Ethics Reflections And Questions On The Chauvin Verdict, Part 2

Part 1 is here. As I expected, there was a lot of dubious as well as perceptive commentary after the verdict, and some related events with ethics implications.

1. I’d comment on this, but Ann doesn’t allow comments any more...The only note Althouse had on the verdict was a detached, “I’m sure that is an immense relief to many, many people.” Not to me. I’m not relieved when the justice system allows itself to be dictated to by mobs. Nor am I relieved when racial significance is illicitly attached to a non-racial episode so activists can lie about it.

2. The reason why there was no reason to be “relieved” arrived quickly, in the form of the Democrat reaction to the police shooting of 15-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio. Body camera footage showed Ma’Khia charging at another young woman apparently preparing to stab her with a knife. Attorney Ben Crump, looking for the next black family he can represent and the next white police officer he can demonize in the press, referred to Ma’Khia as “unarmed” in a tweet. “Squad” member Ayanna Pressley tweeted, “Black girls deserve girlhood — uninterrupted. Black girls deserve to grow up and become women” —apparently even if they kill other black girls on the way to growing up. Senator Sherrod Brown disgracefully tweeted, “While the verdict was being read in the Derek Chauvin trial, Columbus police shot and killed a sixteen-year-old girl. Her name was Ma’Khia Bryant. She should be alive right now.”

Naturally, BLM protests erupted in Columbus. When Ethics Alarms says “Facts Don’t Matter,” I’m not being cute. The push to brand virtually any law enforcement action against black lawbreakers as racist and an example of police misconduct will gather power with each perceived victory. The effort to bully elected officials and juries into discarding due process and sound policy to accomplish this will not stop or weaken until enough Americans have the courage to brave accusations of racism and say “Enough.”

3. Having unethically pronounced Derek Chauvin guilty while he trial was underway, The White House declared the shooting of Bryant racially motivated without any evidence whatsoever:

Words cannot express how irresponsible, dishonest and wrong this is. If, as it appears, the girl was preparing to kill someone, her background, race or status as a foster care are irrelevant. The officer did not have time to check her files. [Pointer: Jim Hodgson]

4. Then a hero of the black community and a perceived leader (ugh) tweeted this:

5. Commentary from Andrew McCarthy, among the more objective and reliable legal pundits:

For all the downsides of his unhinged commentary, Trump never took matters to the point of jury intimidation, as the preternaturally unhinged Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters did over the weekend.

The jury may have returned a verdict Tuesday, finding him guilty of all charges. But as the judge noted Monday, Waters’ inflammatory language offered Chauvin grounds for appeal. Because of her, this isn’t over. Waters checked every box. As a federal representative from a California district, she traveled to another sovereign state, Minnesota, to interfere in its judicial system. Her rabble-rousing was done in violation of a curfew that the elected mayor had imposed to suppress the rioting that followed the tragic accidental killing of Daunte Wright by a police officer. And her remarks can only be interpreted as an incitement to violence — one less ambiguously provocative than the one over which she and other House Democrats impeached Trump….For his part, President Biden waited until the jury was deliberating to make the stunning public statement that he is “praying” for Chauvin to be convicted.

The fact that the jury was sequestered when Biden spouted off is no excuse. He is a lawyer and former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman who well knows that sequestration does not make jurors impervious to prejudicial publicity. And if he’s been following the case as he claims to have been, he knows trial judge Peter Cahill has pleaded that public officials stop commenting on the trial — under circumstances where, even before the Bidens and Waters piped up, there was already substantial reason to doubt that Chauvin could get a fair trial in Minneapolis….

…Our viability as a free, prosperous, rule-of-law society is dependent on the viability of courts as the protection every one of us, equally, can rely on against overbearing government and politicized mobs. …How is it that the Left grasps the fundamental need for due process and the presumption of innocence when a foreign terrorist is on trial for mass-murdering Americans, but not when an American police officer is in the dock?

Yup. And another reason there’s nothing to be “relieved” about.

6. Conservatives also were demonstrating a lack of basic comprehension. For example, Fox News comedian/pundit Greg Guttfield said, “I’m glad that [Chauvin] was found guilty on all charges, even if he might not be guilty of all charges.”

Nice! Another conditional believer in fair trials and due process! A similar sentiment was expressed by John Nolte, who wrote,

While many people were justifiably disgusted by how the media, Democrats, and the left-wing terrorists in Black Lives Matter and Antifa used the Ku Klux Klan’s playbook to intimidate the Chauvin jury, at the end of the day that doesn’t change what all Americans know: the jury’s verdict was just, and former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd and deserves to go to prison for a long time.

I don’t know of a single person who was okay with what happened to Floyd, who found Chauvin’s actions justifiable, who was not sickened by that video.

This is one of many reasons I don’t read Breitbart. Not being “okay” with what Chauvin did to George Floyd doesn’t mean he should be convicted of murder without the benefit of a fair trial. If you don’t understand the Constitution and the law better than that, then don’t write about legal matters.

7. From Alan Dershowitz, a criminal appeal specialist:

“[T]he verdict is very questionable because of the outside influences of people like Al Sharpton and people like Maxine Waters Their threats and intimidation and hanging the Sword of Damocles over the jury and basically saying, ‘If you don’t convict on the murder charge and all the charges, the cities will burn, the country will be destroyed,’ seeped into the jury room because the judge made a terrible mistake by not sequestering the jury. So the judge himself said this case may be reversed on appeal. And I think it might be reversed on appeal. I think it should be reversed on appeal“I think the American Civil Liberties Union, which would be all over this case if it weren’t a racially charged case, all Americans who care about due process and liberty should be concerned that the jury verdict may have been influenced by, if not the thumb, maybe even the elbow of the outside pressures, the fears, the threats.”

This should sound familiar to regular Ethics Alarms readers.

8. Prof. Turley also wrote today that there are strong grounds for appeal:

…I believe Judge Cahill should have granted the venue change and also sequestered this jury. It is not clear if the court polled the jury on trial coverage, particularly after the inflammatory remarks of Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Cal.). However, there are credible grounds for challenging how this jury may have been influenced by the saturation of coverage of the trial as well as rioting in the area….The tragic irony is that Waters could be used to overturn the very conviction she demanded. If that happens, it is unlikely that rioters will go to her home or burn businesses in her district. Those crimes will be focused in Minnesota but could spend across the country, too.

7 thoughts on “Ethics Reflections And Questions On The Chauvin Verdict, Part 2

  1. It’s a lot to wade through, and it contains its own biases, but, again, I would recommend that for some other perspective besides the “I know what I saw on the video”, people may want to read through the day by day trial coverage and lawyer’s commentary on the Legal Insurrection site. From their perspective, it sounds like the prosecution often played fast and loose with facts, moved the goal posts several times, and even misrepresented information in closing. Worth a look.

  2. Mixed feelings regarding the Derek Chauvin verdict. I have zero sympathy for Chauvin himself. The man was a bully (although not a proven racist) who used the badge as a license to abuse others, and his bullying ways finally caught up to him. There is simply no excuse to press someone’s face into the pavement for almost ten full minutes, and three or four after they’ve had it. It’s wrong to look the other way on that kind of behavior when it’s an uncle kneeling on a slightly mouthy nephew, it’s wrong to look the other way when it’s a high school football player leaning on a less cool classmate, and it was wrong here. I spent four years disciplining public employees, including cops, and my first question to a cop who did this would have been “what the hell were you thinking?”

    Police abusing citizens was wrong when Salvatore Rivieri threw Eric Bush to the ground and berated him for being insufficiently deferential, it was wrong when Lawrence Powell continued to bash Rodney King with a nightstick after he had stopped resisting, it was wrong when Justin Volpe rammed a plunger into Abner Louima’s rectum, it was wrong when Charles Langley and Philip Brailsford de facto executed Eric Shaver for not crawling precisely the way they said to, and it was wrong here. None of these situations had to go as far as they did or end the way they did. However, ego, anger, and, in some cases, a tendency toward authoritarianism are a brutal and sometimes lethal combination.

    That said, I do not like the fact that it got lost here that this was supposed to be one case, against one person, for one person’s death. It wasn’t supposed to be a city, a profession, or a race on trial. Criminal cases are called State v. whoever for a reason. I also don’t like the fact that due process was questionable. Even a mass murderer is entitled to due process, which means not having politicians line up against him, not being called the face of hate, not dealing with a poisoned jury pool, and not having public officials demand riots and violence if he is not found guilty. Advocacy and enforcement are two different things, and while advocacy can be as hot-blooded as it likes, enforcement needs to be cold-blooded as well as even-handed.

    I also don’t like the fact that this got capitalized on by people looking to gain power and money from stirring up public anger. I don’t like the fact that it branched out into a lot more than the one case it was supposed to be. How you get from a police officer abusing his authority in Minneapolis to an area of Seattle seceding and 100 nights of riots in Portland is something that makes no logical sense.

    Unfortunately, this COULD go down in history as the time that the rule of law collapsed in America, MLK’s line about the color of skin vs. the content of character became permanently reversed, and the highest officials in the Federal government turned against their own people.

  3. “Naturally, BLM protests erupted in Columbus. When Ethics Alarms says “Facts Don’t Matter,” I’m not being cute. ”

    And it’s why the expense of body cameras appears to have been a waste. I have mentioned in the past in this forum, the body cameras showing evidence of the deceased with weapons, threatening to harm others, don’t seem to make a difference.

    Does anyone care that Bryant was about to do serious harm to or even kill another young black girl? Does her presumptive victim not deserve to grow up and be a woman, too? Is no one grateful that this teenage girl is not dead? What does it do to the psyche of a teenage girl to nearly be murdered in broad daylight and rescued in the nick of time only to have her would-be killer become a martyr? It’s almost as if her particular Black life doesn’t matter.

    • If you have to ask that, you haven’t been paying attention to the weekend deaths in Chicago. Pretty much every weekend at least one black person is shot and killed by another black person in Chicago, more often more than one. No one bats an eye. However, if a black person is shot and killed by a white person or a cop, THEN suddenly it’s a VERY big problem immediately. The circumstances don’t matter. There is no need for investigations, hearings, trials, or anything like that. There needs to be street justice, that day if possible, and not just on the shooter. The whole city needs to pay, and the whole country needs to pay and pay plenty.

    • Expect many more cases along the lines of Lozito vs. NYC.

      The police have no liability if they respond to a violent altercation and sit in their vehicles until the fight is over and all participants are bloodied on the ground.

      They are worse off if they try to prevent violence. So why not just sit and watch?

  4. A side question raised by the body camera video: when did it become standard operating procedure among people of color to kick other people in the head (or literally stomp on their head)? Will that guy face some sort of felonious assault charge?

    • At least since Portland, where thug Markquise Love tried a field goal on Adam Haner’s head last year. He got less than two years for it, plus three years probation. In my opinion what he did should have gotten him at least five years with a three-year period of parole ineligibility, which is the standard penalty for the third-degree crime of aggravated assault here. 10 with a 7, which would be for a second degree crime like attempted murder would probably be a reach. Haner said he sought no revenge. He’s a bigger man than most if he can think that. I’m not going to say I’d be waiting for that guy to be released with some large heavy object, because that’s just anger and testosterone, but I might hit him with a civil suit for assault and battery. It’s not like it would be hard to prove, and, although I might not collect much, I’d enter a $100K judgment against this jerk, blow a gigantic hole in his credit rating, and garnish his wages for the rest of his life.

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