Applauding The Chauvin Verdict Is Premature

The jury deliberated for 10 hours, and the verdict is in, convicted on all counts. Derrick Chauvin is going to prison. The country can breathe a collective sigh of relief. The Twin Cities and other places won’t burn. The Justice System works. No, the System failed, and it did it big time. 

Do I think Derrick Chauvin was innocent? In a June 2020 post, “A Different Perspective,” I expressed the thought it might’ve been intentional murder. There were reports Chauvin and Floyd worked at the same club and might’ve known each other. A grudge leads to Chauvin’s deadly measures. Just indifference didn’t seem to explain what happened. I never thought he was innocent.

The problem is the handling of the trial. If ever a case needed a change of venue, this was it. It had every element needed to move the proceeding elsewhere. Massive publicity was only the beginning. The Twin Cities already had experienced riots over this murder. A police precinct station torched. Ignoring fear and possible intimidation isn’t an option. It’s not as if there weren’t other options, such as Duluth, available.

Judge Peter Cahil, entering his courthouse, saw the fences and concrete barricades. Did he think they were there for decoration? He had to be aware of the combustibility of the Twin Cities area. Continued demonstrations and unlawful occupation of part of the county continued throughout the process.

Under similar circumstances, a judge granted O.J. Simpson’s defense a change of venue. Judge Cahill ignored the cloud of fear overhanging the Twin cities, even though this could lead to the intimidation of jurors or witnesses. Cahill made his first error.

If his courthouse fortifications didn’t give Cahill pause, it indeed came into play when the jury was selected. A dismissed juror put it this way, “I was sort of thinking it’s going to snowball; it’s going to get bigger and bigger as the days go by, and I don’t know if I want to deal with all that comes with that,” he said in court. “The media attention, the people outside the courthouse, all the guards and stuff, it’s just a lot for me to take in.” Joseph H. Low IV, a Los Angeles criminal defense and civil trial lawyer, told ABC News that he expects the bolstered security to continue to have a chilling effect on selecting a jury.

This should’ve been a red flag that some jury self-selection might be happening. Nobody wants to cause cities to burn. Those likely to vote convict are less likely to attract the wrath of the mob outside the courthouse. If you could entertain an acquittal or lesser charge, you might be the cause of rioting and put yourself and others at risk. Under the circumstances, who would be more likely to make themselves available to serve? The evidence this was a very cohesive jury that came to a rapid verdict only adds to the indication of self-selection.

If some prospective jurors were likely to be fearful, witnesses could also feel intimidated. Highly respected expert witnesses might find themselves “too busy” to appear. The fact is a defense witness’s home, in fact, was vandalized. 

The reaction from some prospective jurors should’ve alerted the Judge of the fear and intimidation problem. However, he still kept trial in the Twin Cities. He added a second error of judgment.  

The jury was never sequestered except to vote, even though the defense made the request at specific points. This allowed the jurors to hear the City settled the civil suit for $27 million. How could this not influence the jury? The only conclusion they could draw was, the City government thinks Chauvin is really guilty.

During the trial, another shooting in nearby Lincoln Center caused further rioting against the police. In this day and age of instantly available news on any device, anything said or done is known.  

 If this wasn’t bad enough, the jurors probably heard of Representative Maxine Water from California haranguing a crowd in Brooklyn Center. She demanded Chauvin be convicted of a crime higher than he was charged with or the mob should get “get confrontational.” 

Even Judge Cahill said this could cause a successful Chauvin appeal, but he didn’t call a mistrial so close to the end of the trial. All these things could only influence the jury. Another error joins the others. Once Cahill failed to move the proceeding, it just continued downhill. 

You might say so what? A murderer got convicted, and it’s over without harm. After all, it only took the jury a short time to convict on all charges. As they say, “All is well that ends well.”

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. Three other policemen also present at the murder are going to go trial. Cahill also refused a change of venue in their cases. In the same problematic situation, Chauvin was convicted, the three will have a hard time receiving a fair trial.

Remember, Chauvin faced multiple charges, each with different penalties. Could a juror have opted for a lower cone while still concluding he was guilty and needed to be punished? I thought he was guilty, but I’m not entirely sure which charge fits best. While I might go for the most significant penalty, I can understand someone making a different choice. The problem is anything less the Max provokes a likely riot, and the jurors know it.

The cases against the other three cops are nowhere a clear as the one against Chauvin. Guilty, and if so, of what charge will be much more difficult. Officer Kim Potter in the Lincoln Center shooting presents an even murkier situation. The fear and intimidation in the Twin City area remain the same. Anything less than the Max won’t be acceptable to those that have taken to the streets. How can this be free of coercion? 

The venue can’t be changed in these cases without admitting it should’ve been granted in the Chauvin case. A change can’t be ignored in the Chauvin appeal. The circumstances are the same.

This sets up a significant dilemma. A change of venue could lead to a reversal in the Chauvin case. If the other proceedings aren’t moved, and the Chauvin verdict is overturned, those proceedings are tainted. 

If the Chauvin verdict isn’t overturned, but the others are moved and have different results, rioting and lawlessness would likely occur elsewhere.  

Of course, there might be no reversal in the Chauvin case, and the other proceedings aren’t moved. All those charged are convicted on the maximum charges—no one riots. Everyone can again congratulate themselves on how well everything turned out. Peggy Noonan can give us another self-satisfied Wall Street Journal article on how the System worked.

This would be the worst outcome. The country is already suffering from the “Ferguson Effect.” Even if the police do everything right, they’re in trouble. The result is less aggressive policing. Recruiting has declined while retirements rise. The consequence is a big jump in crimes and murders. Suppose the convictions of police are seen as under duress rather than fair. In that case, it will become near impossible to find qualified police recruits. Under those circumstances, would anyone want their children or grandchildren to join the police? I personally would strongly advise against it.

Bad apples appear in every phase of our lives. Just as we have seen how difficult it is to get rid of bad teachers, bad cops are protected by their public-sector unions. The Democratic Party is the greatest supporter and beneficiary of public-sector unions. If you want reforms, this an excellent place to start. Everyone wants good cops, including cops. Bad apples are found in every race, creed, or gender.

Public safety is a primary job of the government. If your house is being broken into, you expect a 911 call to result in real help. A social worker rather than a cop won’t suffice. With no or few police, we are left to arming ourselves or forming vigilante groups or both. This is a breakdown of civilization.

Like the O.J. Simpson venue change, moving the Chauvin Trial and others to Duluth would be viewed as an effort to be fair to the accused. A less threatened jury would see the same evidence—a guilty verdict unlikely seen as under jury duress. An acquittal might result in rioting elsewhere, but a jury there would be far less threatened. The subsequent trials moved out of the Twin Cities definitely would have a better appearance. 

Once he made the first mistake of not granting a change of venue, Judge Cahill set in motion increasingly unfair proceedings. The jury in trials that follow will have the same fears and pressures, plus the knowledge of President Biden of weighing in on the side of the prosecution. His critical remarks were made while the Chauvin jury was voting under sequestration; they are well known to the future juries. Fairness keeps declining.

For all those who think the Chauvin verdict had a happy ending, you’ll find this was only the beginning.

A disturbing downturn in our vaccination rate is showing up. From the December rollout, we’ve had a steady progression of increasing shots. Other than a February bad weather dip, it has been an upward trend. Lately, we can see a downturn:

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