Perhaps the most prominent criminal court case of the past decade is fastly approaching its conclusion.
Beginning on March 8, the State of Minnesota v. Derek Michael Chauvin seeks to establish whether or not former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is guilty of unlawfully killing George Floyd during the infamous May 25, 2020, arrest.
After eleven days of trial, the prosecution rested its case against on Monday.
With the defense yet to present its case, whether or not the state’s argument was strong enough to garner a conviction remains in question.
The Charges & Burden of Proof
Three charges have been levied against Chauvin — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
In order to get Chauvin charged, the prosecution must prove two things beyond a reasonable doubt — one, that Floyd died because of his interaction with police and two, that Chauvin used excessive and unnecessary force when restraining Floyd.
The prosecution had three main prongs of attack when making their case for conviction — numerous emotionally compelling testimonies from bystanders, expert medical opinions and depositions from disillusioned colleagues and co-workers of Chauvin.
Emotional Witnesses & Bystanders
For the first several days of the trial, the prosecution presented various videos capturing the incident from different angles, along with numerous testimonies from bystanders on the scene at the time.
On day three of the trial, one of the bystanders — Charles McMillian — broke down into tears while watching footage of the arrest.
When asked what he was feeling, McMillian spoke to the fact that Floyd had been calling for his mother as former Officer Chauvin knelt on his neck.
“I feel helpless,” McMillian said. “I don’t have a mama either. I understand him. My mom died June 25.”
On the same day, the prosecution interviewed Christopher Martin, the store clerk who accepted a counterfeit $20 bill from Floyd, which eventually led to police being called to the scene.
Asked to watch a video of the arrest as well, Martin also became emotional as he recalled that he felt “disbelief and guilt” at the time.
While these testimonies may have been emotionally compelling, collectively they did little to advance the state’s case on an evidentiary basis.
One bystander whose testimony was noticeably absent from the trial was Morris Hall, Floyd’s drug dealer who was in a car with Floyd at the time he was arrested.
In the defense’s opening statement, attorney Eric Nelson claimed that the jury would “hear from” Mr. Hall regarding “evidence that while they were in the car, Mr. Floyd consumed what were thought to be two Percocet pills.”
However, according to Law & Crime, Judge Peter Cahill denied Nelson’s request to allow the jury to hear testimony about the statement Hall had previously made regarding what he and Floyd were doing leading up to the arrest.
The judge also ruled that Hall would not have to testify after the alleged drug dealer invoked his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.
Hall’s defender, Adrienne Cousins claimed if Hal were to testify, it could lead to a potential third-degree murder charge due to his alleged drug activity with Floyd leading up to the arrest, Daily Wire reported.
Colleagues & Co-Workers Claim Chauvin Was Out of Line
Throughout the trial thus far, the prosecution also put forward several co-workers and colleagues of Chauvin, all of whom believed his restraint of Floyd to be excessive.
For example, on day six of the trial, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo claimed the neck restraint used by Chauvin violated police procedure.
“That action is not de-escalation and when we talk about the framework of our sanctity of life and when we talk about the principles and values that we have, that action goes contrary to what we’re taught,” Arradondo said.
When shown a picture of Chauvin on Floyd’s neck, Inspector Katie Blackwell, who was the head of the training department at the time Floyd was killed, claimed Chauvin was not utilizing a trained technique when he placed his knee on Floyd’s neck.
“I don’t know what kind of improvised position that is. It’s not what we train,” Blackwell said.
Medical Experts’ Opinions Pointed to Chauvin’s Guilty, Wavered Against Defense’s Cross-Examination
The third facet of the prosecution’s argument involved expert media opinions, with the consensus between the experts called upon being that Chauvin’s actions directly caused George Floyd’s death.
In regards to Chauvin’s restraint, medical expert and pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin asserted even a “healthy person subject to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died as a result.”
Forensic pathologist Lindsay Thomas also concluded that “subdual, restraint and compression” lead to Floyd’s death and confirmed she had ruled out “drug overdose as a cause of death.”
Some experts wavered against the defense’s cross-examination, however.
This was particularly the case when the defense posed a theoretical question to Thomas: “You find a person at home, no struggle with the police and the person doesn’t have a heart problem, but you find fentanyl and methamphetamine in this person’s system at the levels that they [were] at [in George Floyd], would you certify this as an overdose?”
“In the absence of any of these other realities, yes,” Thomas responded.
According to documents from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s findings, Floyd had 11 ng/mL of fentanyl in his system, as reported by KARE in August.
“If he were found dead at home alone and no other apparent causes, this could be acceptable to call an OD. Deaths have been certified with levels of 3,” the Hennepin County Medical examiner told investigators at the time.
In another document, the examiner also said, “That is a fatal level of fentanyl under normal circumstances,” although he also added, “I am not saying this killed him.”
Neither these documents nor Thomas’ concession proves George Floyd died of an overdose.
However, these facts may lead the jury to determine there is reasonable doubt as to what was actually the cause of death.
The Strength of the State’s Case Remains in Question
With the defense’s case still underway, the strength of the prosecution’s work thus far remains in question.
After reviewing the evidence presented in the trial thus far, Ben Shapiro — who, for a time, worked as a lawyer and legal consultant before becoming a prominent conservative commentator — believes the Chauvin case will end one of two ways.
“If I have to ballpark where I think this is going, I don’t think there’s a chance in the world that Chauvin actually gets acquitted,” Shapiro said on The Ben Shapiro Show.
“I think the most likely outcome here is a hung jury. I think you’ll get a couple of jurors who say we’re not going to convict on the basis of this evidence. You might get a conviction on the basis of manslaughter.”
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