There’s No Way In Hell Derek Chauvin Was A ‘Reasonable’ Police Officer

Cops

The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd last year went to the jury Monday after closing arguments from the prosecution and defense. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher declared, “This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video."

"You can believe your eyes," Schleicher said. "It's exactly what you knew, it's what you felt in your gut, it's what you now know in your heart."

Schleicher said Floyd's death “wasn't policing, this was murder. Nine minutes and 29 seconds of shocking abuse of authority. The defendant is guilty of all three counts. And there's no excuse."

Defense attorney Eric Nelson claimed there was an excuse: Derek Chauvin behaved like a “reasonable police officer" when he choked the life out of Floyd, and he wasn't throwing ironic shade, like when Mark Antony kept saying, “Brutus is an honorable man."

"A reasonable officer would understand this situation," Nelson said, "that Mr. Floyd was able to overcome the efforts of three police officers while handcuffed, with his legs and his body strength."

Schleicher had dismissed the Super Negro defense argument. Nelson also insisted that Chauvin didn't put Floyd in a neck restraint or a choke hold. I don't know what he thought we all saw. It damn sure wasn't a hug. Nelson argued that Chauvin didn't “purposefully use unlawful force."


Nelson had also asked for a mistrial because of comments House Rep. Maxine Waters had made this weekend. She'd told protesters in Minnesota to "stay in the street," "fight for justice," and "get more confrontational" if Chauvin is acquitted. Waters has said she was speaking about confronting problems in policing and pushing for legislation. However, people tend to take the scary, 82-year-old Black woman very literally.

Judge Peter Cahill denied Nelson's request for mistrial, but he said Waters's comments were “abhorrent" while also potentially a gift — wink, wink — for the defense.

I'll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned, Cahill said as arguments concluded Monday and the jury began deliberations.

Cahill could've sequestered the jury if he was afraid that politicians mouthing off might unduly influence them. They are likely already aware that a not-guilty verdict would result in peaceful protest and, yes, even some unrest. The jurors didn't sleep through the fallout in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Louisville. Cahill did order them to go home and not watch the news. It's unclear if the courts provided the jurors with HBO Max or Disney+ subscriptions.

Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder — unintentional; third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter. The instructions Cahill gave the jury for what Minnesota law requires to reach a guilty verdict are more damning to Chauvin than anything Maxine Waters said. For instance, for the second-degree murder count:

Cahill said it is not necessary for the state to prove that Chauvin intended to inflict substantial bodily harm on Floyd "or knew that his actions would." The prosecution must prove only that Chauvin "intended to commit the assault and that George Floyd sustained substantial bodily harm as a result."

The media has described America as “on edge" while the jury deliberates Chauvin's fate. That's a sad testament. This vicious killing was on tape. Derek Chauvin smugly pressed his knee into George Floyd's neck while the man begged for his life. Floyd was tortured to death because he allegedly passed a counterfeit $20. If the jury believes that Chauvin was a “reasonable police officer" that day, then America policing is inherently unreasonable.

[NPR / NBC News]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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