The video shows former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin tucking George Floyd under his knee for more than 9 minutes while Floyd begs for his life and viewers screaming for the officer to give in can appear damned But is what Chauvin did criminal? And is this video enough to prove he’s guilty of the murder and manslaughter he’s subjected to while on trial?
Legal professionals who followed the pre-trial filings and maneuvers say the case against Chauvin is far from a slam dunk, despite this stunning and difficult-to-observe visual evidence
While Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is bringing the state’s case against Chauvin to Judge Peter Cahill, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank Frank will face difficult challenges arising from legal requirements for example In order for Chauvin to be guilty of the most serious charges – accidental second degree murder – prosecutors must first establish beyond any doubt that he caused Floyd’s death. However, the results of the autopsy make this task difficult
The County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report found that 46-year-old Floyd died from a combination of causes including “cardiopulmonary arrest that makes law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compressions difficult,” and that his system had “fentanyl poisoning” recent methamphetamine use “Although the report named the mode of death” murder “, it is not clear how much weight this carries in court. The report states,” This is not a legal determination of fault or intent ”
Meanwhile, an independent autopsy ordered by Floyd’s family reported that he had died from murder but said it was caused by “suffocation from compression of the neck and back resulting in a lack of blood flow “Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump also criticized the medical examiner’s autopsy for having toxicological results, saying” the cause of death was that he was starving for air, it was oxygen starvation and so is everything else red herring to throw us off ”
According to Mike Brandt, Minneapolis criminal defense attorney, there will likely be a “battle of the experts” in the trial over what exactly caused Floyd’s death, those who testify about the autopsies will long be on this stand and doing high-powered science about the various mechanisms that were going on in George Floyd’s body at the time the knee was on his neck. “He said defense attorneys will raise questions like” whether the oxygen starvation occurred because of him had a heart attack? “Or was his death caused by ‘a combination of controlled substances’?
Richard Frase, Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota, agrees, stressing that “The defense need only raise reasonable doubt, or at least get a juror to say,” I am, about any element of law enforcement not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that they have proven the cause here ‘”
But Frase believes that despite these physiological mechanics arguments, the prosecution has the edge because they can argue that Floyd “wouldn’t have died as quickly as he would if the police hadn’t physically and emotionally charged him stressed out And as long as they hasten his death, that’s a cause ”
Another challenging requirement on the second degree murder charge is that prosecutors prove that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death “while committing or attempting to commit a crime, in which case that crime is one.” Third degree offense, which is defined as someone who intentionally inflicts or tries to cause bodily harm
Did Chauvin commit an attack while holding back George Floyd, or was he rightly trained as a police officer to act in such a situation?
Here, Brandt envisages a second “clash of the experts,” this time specialists in the use of force. He predicts those on the defense side will say the restraint Chauvin used on Floyd was appropriate and even from the police training manual in Minneapolis, which was filed as an exhibit in the case you will argue, Brandt says such reluctance was justified because “these are unpredictable situations. His feet were still free, his head was still free, he could poke you. He can do any number of things and it’s dangerous, especially someone that contains controlled substances ”
Joseph Daly, professor emeritus at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minneapolis, suggests that Chauvin will try to evade the element of attack by asking the court to take a closer look at the video [Chauvin will] say, ‘I have never kneeling by his neck for nine minutes If you look closely you can see my knee on his shoulder Sometimes my knee is on his back I don’t kneel by his neck the whole time I had no intention of attacking this guy I didn’t feel like it to attack him. And I didn’t attack him. I tried to get him under control using techniques taught to me by the Minneapolis police, ”said Daly,
Frase predicts that law enforcement experts will testify that Chauvin’s use of force was unreasonable and, even when authorized, went well beyond the same police manual. It appears to allow the reluctance Chauvin used, but only when suspects ” Actively resist, “Frase says that’s key because Floyd is clearly unconscious and does not resist well before Chauvin finally removes his knee. Still, the officer” sustained the violence, “notes Frase, and” prosecutors can say that every use of force must be necessary and no force, not even fatal force, was necessary when he passed out ”
Some lawyers believe the lesser second degree manslaughter charge will be easier on prosecutors.It requires evidence that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through “culpable negligence,” meaning that he created an “undue risk” and deliberately taking the risk of causing death or bodily harm. Brandt believes there is much more room for prosecution under these charges. “He notes that the time Chauvin spent with his knee on Floyd’s neck or back makes it clear that he took an unreasonable risk, or took the risk of death or harm. He believes prosecutors will say, “Come on, what else would happen if you did that?”
A recent development could mean adding third degree murder to the charges against Chauvin, which he was originally charged with after Floyd’s death, until Judge Cahill dismissed those charges in October, an appeal court ruling on Friday means Cahill is now approved the prosecution needs to reconsider
If he reintroduces the third degree murder charge, as the prosecution wishes, Frank’s team would have to prove that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death “by maintaining an act of extremely dangerous nature and a depraved mind regardless of that human life shows “to the statute
The maximum sentences for all charges are severe – 40 years for second degree murder, 25 years for third degree murder, and 10 years for manslaughter, but these are also misleading and another area where expectations can conflict with reality / p>
Presiding Judge Cahill is required by Minnesota law to follow guidelines for conviction in these circumstances, the penalty for both accidental second degree murder and third degree murder is approximately 10 to 15 years for manslaughter charges The guideline is a four-year sentence. While prosecutors have asked for an “upward movement” that allows Cahill to serve a longer sentence, all legal experts interviewed by ABC News believe it is very unlikely that he would be able to cover the most serious indictment would impose near that 40-year maximum Chauvin has pleaded not guilty
Three weeks are allotted for jury selection But will it be possible to find impartial jurors, especially given the spread of the video and the weeks of protests and violence that struck Minneapolis following the incident? Frase acknowledges that this is a difficult but not impossible task, noting that potential jurors could be from rural areas “who really don’t pay much attention to Minneapolis” and may have views that would offset those of the residents / p>
Jurors will serve anonymously, but the verdict they will deliver is under scrutiny, Daly says this could be “one of the most important cases in the United States, for those who are paying attention, it means the power of the police and Check the use of force and the training of the police. Are they the guards of the people? Are they warriors against the people? What is the role of the police? “
These are the questions this trial may cause many to be considered both in the courtroom and across the country
World News – USA – The legal landscape of the Derek Chauvin process