As jurors begin the process of cashing in on fame and fortune, one of the twelve tasked with interpreting three weeks of intricate, conflicting evidence – a process that would determine a man’s freedom or incarceration – claimed that the verdicts could have come back in about twenty minutes. The only holdup was helping a single jurist (who is praying their identity isn’t revealed) decipher one aspect of jury instructions. That’s twenty minutes minus however long that sidebar lasted, which equates to the total time being spent in deliberation – on three separate counts. This is not only a true miscarriage of justice, it is the height of moral and intellectual stupidity.
Setting aside whether or not the correct verdict was reached – which on its own merits is hard to do – how does this latest revelation sit well with anyone that values due process, objectivity, and standing legal procedures? Such apathy for truth is as disheartening as it is alarming. Who among us welcomes the day when we have a questionable charge brought before us and the jury is indifferent to our fate? Yesterday it was a Canadian court arresting a father for misgendering his daughter and today it was Derek Chauvin facing two insane murder charges. It is frightening to think what a court might find us guilty of tomorrow.
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Prior to the juror’s revelations, it was still hard to imagine that Derek Chauvin was going to receive an impartial and open-minded jury by holding the trial in the backyard of the George Floyd riots. The same people that voted for a 13-0 leftist majority on the Minneapolis city council, sent Ilhan Omar to Congress, and ushered in Keith Ellison as Attorney General of the whole state weren’t going to be waving Blue Lives Matter flags anytime soon. The same people who ultimately voted to convict Chauvin on all three charges had already witnessed their city burn for months and were repeatedly reminded it would burn again. But no, this juror says none of these considerations impacted their impartiality. Right.
Last summer, the jury pool was also irrevocably influenced by heavy messaging from their local and state politicians. Prominent pols like Minneapolis boy mayor Jacob Frey and inept governor Tim Walz messaged the masses that justice would not be served unless Chauvin were convicted. Regular speaking appearances by these fools about how systemic racism pervades our society practically precluded a guilty verdict. White supremacy is real, Derek Chauvin is white, ergo he is guilty. The lack of presumption of innocence did not seem to bother anyone. Related to all of this and not getting nearly enough attention is the fact that Keith Ellison admitted – after the fact, of course – that there was no evidence of racism. The country endured the most widespread domestic terorrism in its history, Americans were told of white supremacist institutions, racist policing patterns, and at the end of the drama Ellison matter-of-factly noted that race did not play a role in the Chauvin/Floyd saga. What were we doing that whole time?
In the midst of jury selection itself, the city paid out $27 million to the George Floyd family in the biggest ghetto lottery settlement of all time. The timing was inappropriate and also too convenient. Many major news outlets likely didn’t know that the Attorney General of Minnesota, Keith Ellsion, has a son that sits on the Minneapolis City Council. You’d have to be another kind of stupid to think father and son weren’t talking about the trial in some capacity.
And if all of this was bad enough, jurors would show up every morning and leave every evening to a scene straight out of Venezuela, with the cement blocks, fencing, and National Guard presence in front of the courthouse. They all knew those pieces were in place for one obvious reason. Sure, the barricades were a necessary evil, but it didn’t exactly send an impartial message. Guilty and be safe, or not guilty and fend for your life – for the rest of your life. Side note: It’s absurd to think that Minneapolis cheers on Black Lives Matter while openly acknowledging they are a force of destructive evil. Either they should support them and have to publicly condone the death and violence; or, they should stand up to them and condemn it.
There is then the role of Judge Cahill. He rejected requests to both move the location of the trial and to sequester the jury from start to finish. A relocation would have at least minimized the military lockdown of Minneapolis and found a jury pool not completely tainted by politics. Hennepin County residents cannot help but think, eat, feel, breathe, and see the impact of Floyd’s death. Moving further from the city, each of these considerations would have been, if not eliminated, at least reduced. As for the lack of foresight to sequester the jury, Cahill had to trust that jurists weren’t talking about, reading about, or otherwise being influenced about the trial. In the age of smartphones and general human arrogance, this seems all but impossible.
Jury sequestration really would have helped after Brooklyn Center happened. First, the woman-robbing-at-gunpoint Daunte Wright was shot and killed (by accident) after resisting arrest for an outstanding warrant. With national media already in town, a nearby officer-involved shooting of another young, black man fit the narrative juicily, and it was served hot. This ginned up the base to wreak havoc and portend greater riots to come (as if the jury needed a reminder). To make matters worse, Maxine Waters decided she needed to fly to someone else’s legislative district and attest that a 1st-degree, premeditated murder charge was necessary for justice, lest the city witness unprecenteded immolation. The following morning, a drive-by shooting aimed at National Guardsmen stationed in Minneapolis also took place. And Judge Cahill just trusted everyone to be ignorant of international news stories? Even the juror casually admitted he was “vaguely aware” of the chaos in Brooklyn Center. You think?
Through it all, and despite the defense providing an evidentiary rebuttal to the claim Chauvin snuffed out Floyd via asphyxiation, it was all for naught. In the same time it will have taken me to write this article, the jury had already made up their mind as to Chauvin’s fate. They never considered the irrefutable autopsy results that showed no ligament damage around vital parts of Floyd’s neck. They never considered competing video evidence showing that Chauvin’s knee wasn’t even always on the neck, which led the prosecution to change the language from just neck to neck area afterwards. They never considered the testimony from EMT that had access to the carotid artery, which demonstrated blood flow to the brain. Nor did they consider multiple officers confirming that not only was Chauvin’s restraint part of police training, it wasn’t even the most restrictive option he had. Likewise, the jury never considered that Floyd claimed he could not breathe for some time prior to going prone, based entirely on a veritable drug cocktail. And, they never considered the totality of circumstances in which Chauvin found himself, such as the lengthy (but empathetic) attempt to subdue Floyd or the effect the hostile crowd had in rendering aid – even the EMTs got the hell out of there before administering life-saving support. Apparently, none of this compelled the jury to deliberate beyond the need to explain a procedural part of jury duty.
Reasonable minds could arrive at different outcomes. However, reasonable minds would have to at least entertain the possibility of other factors. Derek Chauvin was never going to get a fair trial based on all the circumstances leading up to it, and now the jury is admitting it didn’t even want to consider evidence. Prosecutors repeatedly said that “we all saw the photo” of George Floyd being killed, as if that was a self-evident statement of murder.
Will Chauvin get a fair chance at appeal? Don’t hold your breath.