Monday, June 1, 2020
Even the Video of George Floyd May Not Tell the Full Picture
Even the Video of George Floyd’s Murder Doesn’t Tell All Full Picture The video of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd is gripping, graphic, riveting, and profoundly sad. We know what we saw. A police office brutally, excruciatingly, sadistically murdered George Floyd while three fellow officers looked on. Officer Chauvin is damned by the video. George Floyd repeatedly cried out “I can’t breathe,” but the officer kept pressing his knee on Floyd's neck, lying on his stomach handcuffed. Some said George could obviously breathe because he could speak. Representative Peter King (R. N.Y.) said the same thing about Earl Garner when Officer Daniel Pantaleo was choking him on July17, 2014 on Staten Island. They’re wrong; I am an asthmatic. I know how it feels of not being able to breathe – the chest feels so tight, but my peak flow might be 700-750 and the oxygen level 97. I can’t breathe, but I can talk. Minnesota doesn’t have capital punishment and the federal government lacks it for civil rights violations. Former Officer Chauvin will though be spending the rest of his life in jail, getting out only for court appearances, medical needs, and his funeral. The appropriate punishment would be a monitor outside his cell playing 24/7 an endless loop of the carnage he caused. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth penalty would be George Floyd's bother pushing his his knee on a handcuffed, face down Derek Chauvin for 8 minutes and 45 seconds. Those though would be cruel and unusual punishment. Defense attorneys may be able to come up with a sound defense, but from all angles it looks like Chauvin, maliciously, sadistically murdered George Floyd while 3 fellow officers looked on. The Rodney King beating was the first where videos were damning, but the first trial resulted in acquittals of all four officers. The second trial, a federal civil rights trial, resulted in two convictions. Police violence and keeping the boot on minority communities is a historical reality. DWB, driving while black, still exists. The black community in many cities has a well-earned, well-deserved anger towards the police. Every once in a while the lid on the pressure cooker blows off. The times have changed. Public values and mores have changed for the better. Mayors, police chiefs, and prosecutors are increasing African American, Hispanic, and female. They bring different leadership to law enforcement. Most police probably are not racist today. Some still are with tragic results. The omnipresent cell phone, and the increasing use of body cams, show excessive force in many incidents. They also often show the police officer acted reasonably, even that accusations of police misconduct may be false. Sometimes the videos shown on the media do not show the full story. Defense attorneys will break down videos frame by frame to present a different picture. The George Floyd videos creates evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Juries are sympathetic to police officers even when the videos seem damming, which is why prosecutors are often reluctant to prosecute police. Not with Derek Chauvin. The videos are too conclusive. Officers throughout America are shocked by it, usually reluctant to criticize fellow police in apparent police misconduct on a video; not this time! The video is so graphic and clear that police academies should show it as an example of what not to do. Videos can also show indisputable evidence of guilt. Michael Slager, a North Charleston Police Officer claimed he had to shoot a fleeing Walter Scott in the back. He claimed self-defense because Walter was struggling for the Officer’s taser. Unbeknownst to the officer, a bystander’s video showed Officer Slager dropping the taser on the ground after shooting Walter Scott. Slager pled guilty two years later and was sentenced to 20 years. The city settled for $6.5 Million. Another example is a chase, a high desert horse chase, reminiscent of the old West. Francis Jared Pusok, a fleeing suspect, jumped on a horse and rode off into the sunset into rugged terrain. He finally surrendered at which point several San Bernardino deputies repeatedly kicked and beat him. They were out in the wilderness, figuring no one was watching. They should have looked up. A TV4 helicopter broadcasted the chase on live TV during prime time. Three deputies were prosecuted. One was convicted of felony assault. The jury was deadlocked on the other two, who subsequently pled to “disturbing the peace.” The recent shooting of Ahmaud Abbey in Georgia by two private citizens of a fleeing African American suspect is another example of culpable homicide. Even if the deceased had trespassed in a house under construction, the police would not have been privileged to use deadly force. A private citizen had no greater right making a citizen arrest. Two large riots ensued in two cases where no video is available. Baltimore police arrested Freddy Gray on April 12, 2015. He was placed into a van for transportation to the station. Somewhere along the way he suffered severe injuries and entered into a coma. He died a week later. Videos showed the arrest but not what happened in the van. Protests began on April 18 and quickly turned into riots and looting. Viewers watched live a CVS being looted and torched while a platoon of officers stood by in formation. They had been ordered to stand down and not interfere. The looting and rioting intensified until the Governor ordered the National Guard in. The District Attorney arrested six officers, three of whom were Black, as was the Mayor and DA. Three of the six were acquitted and charges dropped against the other three. The case causing the most looting, rioting and arson in recent decades until now was Ferguson, Missouri Officer Darren Wilson killing Michael Brown, the Gentle Giant, on August 9, 2014. Brown and his companion Dorian Johnson were accused of theft and assault. No video was available. Dorian claimed Michael Brown had surrendered with his hands up saying “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” The mantra, even seen in today’s demonstrations and protests, is “Hands Up; Don’t Shoot.” Dorian lied. Even the Obama Justice Department agreed Officer Wilson acted in self-defense when Michael Brown went for the Officer’s gun. Where does this leave us with video of Officer Chauvin murdering George Floyd? It’s clear, unequivocal. Or not! The coroner’s preliminary report said George Floyd did not die of “traumatic asphyxiation or strangulation.” The coroner said his death was the result of a “combined effect of being restrained, his underlying health conditions, and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.” Of course the coroner in the Staten Island death of Eric Garner said the same thing. A second, private autopsy today revealed death was caused by asphyxia caused by sustained neck and back compression, leading to a lack of blood flow to the brain. The deceased also had meth and fentanyl in his system. My point is that defense counsel will have a sliver to argue.