April 21, 2024
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  • Source: FreePressers
  • 12/27/2023
FPI / December 27, 2023

Analysis by Bill Juneau

Though buried in news reports and difficult to find, we nevertheless have learned that the United States Supreme Court has refused to consider the appeal from former Policeman Derek Chauvin, who argues that he did not kill or commit manslaughter on George Floyd.

Chauvin's attorneys and assorted legal scholars, and millions of fair minded Americans share the belief that Chauvin did not receive a fair trial and that the evidence and "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" of his guilt for murder and manslaughter is sorely lacking; and that it was more the product of far-left racial and violent unrest. The jury decision of guilty on all counts was not a reasonable conclusion based on facts and testimony under oath during the officer's trial in April of 2021.

With his attorneys who prepared a lengthy written brief, Chauvin had importuned the nine justices of the nation's highest court and the final arbiter of disputes, to examine his appeal with clean glasses, outside the noise of a twisted world calling him a cruel "racist" cop, and to reverse the jury findings and order up a new trial which would be administered fairly. As is often said by lawyers, and constitutional experts, a new trial would be the "right thing to do."

Lasting five weeks in the spring of 2021, in the prominent Twin City of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the trial was held in a courthouse converted into a war-like fortress rimmed with coiled wire.

The 12-person jury was tainted and infected by one member who lied and concealed his anti-police sentiment during voir dire questioning by the judge and attorneys. Also, there was significant evidence that the jurors feared for their safety unless the defendant cop was convicted. Judicial errors were countless. Jurors were unsequestered and requests for a mistrial and change of venue were repeatedly denied by Trial Judge Peter Cahill.

The high court has declined a review of the Chauvin conviction and of the "enhanced" sentence handed him by Judge Cahill, thereby allowing the decision of the jury and the lower level Minnesota Court of Appeals to stand. Was the U.S. Supreme Court too concerned that changing the Floyd decision or ordering a new trial for the police officer ignite a bitter, new explosion of racial violence in Minneapolis and other major cities? Was the smart path by the erudite justices to just not get involved?

Several months ago, SCOTUS reversed the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision, ruling that abortion was not a constitutional question and that abortion availability, therefore, was to be decided by individual states. The court showed independence, moral courage and respect for the rule of law in dealing with this emotional issue. Was the high court's extraordinary bravery in reversing the Roe decision only justice for the moment.

Officer Chauvin, an 18-year veteran policeman, was found guilty of second degree unintended murder and manslaughter by the tainted jury which deliberated for 10 hours. The recommended sentencing guidelines in Minnesota for the named offenses is 12.5 years in jail. Judge Cahill sentenced the defendant to 22.5 years in a penitentiary explaining that he was "enhancing" the punishment by tacking on another decade of prison time because the defendant police officer had been unnecessarily "cruel," and that his conduct had been witnessed by young and impressionable children.

George Floyd, 46, an African American with a long rap sheet, died May 25, 2020 after Minneapolis Officer Chauvin arrested him, and was detaining him while awaiting a police transport vehicle. Police involvement came after a local merchant in Minneapolis telephoned police for help, accusing Floyd, of passing a counterfeit $20 bill as payment for cigarettes.

Tragically and unpredictably, the muscular, six-foot, six-inch Floyd succumbed as Chauvin held him to the ground with a knee on his neck, a common police procedure used by officers in controlling uncooperative suspects. The technique is taught officers in the Minneapolis police academy; and Officer Chauvin used the technique as he had been instructed to do.

At the trial, physicians argued as to the cause of death. Factually and without dispute, pathologists testified that Floyd's body was loaded with fentanyl and other drugs; He was actually gulping pills, complaining that he was having trouble breathing when first seen by policemen. Also, there was testimony from doctors that his main arteries were almost completely blocked so that he was in effect a "dead man walking." One physician testified Floyd had so much fentanyl in his system that his death would qualify as a drug overdose. Fentanyl claims thousands of lives in America each year.

Chauvin's lawyers were also petitioning the high court to consider in its final appeal a determination from respected pathologist William Schaetzel of Topeka, Kan., that Floyd died of a rare tumor in his body, a "paraganglioma." Dr. Schaetzel s recent investigation into the cause of Floyd's death directly challenges the conclusion that Floyd's demise was from asphyxia caused by the police officer's use of a "knee to his neck."

Derek Chauvin had been a uniformed policeman in Minneapolis for nearly two decades. He was the recipient of four medals and commendations for valor and bravery. He had never been disciplined for using excessive force in making an arrest.

The Chauvin trial began in an atmosphere of headlines, and riots and protest demonstrations on allegations that Chauvin was a racist cop, who typified policemen throughout the country. Despite the near anarchy in some locations, Judge Cahill declined to sequester jurors despite repeated motions that he do so.

The dishonest juror selected was an African American high school coach. He was approved after informing the court that he had no preconceived notions of the policeman's guilt; and that he would act solely on the basis of the evidence presented. Concealed was the fact that he had attended a rally in which he wore a hat saluting the BLM organization, and a Tee-shirt with the inscription , "Get your knee off of my neck." At the close of the trial, Judge Cahill declined to grant a mistrial on the basis of the juror's prevarication and his obvious pro Floyd bias.

As the five week trial was moving forward, the city of Minneapolis announced that it was awarding $27 million to the family of George Floyd as settlement of a suit alleging police brutality. It appears likely, Chauvin lawyers argue, that the unsequestered jurors became informed of the award, and that it had an effect on them.

Maxine Waters of California, an African American Congresswoman, told a protest rally that if the policeman is not convicted, there will be retaliation and "we will get confrontational." Chauvin contended in his arguments that it was likely that the unsequestered jurors learned of her threats and were fearful for their personal safety. Waters' publicized threat prompted Trial Judge Cahill to predict that her comments might well be grounds for a mistrial in an appeal, though he himself declined to order a mistrial when asked to do so.

With the trial underway, President Biden weighed in and asserted that evidence in the case was "overwhelming," and he "was praying that the jurors would reach the right decision."

His message to jurors was clear, and after the guilty finding was returned, the President commented that its decision was a "step forward in the fight against systemic police racism."

Around the Thanksgiving holiday, Chauvin was attacked and stabbed 22 times in his neck and back by an African American inmate bent on avenging the death of George Floyd. The attack occurred in a federal prison in Tucson, Arizona where Chauvin is serving his time. Chauvin was seriously wounded from the knifing, but according to reports, will recover, and jail authorities are promising that they will increase security on behalf of the former policeman.

The decision by SCOTUS to trash the Chauvin appeal and look the other way, without comment, has all the appearances of being a political decision rather than a legal one. The court should reconsider and examine the appeal in the interest of justice and in accord with the high court's stated and trusted mission to provide equal justice for every American.

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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