Derek Chauvin Trial Tainted By Threats Of Violence Calling Into Question Whether Any Minneapolis Jury Could Be Impartial
My interview on The Tony Katz Show: “That’s not to say there wasn’t evidence for conviction, but the entire process had a taint to it that I think you couldn’t get rid of…”
I appeared on April 21, 2021, on the Tony Katz Show to discuss the verdicts in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the in-custody death of George Floyd.
As the entire world knows by now, there were guilty verdicts on all three counts (2nd Degree Murder, 3rd Degree Murder, and 2nd Degree Manslaughter) after just 10 hours of deliberations over two days.
You can listen to the entire interview at Tony’s website, and below.
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Here is the transcript of the interview.
(As usual, the transcript is auto-generated and may contain transcription errors. Time stamps are approximate.)
Judge Peter A. Cahill (courtoom audio)(00:30):
District court, Fourth Judicial District, State of Minnesota, Plaintiff versus Derek Michael Shovan, defendant, verdict. Count 1 Court File No. 27 CR 2012646. We, the jury in the above entitled matter as to Count 1, unintentional, second degree murder while committing a felony, find the defendant guilty as verdict agreed to this 20th day of April, 2021 at 1:44 PM, signed juror foreperson, Juror No. 19. Same caption verdict, Count 2. We, the jury in the above entitled matter as to Count 2, third degree murder perpetrating an eminently dangerous act, find the defendant guilty. This verdict agreed to this 20th day of April, 2021 at 1:45 PM.
Tony Katz (01:17):
It was actually all three. Second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter. Is this a shock? Is this a surprise? This isn’t a question of whether or not you thought he was guilty. This is a question of whether or not you thought a case could be made, not just for one, but for all three, including a very tough requisite there, which is second degree murder. Tony Katz, 93 WIBC. Good morning. Let me bring in William Jacobson of LegalInsurrection.com, Cornell law professor. He’s going to be doing post-trial analysis over at LegalInsurrection.com this evening at 8:00 PM. You can be a part of it, LegalInsurrection.com. We’ve spoken about this, sir. We’ve spoken about this case. Talk to me about what you think of this decision, guilty on all three counts. What was the jury looking at in your eyes?
William Jacobson (02:13):
Well, of course it’s hard to know. I think the quick verdict seems to indicate that there really wasn’t any doubt in their mind going into deliberations. I think the combination of circumstances. I think people have to distinguish two things here. One, substantively, there was evidence of a crime here. I believe there was also reasonable doubt as to what Chauvin did actually caused the deaths, but I can’t say there was no evidence to support a conviction. But in this political atmosphere, with every single juror knowing that their life would be over if they voted not to convict, that they would be doxxed, they would be harassed, they would be attacked, with a Congresswoman out there threatening additional confrontation, with everything going on, protesters on the streets. I think there was a real question here, whether a trial in Minneapolis, regardless of whether the evidence, could have resulted in a not guilty. But that said there was certainly evidence of a crime, I think and I was surprised substantively that they convicted on everything, but you know, just a couple of days before you had a Congresswoman on TV, Maxine Waters saying if they don’t convict of murder, we’re going to get “more confrontational.”
So I’m not really sure what was going on in the jury’s mind, except that, you know, there was evidence to convict. I don’t think it was second degree murder under Minnesota law, or even third degree murder under Minnesota law, because what he did was not an inherently dangerous act. I think there was plenty of testimony, even from prosecution witnesses, that keeping someone in the prone position and applying weight to them is actually something taught to Minneapolis police. I think the argument was he went on too long.
Now I want to make sure that everybody is on the same page. You’re not having a conversation of whether or not you agree with officer former officer Charvin. You’re taking a look at the argument that was made. Your team has been covering this every single day over at LegalInsurrection.com and based on the presentation and your understanding of the law, you don’t think second degree or third degree applies. And you’re engaging with us on some of the things that you heard. Why, in your view, is second degree manslaughter clearly a proper, guilty finding?
Because that’s essentially a negligence standard. It’s a standard that I think you could make a good argument, and it wouldn’t have shocked me if the jury went along with this, that while it might’ve been proper to arrest him, and it might’ve been proper to take him to the ground, which even prosecution witnesses said is a technique taught; and while it may have even been proper to put him prone on the ground, which again prosecution use of force police witnesses said was proper, it went on too long. And I think that, fairly looking at it, if at some point in that nine minutes, halfway into it, when it was clear that this person was either completely nonresponsive or becoming non-responsive, they had rendered some sort of medical care or done something to ease the situation, I think it might’ve been a different result. But I think that that was negligent. Having put him properly in the prone position, it was negligent to keep him there even after he visibly stopped breathing.
And kind of my reactions that I wrote about immediately after the close of the evidence, but before the closing arguments, was I think that’s a problem. I think that when somebody is handcuffed on the ground, no longer resisting, and has visibly stopped breathing, why do you keep weight on him for another two minutes? So I think that was always going to be a problem, but that’s not second degree murder, and it’s not third degree murder. It’s manslaughter. So that’s why I think that if that had been the result, while I do think there was reasonable doubt as to cause of death and things like that, I think that would have been understandable. But the fact that the jury came back so quickly with second degree murder, basically convicted of everything, tells me that they didn’t really have an open mind on these things.
Let’s get into that idea right now, talking to William Jacobson, Cornell law Professor, LegalInsurrection.com is the site. You should check it out for yourself. We spoke about what Representative Maxine Waters said, that we were going to continue in the streets, and I want guilty, guilty, guilty, and only of murder. And we’re going to get “more confrontational.” You saw the crowds that built. You know that the jury was going home in the evening, only with the instructions of “Don’t watch the news.” So there’s a question of what they saw, and what was prejudicial. This is a conversation, not even just about this case, but about the legal system in general. Is it possible that someone like Judge Cahill, who was presiding over this case, or is it possible that on appeal, as we heard Judge Cahill say the defense now has a great reason to get this thing overturned on appeal, will the quick verdict, 10 hours of deliberation… play into this? And will we see any level of appeal because there’s back and forth on this, including people like the TV judge and TV host Jeanine Pirro saying, no, this is going to survive appeal. What do you say?
Well, I think there’s a real question. I mean, Judge Cahill, I thought within the confines of the courtroom, seemed to be a reasonable judge who tried to do his best. But he made one error, which tainted the entirety of the case, which was [actually] two errors. One is not moving it out of Minneapolis. I mean, for goodness sake, the jurors had to arrive every day to a heavily fortified public building, with fencing, National Guard, heavy police presence. They knew what was going to happen. So not moving it out of Minneapolis, not changing the venue was mistake Number One, which probably made a fair trial, impossible. And mistake Number Two is not sequestering the jury and not really protecting their identity because during jury selection, while they didn’t show the faces of the jurors, they played the voices, which means all their coworkers, all their family members, all their neighbors were going to know who they were.
So you went into a trial with threats of violence, a history of violence in Minneapolis, significant neighborhoods were completely burned down and gutted. People threatening violence if there wasn’t the result they wanted in the case. And the jurors had really no anonymity. I think that it was guaranteed that, if there was a not guilty verdict, by the time we’re speaking now, these names would be out there. Reporters would be at their front doors, and protestors would be leaving severed pigs’ head on their door like they did to the witness, the defense witness. They did that to the house he used to live in thinking he still lived there, in California. So I think that this entire case was tainted. That’s not to say there wasn’t evidence for conviction, but the entire process had a taint to it that I think you couldn’t get rid of…
and what that means on appeal, I think one of the points I’ve heard a number of people make is that it’s not clear that the taint was sufficiently documented. I mean, do we know whether any of the jurors actually heard what Maxine Waters said? So, I think that’s going to depend how an appeals court is going to view it, that there has to be evidence that the jury actually was tainted, not that there was a political atmosphere which was hostile to a particular verdict. I think that’s something where perhaps the defense lawyer didn’t do a great job in preserving that record and that evidence for an appellate court. He certainly raised the objections, but he should have asked for each juror to be spoken to privately by the judge. There should have been some record that these jurors actually heard it.
And we’ll see whether or not… We’ll see what happens on appeal. William Jacobson, Cornell Law Professor. LegalInsurrection.com. Post-trial analysis tonight at 8:00 PM over at LegalInsurrection.com.
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