvin?….yes, but only to the extent of his unlawful behavior. I would like to see his supervisor and upward in the chain of command reprimanded for keeping Chauvin on street patrol knowing his pre-2020 history of complaints.

      I was left believing that carbon monoxide poisoning was a significant factor in the death, yet another token of aloof, irresponsible policing.
      I talked to a medical expert, and Mr. Floyd’s Emergency Room O2 saturation level (98%) merely shows that the EMTs and ER doc did a good job re-oxygenating his blood by artificial means. Contrary to Blackwell and Swisher in their final arguments, the question of CO poisoning was left dangling open in the trial, and Blackwell seemed to indicate on Day 14 at the evidentiary hearing that his team had consulted a police vehicle expert about the exhaust issue — yet that interview was concealed from the discovery process. If it posited exculpatory evidence, any conviction might be overturned based on prosecutorial misconduct.

      I think there will likely be at least one guilty verdict (man 2), and it will be overturned on appeal….just a guess.

      1. Well said, pbinca. You make good points. I think the critical juncture is where Chauvin kept kneeling on Floyd minutes after he stopped struggling, as well as his failure to change positions when he said he couldn’t breathe.

        I have no idea if Floyd OD’d under Chauvin’s knee, if the restraint is what killed him, or if it contributed to COD. I didn’t watch enough segments of the trial to be able to judge if the prosecution made their case.

        But there’s no question that there was excessive force. Every time I watch that video I’m struck by Chauvin’s callous disregard.

        Since the jury has reached a same day verdict, I think that Chauvin will probably be doomed for that excessive force.

        I wish politicians and activists had just stayed out of it, so there woudn’t be such interference with the trial. No matter what the verdict comes back as, the country needs to have confidence that the criminal justice system is fair and impartial.

        1. “But there’s no question that there was excessive force. Every time I watch that video I’m struck by Chauvin’s callous disregard.”

          If there was excessive force ( I think likely true) we should not be looking backward, but we should be looking forward for the best police procedures available. Destroying police morality leads to a lower quality policeman, and more danger to the public from crime. That is what the left is doing and in the process creating exactly those things no one says they want.

          1. A jury finding an officer guilty after a trial shouldn’t destroy police morality. Unless you believe that police should be above the law.

            1. He might be guilty but not of the two major charges against him. The threat to the city and the nation from riots permitted by the left have a lot to do with our crime rate spiraling today.

              Reason is an important thing lacking in people with a blood lust.

              1. He was found guilty on all counts by a unanimous jury.

                Chauvin can appeal his conviction just like other convicted felons.

                1. “Chauvin can appeal his conviction just like other convicted felons.”

                  Showing off what everyone else knows?

        2. There was no interference with the trial. The jurors were ordered not to watch or read media accounts, and the judge assumes they complied with his order. And, as he said, nothing Maxine Waters had to say would sway them anyway.

          You just keep grasping at straws to explain away or excuse what Chauvin did.

      2. Agreed on the burnout factor, that possibly Chauvin is as much victimized by a policing system that eats its own as it also eats the public. On the other hand, the same logic can be applied as to other murders…, there are lots of cops, just as burnt out that don’t kill people. Chauvin did. The evidence was overwhelming. Not only was a man killed on the street who didn’t deserve it, a cop who possibly began with good intentions is now destroyed as a result of his actions.

        I think Chauvin believed to the end he would be acquitted. I believe his defense knew his chances were slim at best.

        In the end, this is just tragedy all around and it points to a massive need for systemic change. The changes, should they happen, won’t weaken policing, it will strengthen it. Lowering the bar never increases qualtiy of work.

        Some things happened in this trial that have been necessary to happen in any number of cases, not the least of which was watching self justifying blue wall protections crumble more than a little bit. Good job Minneapolis…, you still have a lot on your plate, but this was a good beginning. This was possibly the closest thing to justice for George Floyd that is possible in our system. Let’s hope we learn a lesson from it.

    2. Jury verdict: GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS. Justice prevailed. There was no overdose involved here, except in your mind.

  6. Turley, Turley, Turley: you claim that media coverage of the Chauvin case is:”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.” Why should the public be “informed of” arguments of an attorney paid to try to get someone acquitted when there’s probable cause? How or why is this important, because arguments of an attorney are not evidence? What you’re really trying to say that if some hired mouthpiece comes up with some bullsh*t argument, that media should ignore the fact that it is, in fact, bullsh*t, and pretend that it is entitled to credence. That, to you, is balanced reporting. It’s not balanced to ignore the reality of what Chauvin did to Floyd. How much have his arrogance and refusal to accept responsibility cost the City of Minneapolis and this country, for that matter? Why wouldn’t he plead? Because his lawyer thought he could pander to race and prejudice the jury against Floyd by harping on the drugs, even though they did not cause his death.

    IMHO, looking at Chauvin is all the convincing any reasonable person needs that he knew he was killing George Floyd and still doesn’t care that he took a human life. The arrogance is there–written all over his smug, defiant face. The lack of remorse is there–written all over his arrogant, smug face. Even if you want to argue that somehow George Floyd was going to die that day even if Chauvin hadn’t knelt on his neck, Chauvin clearly couldn’t care less that his conduct contributed to the death of a person who was not any threat to him.

    Turley’s first foray into this case was to claim that the ME was going to say that Floyd died of a drug overdose. Well, that didn’t happen, now did it, Turley? In fact, the ME made clear that Floyd did of asphyxia, not fentanyl and meth. So, now Turley’s dropped that all-important argument in favor of attacking media, as usual, and as a paid employee of the Hate Network.

      1. Except….there’s no evidence that either of these things resulted in his death. Chauvin did not follow department policy.

        1. Liar. There is plenty of evidence. You’re just another craven liar who regardless of what you heard, did not listen.

            1. ATS, as you have been told time and time again you do not understand the principles behind the selection process.

    1. So now Doctor Natacha can look at Officer Chavin’s smug face and reveal his inner thoughts to us all. When I was a kid we could go to the state fair and see the Great Swami reveal all things unknown to the common man. And now on this very day we witness the revealing picture of an inner mind by the mighty Swami Natacha. What is it called when someone sees things that our not really there to reinforce a previously presumed fantasy? What was the name of the cartoon show that included Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Natacha and Yosemite Sam? I think it began with an L and ended with a Tunes. Help me out.

      1. Look at his face. Do you see any remorse? Nope. Listen to his lawyer’s arguments, and that’s all they are: harping in drugs, ignoring the official autopsy findings, downplaying the findings, trying to play with the facts from numerous law enforcement and medical experts. The evidence of his guilt is overwhelming. I’ve seen plenty of instances where someone caused injury or death to someone and sincerely felt remorse, even if they may not have been the sole cause, but they still felt bad that their conduct hurt another person. That’s not Chauvin.

        1. You cannot call it a “fair trial”…..when the jurors are fearing for their lives, their families lives, their homes, their well being, their livlihoods, their friends, their neighbors, and we have not only members of Congress weighing in, but also the president, then you are blind.

            1. Yes and the jurors knew that they would be identified, their names released, putting them all under mob pressure with targets on their backs. So there’s that. What would you do under MOB rule? You would convict. On all counts. Done. Toss it to the appeal process and try to get on with your life. The alternative? A living hell.

              The jury was not sequestered. We all have smart phones with us. They all knew what was going on. They made the “correct decision” for self preservation first and foremost. Who wouldn’t?

    2. Your thought process about Chauvin that he “knew he was killing George Floyd and still doesn’t care” demonstrates a cognitive error that many people make, called ex-post-facto information blurring. That means that you’ve merged what you learned since its capture into the meaning of the video as you watch it. You can’t contextualize the content of the video with only what was known at the instant it was captured. You’re projecting evil thoughts onto the police officer that are only possible in retrospect.

      It’s pretty obvious from the way Chauvin was acting, and his remarks to Charles McMillan, that he didn’t know he had just killed someone.
      Rather, he had just handed off an “oversized” person “possibly high on something” who put up a fight being taken into custody to EMS medics. His plan was for the medics to revive Mr. Floyd. He was crushed to learn later that the man had died.

      Did Chauvin make some tragic errors in judgment that kept his body weight on Mr. Floyd’s neck and back?…Yes. Was it de-escalating to put Floyd in a prone maximal restraint?…No. Was it irresponsible to ignore Mr. Floyd’s pleas?….that’s tricky. That depends upon whether Mr. Floyd was “crying wolf” earlier about “I can’t breathe”, “I got claustrophia”, etc, phrases passed around in street subculture as excuses to get out of being arrested. Manipulating a cop with jiving is a very short-term strategy.

      I perceive in your mostly rhetorical questions a need to demonize Chauvin, and a willingness only entertain facts to support that demonization. That’s not the way our legal system is supposed to work.

      I’m not defending Mr. Chauvin. I am defending objective fact-finding and the culture of truth-gathering that goes on in the Courtroom. In an ideal world, Mr. Chauvin will be judged on what he did at the time based upon what he knew at the time. But in reality, video evidence has an odd property that makes it very easy to recontextualize its meaning based on who is viewing it, when they are viewing it, and what they additionally know since the time the video was captured. I think this is one reason (valid) why some police unions had reservations about body-cams. We’re likely destined to live with that technology, and therefore must become more aware of how to properly contextualize a video clip being watched. It takes mental discipline to do this….it’s counter-instinctual.

    3. Yeah, he died of asphyxia – a common side effect of a fentanyl overdose. The meth put an extra strain on the heart as well.

          1. Thanks for saying the obvious. Did you know the jurors names would be released, and they knew this? Even if you, as a juror, believed there *was reasonable doubt,* would YOU acquit knowing your name would be released and the MOB will be coming for you and your family and friends? That your life would be a living hell? Your town would burn to the ground? Riots would go on?

            No, you would not.

            1. Of course he wouldn’t. He doesn’t even use an alias.

              Fear is causing some people to sell their homes even though they are established in the city.

  7. It’s scary how so many in the media have disregarded due process in these cases. Anyone who has taken the time to study the case will know that it is a lot more complicated than what the media brings

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