Another, Clearer Take on the Chauvin Trial

I leave it to you to decide why, from the Trayvon Martin case to the George Floyd case, the media has so consistently misrepresented the facts. Whether it is that unskilled reporters are covering these matters, or that the press is simply looking to attract consumers with florid tales, or that the media looks forward to destroying urban areas with false tales of murderous white racists (amid a shortage of real ones), I cannot say. But it was shocking to me to get letters from heads of very good independent schools who had bought completely into the initial media accounts of an out-of-control white cop deliberately murdering a black suspect in his custody. It occurred to me then that if people like these could be sold the false narrative, officer Derek Chauvin was surely in for a judicial lynching.

Once again, I turn to Legal Insurrection, which has consistently provided the most detailed and reliable accounts of high-profile trials and warn readers away from the AP, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and TV and cable news if you have any respect for truth. (I’d also note that it is my experience that reporters’ deadlines often conflict with the way trials proceed, so that too often the prosecution (or in civil matters, the plaintiff) case is presented just before deadline and the cross examination occurs too late to be covered in that day’s edition, leaving only a false, one-sided version of the day’s action.)

There, a highly-skilled defense counsel, Andrew Branca, has been monitoring the trial and has posted so far nine daily accounts of the trial proceeding. Like me, Branca feels the publishing deadlines overvalue the direct testimony and underrate cross examination.

On Saturday, William A. Jacobson, the owner of the site, provided a wrap-up of the trial coverage to date. Here are the key points:

(1 [T]he widely accepted narrative that Chauvin kept his ‘knee on the neck’ for 9 minutes has been thoroughly debunked by the prosecution’s own witnesses and the body cams. There was pressure by Chauvin’s knee, but it was not continuously on the neck, and was mostly on the back and shoulders, according to prosecution medical witness testimony. Recognizing this evidentiary problem, the prosecution case has shifted from the initial several trial days of claiming that pressure from the knee to the carotid artery cut off blood flow to the brain causing loss of oxygen and inability to breathe, a claim rejected by the prosecution’s own medical experts, to a broader claim that Floyd being restrained while handcuffed in the prone position with pressure from multiple officers impaired his ability to inhale.

There are very significant evidentiary problems ignored or misrepresented in the mainstream media as to (1) cause of death, (2) whether Chauvin caused the death, (3) whether the force used by Chauvin was unlawful, and for some counts, (4) Chauvin’s intent. People who only read the mainstream media coverage of the case are ignorant of these issues.

2. The use of force was reasonable under the circumstances. Floyd was larger and heavier than the arresting officer, was resisting arrest, and complaining of being unable to breathe even as they tried to seat him in the squad car.

3. Floyd was high (on three times a fatal dose of fentanyl) and foaming at the mouth and had earlier experienced some of the same symptoms from a drug overdose for which he had been hospitalized.

4. Both fentanyl and amphetamine pills were found in the squad car where he had briefly been placed:

To the extent the drugs ingested by Floyd also contained methamphetamine, however (and we know that the found pills contained both), then they also contained a stimulant, which could explain Floyd’s energized state in forcibly resisting lawful arrest against multiple officers for some 10 minutes.

The meth would also explain why Floyd’s pupils didn’t demonstrate the pin-prick constrictions of fentanyl overdose but were instead dilated — a condition the state used to argue, again, that it could not have been fentanyl that killed Floyd — the dilation would be induced by the meth component of the drugs.

All of this, of course, suggests an alternative cause of death other than Chauvin’s knee, and that is the self-induced overdose of Floyd via that pill ingestion on May 25.

5. The widely viewed video that seemed to show Chauvin had pressed against Floyd’s neck was misleading because of the camera’s perspective. The body cam which had been in the custody of Minnesota authorities revealed that his knee was on Floyd’s shoulder. That is consistent with the autopsy finding that his carotid artery had not been compressed nor had he died of asphyxiation. This should be a consistent warning again of overreacting to videos of disputed events — camera angles can provide misleading versions. Curious, isn’t it, that the government has had this exculpatory evidence in its possession all this time and only produced when required to for this trial, not earlier when it might have checked the rioting?

6. [T]he use of pressure and body weight to restrain a suspect was adopted by the MPD because it was a lesser intensity of force than the prior practice of using strikes — either barehanded, or with batons, or even with weighted gloves — to compel compliance. [snip]

The take home message for the jury is that Chauvin’s knee, far from being a public execution in a public street, was a lesser force than would otherwise have been required.

7. Angry bystanders interfered with the officers’ ability to control Floyd and obtain more quickly medical treatment for him. In effect, they at least contributed to his death.

More colorful than Branca’s daily accounts is Ann Coulter’s who refers to Chauvin as a “white sacrifice.”

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