/ September 3, 2023
By Bill Juneau
I am just one retired lawyer, and I get my information from home research and the reading of newspapers and magazines, and by listening to TV talking analysts. Others may not agree with me. But one thing that I am sure of is that Policeman Derek Chauvin, 47, did not receive a fair trial on the charges of murder and manslaughter of George Floyd, a hardened criminal, high on heroin and fentanyl.
Floyd succumbed in May 2020 while being detained as a suspect by police on a Minneapolis street. Officer Chauvin was convicted by a twin-city jury in April, 2021 of unintentional murder and manslaughter and sentenced by Judge Peter Cahill to 22.5 years in prison. The recommended prison time in Minnesota for the specific offenses is 12.5 years. However, Judge Cahill added 10 years onto the sentence because of the officer's alleged unnecessary "cruelty" in making the arrest.
Chauvin used his knee on the suspect's throat to detain him and settle him down. It is a technique taught policemen in Minnesota and in police departments across the country, and Chauvin made use of it. The fact that Floyd was an African American had nothing to do with his method of detainment, nor was it an exercise in "cruelty."
Floyd's death created a firestorm of rage in black communities across America. That rage was exacerbated and transmitted by a media which thundered the calls for punishment for the white, racist cop and three rookies who assisted him in subduing Floyd and in exercising crowd control.
The unintended death of George Floyd, whose lengthy police record was known to Minneapolis officers, and whose precise cause of death was never scientifically determined, triggered riots, arsons, deaths and billions of dollars in destruction of property in major cities across America. Demands for the punishing of the Minneapolis policemen were overwhelming. It was all about race and police denigration of blacks. Conviction for murder by the policeman was an absolute given and a foregone conclusion.
Alan M. Dershowitz, retired Harvard university professor of criminal law, and a nationally recognized legal scholar, stated prior to commencement of the trial, that there is "no way" that Derek Chauvin could ever receive a fair trial in Minneapolis.
The Chauvin conviction and the enhanced sentencing for an unintentional and accidental crime was appealed, and in April of this year, was affirmed by the Minnesota Appellate court. In July, just last month, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied the appeal in a one-page order without comment, effectively exhausting the defendant's state remedies.
Attorneys for the 19-year-veteran police officer, who is serving his enhanced prison sentence designed by the trial judge to assuage the BLM organization lest it continue its warlike activities, said that the case will be appealed to the United States Supreme Court and the necessary petition to the court for certiorari is being prepared for filing, according to available information.
There is confidence in some areas that SCOTUS, the nation's highest court, whose courage to follow the law became evident when it overruled Roe v. Wade in June of 2022, will accept the Chauvin appeal and will ultimately make a final determination.
Let the court, headed by Chief Justice John Roberts, examine the Floyd case with fresh, unstained glasses and it is my opinion that it will see that Chauvin was denied a fair trial and was made to suffer at the hands of a judge who erred in countless rulings and who declined several petitions for a change of venue where a "fair trial" could be provided in accord with the U.S. Constitution.
The high court needs to consider the lawlessness which was sweeping Minneapolis and other urban centers as the trial went forward. As a jury was being finalized, the city of Minneapolis announced that it was awarding $27 million to the Floyd family in view of the death of George Floyd. The jury that had not been sequestered, very likely became aware of the award and may have considered the dire consequences if it failed to find Officer Chauvin guilty of murdering the black man.
One juror selected, an African American high school coach, lied during a voir dire examination by asserting that he had no prejudice or opinion favoring Floyd; or negative assessments of policemen. He was promptly approved as one of the 12 jurors. Later, it became known that the juror had participated in a rally on behalf of George Floyd and had worn a tee shirt inscribed with the comment, "get your knee off of my neck." The jury was tainted from day one.
The courthouse where the trial took place was converted into a fortress and was rimmed with coiled wire as the unsequestered jurors passed in and out during the six weeks of trial. Down the street were areas where buildings and shops were torn apart and had suffered damages in the hundreds of millions of dollars.. The nearby intersection where Floyd died, was transformed into "George Floyd Square," and it contained pictures of Floyd and other momentos calling attention to the racial killing by police.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California announced that there would be trouble if the jury failed to deliver a verdict of murder. If the defendant is not found guilty of murder, she said, there will be retaliation, and "we will get confrontational."
President Biden was always in the corner of the prosecutors and while not singling out defendant Chauvin for misconduct, commented publicly that police departments were "systemically racist," and that the nation's problem was caused by white supremacists.
Judge Cahill declined to allow as a defense witness at trial the companion of Floyd whose testimony would have contradicted much of the testimony on which the prosecution had built its case for murder or manslaughter by a police officer prejudiced against blacks.
On several occasions during the trial, defense lawyers petitioned Cahill to grant a change of venue and allow the trial to be held in a less stormy area; and which would help in guaranteeing that the defendant received a fair trial, pursuant to the U.S. Constitution. Cahill denied the petitions commenting that the anti-police sentiment would be the same in every other jurisdiction.
The enhanced penalty of 22.5 years with the last 10 tacked on for "cruelty," was among rulings of Judge Cahill in his biased attempt to please the enraged black community which was tearing up the streets of cities across the country, with calls for the defunding of police departments.
If it grants the Writ of Certiorari as anticipated, the Supreme Court with its nine justices will examine all aspects of the case and determine if the defendant was treated fairly. The court can affirm the conviction; or it can reverse findings, or it can order that a new trial be held in a different venue before a sequestered jury.
Was Prof. Dershowitz wrong when he said that there was "no way" that Derek Chauvin could receive a fair trial in Minneapolis?
Bill Juneau worked for 25 years as a reporter and night city editor at the Chicago Tribune. Subsequently he became a partner in a law firm and also served as a village prosecutor and as a consultant to the Cook County Circuit Court and to the Cook County Medical Examiner. He is currently writing columns and the 'Florida Bill' blog.
Free Press International
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