Ethics Test: The Corey Pujols Sentence vs. The Derek Chauvin Sentence

I am having a hard time reconciling these two criminal trial sentences with basic ethical principles like fairness, equity, and consistency. Maybe you can help.

I suspect you never heard of the Corey Pujols manslaughter case in Florida, where a black Dunkin’ Donut manager was sentenced for killing a 73-year-old white man. There were no national headlines or special network reports after the May 4, 2021 incident at a shop in Tampa, Florida. There were no protests or angry demonstrations or riots; no organization called “Old White Guys’ Lives Matter” took up his victim’s cause.

Vonelle Cook was a  regular customer at the doughnut store, and not a welcome one: he was often cranky and abusive. On this visit he began berating staff members for the service he received at the store’s drive-through window. Asked repeatedly to leave, Cook parked and entered the shop while store manager Corey Pujols told another store employee to call the police. Cook began arguing with Pujols across the counter, and then Cook called Pujols a “nigger.”  Pujols came out from behind the counter to confront Cook.  Pujols, 27, warned the old man “not to say that again,” and true to his character and mood, Cook repeated the slur. Pujols punched him in the jaw; Vonelle Cook fell backwards onto the floor, hitting his head and sustaining fatal injuries. He died in a hospital three days later. Cook never touched or tried to strike his attacker Pujols.

Pujols was charged with manslaughter, but agreed to a plea deal in which he accepted  the lesser charge of felony battery. Under the sentence imposed this week by Judge Christine Marlewski of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court, Cook’s killer will be on probation for three years after he completes two years of  house arrest, and must perform 200 hours of community service as well as attending anger management courses.

Fair? Proportional? Consistent?

Andrew Warren, the state attorney for Hillsborough County, was satisfied, saying that the result “holds the defendant accountable while considering the totality of the circumstances — the aggressive approach and despicable racial slur used by the victim, along with the defendant’s age, lack of criminal record, and lack of intent to cause the victim’s death.”

From the news accounts, it appears that that the fact that Cook was not an admirable citizen and that he will not be greatly mourned by the community was also taken into consideration. He was a registered sex offender who had served time in prison after being convicted of  crimes including child abuse, possession of child pornography and sexual activity with minors.

Now let’s consider and contrast the sentence imposed on former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin—22 years and six months—and the relevant factors the two cases share and do not share.

  • Chauvin, like Pujols, did not intend to kill his victim, George Floyd.
  • Chauvin, was a law enforcement officer, was empowered and within the law to restrain Floyd, who was resisting arrest. Pujols violated the law by striking Cook.
  • Chauvin was sentenced for second-degree murder, Pujols’ crime was felony battery.
  • Chauvin was sentenced in Minnesota. Pujols was sentenced in Florida.
  • Floyd was a career criminal who had just allegedly committed another crime. Cook, who also had a criminal record, arguably committed the crime of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace by using “fighting words,” but was never arrested or charged. Pujols had no authority to touch him. Neither Cook’s potential crime nor Floyd’s alleged crimes justified a death sentence, and neither Pujols nor the police officer had authority to impose any penalties at all.
  • The Chauvin-Floyd encounter had no proven or demonstrable racial motivation, despite the media and Black Lives Matter narrative. The Pujols-Cook confrontation was unquestionably motivated by race.
  • Neither Pujols nor Chauvin had criminal records.
  • Pujols was 27 when the incident occurred; his victim was 73. Chauvin was 44 when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck; Floyd was 47.
  • Contributing to Cook’s death was the fact that he was 73 years old. Contributing to Floyd’s death was the fact that he had ingested, and may have been overdosing on, illegal drugs. The extent of Cook’s vulnerability was known to Pujols. The extent of Floyd’s vulnerability could not have been fully known by Chauvin.
  • There was no dispute over the fact that Pujols’ actions caused Cook’s death. There was and is considerable disagreement over the question of whether Floyd’s knee caused the demise of George Floyd.
  • The prosecutors in Pujols’ case agreed to a plea deal. The prosecutors in Chauvin’s case would not.

Now here are contrasting factors that should not have affected the disparity in the sentences given to Chauvin and Pujols:

  • Chauvin was a cop at a time when police were already being demonized in the media and by the Left. Pujols was a doughnut shop manager.
  • A nationwide mob condemned Chauvin as guilty before his trial, pronounced the death racially motivated, and projected the episode on all of American society. Pujols’ actions received no national attention at all.
  • Floyd’s death resulted in riots, violence, millions of dollars in property damage, deaths and injuries, and the disruption of several cities. These results were projected onto Derek Chauvin.
  • Floyd’s case was resolved in the midst of the looming threat of more violence if his sentence was not harsh enough. There was no corresponding fear that a lenient sentence for Pujols would cause any civil unrest, and even if there had been, who’s afraid of roving mobs of old white people?
  • The past misdeeds of Pujols’ victim were apparently taken into consideration in mitigating Cook’s crime. Floyd’s long rap sheet was treated as irrelevant, as it should have been.
  • In Minnesota, a white cop was found guilty of killing a black criminal resisting arrest. In Florida, a black man was found guilty of killing a white man who called him a “nigger.”

Your ethics test, and mine, is to determine whether there is any way to ethically and objectively justify—not explain, but justify— the huge disparity between the sentence given to Corey Pujols and the sentence given to Derek Chauvin.

This does not seem like equality under the law to me. What am I missing?

I worry that I am not missing anything.

 

64 thoughts on “Ethics Test: The Corey Pujols Sentence vs. The Derek Chauvin Sentence

  1. You are missing nothing. Imagine the outcome had a white donut shop manager assaulted and killed an abusive elderly black customer who called him a “cracker.” Would not the donut shop -and a large part of Tampa- be smoldering still? Can such disparities in “justice” do anything except further divide the races and cause resentment and suspicion? I fear a reckoning is coming, it won’t be pretty, and these woke prosecutors and their enablers will be largely to blame.

  2. It feels correct to me that Chauvin had a more serious charge and a more severe sentence. I don’t know that 22 years was correct, but I’m also cognizant that at the time there had already been federal guidance about prone restraint deaths. Compounding it, Chauvin was actively told by onlookers that Floyd needed medical attention and he failed to utilize those community members as resources if he truly thought Floyd was still a threat.

    In the case of Pujols, thems fightin’ words. He got a punch. Cook is youngish and potentially unaware of the consequences of actions that he’s previously not experienced if he’s not made a habit of punching senior citizens. We also don’t know some of the particulars of “size”. I know some imposing 73 year olds and I know some young black guys that don’t look a threat to anyone. If Pujols outsized him by even a bit, Cook might not have thought this result was possible.

    Pujols, as the modern saying goes, “fucked around and found out.” So did Chauvin.

  3. There was and is considerable disagreement over the question of whether Floyd’s knee caused the demise of George Floyd.

    Whether some disagreed or not, a jury found that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death beyond a reasonable doubt, otherwise we would not now be discussing his sentence.

    Also, while Chauvin did have legal authority to restrain Floyd, he exceeded his authority and therefore acted unlawfully when he kept Floyd restrained in a prone positioned after having been handcuffed. This represents an abuse of his authority as a police officer, which could present an argument for harsher punishment.

    Third, Cook’s attack on Pujola was the work of an instant, whereas to cause Floyd’s death required a sustained effort on Chauvin’s part over the course of several minutes, during which Floyd and bystanders pleaded for his life.

    I still do not think these adjustments to your assessment justify the extreme difference between the two sentences. I think a big part of the discrepancy has to do with the failure of some states to apply the Merger Doctrine regarding felony murder, effectively giving prosecutors the leeway to charge any manslaughter case as a murder, at their discretion. Florida is somewhat insulated from that, having a felony murder statute that enumerates specific crimes, but Minnesota is not.

    But given that broad discretion given to prosecutors, it’s still hard to justify the extreme difference in how that discretion was used in these two cases.

    • 1. A jury found that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death beyond a reasonable doubt under conditions, including elected officials calling for his conviction and an open threat of violence if the verdict was an acquittal, that made a fair trial impossible and that almost certainly tainted the jury’s deliberations.

      2.This represents an abuse of his authority as a police officer, which could present an argument for harsher punishment….or, as has been found in myriad other police-involved deaths, a mistake in judgment under unpredictable circumstances endemic to the job, and thus unfair to attach criminal liability to in the absence of intent.

      • If a judge believes the impartiality of a juror has been compromised, it would be proper to replace that juror with an alternate. If the judge believes the jury a deliberations as a whole have been improperly tainted by outside influence, a mistrial would be appropriate. But under no circumstances is it permissible to allow a tainted verdict to stand and instead “split the baby” by reducing the sentence.

        Likewise, it’s possible to both extend some immunity to police when they operate in grey areas and still demand enhanced punishment when they exceed the bounds of that immunity. The trial having found that his conduct was criminal, it would no longer be appropriate to immunize him when considering a sentence.

        • The judge was not immune to the possibility of violence tainting the decisions made. Neither judge nor jury was free to act rationally in this case. They were not going to deliver any decisions not inkeeping with the mobs desires.”advised” against or about by federal folk, but they remained in the performancemanual of the department and were taught to the officers. The prone restraint was removed from the books shortly after the Floyd death.

          • “They were not going to deliver any decisions not inkeeping with the mobs desires.”

            The cool thing about this position is that it is unfalsifiable. Love those for you!

  4. These cases are so widely different, I don’t know why you’re comparing them.

    Only thing they have in common is that someone died.

    • Sure. If you want play gaslight, go ahead. It does not speak well of you. Two individuals accidentally caused the death of another. One received a rap on the wrist. The other was sent to prison for two decades. The victim in the first case was a bad guy. The victim in the other was a lifetime criminal. Neither killer intended to kill the victim, but the one with the lenient sentence did intend to harm the victim. Now you tell us why you don’t see a basis for comparing the two.

      And be careful, because if you are dishonest or cross the line into inexcusable nonsense, there will be consequences.

      • The only thing they have in common is they “accidentally caused the death of another”

        And that’s a borderline statment. Chauvin was told multiple times Floyd couldn’t breathe. Chauvin is a police officer….

        There are way more differences between these two cases than similarities.

        These are totally different situations and scenarios and it’s odd you’re comparing them.

        • You haven’t answered the question. The key distinction for you is that bystanders and Floyd were telling Chauvin he couldn’t breathe? Do you think that the reaction to Floyd’s death would have been any different if he had died within second of having his neck compressed? Neck=Punch. Try again.

          • Yes. The fact that Floyd, bystanders, and another copy told Chauvin to stop and had his knee on him for a few minutes was a HUGE distinction for not only me, but for the jury as well.

            It was essentially the crux of the case.

            These cases would be slightly more similar if Chauvin had killed Floyd only after restraining him for a few seconds.

            Again, these two cases are totally different. There are way more material differences between these two cases than similarities.

            • The fact that Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes was OF COURSE a huge part of that case. I don’t see how anyone who kept up with it as it was happening could claim otherwise.

              • Video of the event discredits the “Nine minute” meme. It clearly shows the knee or the back of shoulder and side of neck and the autopsy revealed no damage to either the airway or circulation to the head.

      • “It does not speak well of you … there will be consequences.”

        I don’t get the personal attack on a reader from the host. This was one of the strangest posts I’ve seen on EA, comparing two bizarrely unlike situations, and speaks to a growing obsession with … well, you tell me. Yes the media overall is biased, but obviously the Chauvin/Floyd situation was way more newsworthy by any measure at any time, even if society’s reaction to the resulting cause celebre was certainly overdone.

        And I will tell the entire group here what I once advised you is the proper initial response from you to a comment disagreeing with your post: NOTHING. Let the commenters themselves debate it out before you jump in. I’ve loved seeing the new people here with different perspectives, even if I think one of them is too easy on Joe Biden. You have an opportunity here, man: Take it!

        • What does it mean? It means that if someone gets to participate here, I expect substantive comments, not “I disagree” or other generalities. And if someone does enter a comment like that, they are obligated to follow it up with a non-rote, non-talking point, non-spun set or arguments. That commenter didn’t quite do that, but he made the minimal cut.

          This is a colloquy, not a message board. If someone is not helping the discussion with constructive contributions, then they are polluting the blog.

          As for the post, since police officers are due more margin for error, not less, since they are trying to protect the public, the fact that a cop who perpetrates an accidental death while handling a perp resisting arrest gets two decades in prison and a civilian who accidentally kills someone with an illegal attack gets none should raise obvious questions of equal justice and consistency. Under the law, the punch was per se manslaughter, and there was an intent to harm. Chauvin had the book thrown on him in great part because the system was pandering to a mob. And yes, reverse the races in both, and the sentences are completely different. That is not good.

          • Jack, there are tons of very short comments here for which you don’t demand a follow-up. Why not? I know why not: Because you AGREE with them. See, your acres of “rules” run the same risk in reverse as the chronic problem with media fact-checkers and social media censorship of “disinformation”: these rules will inevitably be resolved and enforced in favor of the moderating party’s OPINION, especially their POLITICAL opinion.

            You have got to get some objective discipline around how you yourself drive things around here, especially as this blog becomes more and more and more about race, often uncomfortably so. And I cannot possibly be the only person to tell you that often the solution will be for you to do nothing, to just let things flow, for the sake of your own project.

            • A Friend wrote, “…this blog becomes more and more and more about race…”

              Please present factual evidence to support this claim.

              While you’re compiling your evidence for presentation please remember the fact that this blog is “An ethics commentary blog on current events and issues” and it says so at the top of every page.

              No promises; but, I’ll try to swing by over the weekend to see what you’ve presented.

              A Friend wrote, “I cannot possibly be the only person to tell you that often the solution will be for you to do nothing”

              That’s not bad advice; however, I can remember a few times where you should have taken your own advice. Are you being hypocritical? That was a question not an accusation.

              • The “do nothing” advice has nothing to do with any commenter – you, me or any other. It’s exclusively for the host, of which there’s only one. Re-read that passage in my comment until you understand it, Steve. And that heavy snark in your response to me – “take your own advice” – proves my larger point. You ask me to be quiet because you think my politics are not yours, and you’re not used to that here, which is unfortunate.

                As for the factual evidence of my particular claim, just go to the bottom of this thread. Jack just provided it.

                • I’m the lead ethics moderator on an interactive blog. Simple as that. It is completely appropriate that I have more comments in the threads than anyone else, and decide whose contributions help or hinder the discussion. I’ve seen what the comment sections of passive blog moderator turn into. Not here.

                • Personally speaking, I’ve found Jack’s comments over the past few days the most interesting and thorough I’ve seen here, even when we vigorously disagree. I would like to see him push back as much against non-substantive right-wing talking points from commenters as he does left-wing talking points, but we all have our biases.

                • I actually had some time to reply before the weekend.

                  Jack once asked me to engage you instead of blowing you off as just another internet troll; so, in my comment above I respectfully challenged you, I respectfully submitted the fact that this blog is “An ethics commentary blog on current events and issues” to indirectly imply that the current events related to ethics are not created by Jack they are just covered by Jack, plus I went out of my way to make sure you knew that I wasn’t trying to insult you with my question. That’s what I did and this is what I got back from you; I tried Jack.

                  A Friend wrote, “The “do nothing” advice has nothing to do with any commenter – you, me or any other. It’s exclusively for the host, of which there’s only one. Re-read that passage in my comment until you understand it, Steve. And that heavy snark in your response to me – “take your own advice” – proves my larger point.”

                  There’s three arguments in that section that are dead-on typical rhetoric of faux intellectual lefties. First, there’s the hypocritical stance that what A Friend considers a higher standard applies to others but not to A Friend. Second, there’s the direct implication that others aren’t intelligent enough to understand what A Friend has written. Third there’s the way overused “larger point” rhetorical bull shit that faux intellectual lefties stick out there trying to pompously demean those that disagree with them.

                  I understood what you wrote just fine, A Friend, but it’s rather obvious now that your bias towards me either caused my point to blow over your head or you’re intentionally being obtuse to incite me.

                  A Friend wrote, “You ask me to be quiet…”

                  I just went back through all of my comments to you and I couldn’t find one instance where I asked you to be quiet. Is making up things about those you disagree with in a transparent effort to publicly defame them one of your favorite rhetorical hammers? Facts are my friend A Friend and I save absolutely every comment I post in a searchable database so people like you can’t make false claims about me. I’m not your nail.

                  A Friend wrote, “As for the factual evidence of my particular claim, just go to the bottom of this thread. Jack just provided it.”

                  Again; the point of this exercise has either blown straight over your head or you’re intentionally being obtuse to incite me.

                  Now A Friend, you have a choice to make.

                  Now it’s back to the CAD system.

                  • 1. I knew you would respond immediately, not over the weekend.

                    2. The specific advice IS for the host. Blogs go better when the host doesn’t immediately jump on any comment with which he disagrees. I believe this habit has lessened Jack’s readership.

                    3. Your resort to profanity as opposed to your genial manner when everyone agrees with everyone is indicative that you want to live in a political echo chamber. Kind of just like the intolerant woke! And thus my final, most important point:

                    4. I am not even remotely a “lefty.” I am very centrist by today’s standards. I give hint after hint of that every time I comment, such as my remark that the cause celebre nature of the George Floyd death went overboard, with ultimately some negative impacts on minority communities, although I believe that “black lives matter” in a generic, non-organizational sense is a valid concept. The fact that you race to assume that anyone who does completely agree with you completely disagrees with you and needs to be shouted down indicates to me that you do not spend enough time with people who disagree, and prefer the echo chamber. I’m sorry, Steve, but that’s obvious, and given your constant presence here, it needs to be pointed out. Have a nice day.

                    • A Friend wrote, “1. I knew you would respond immediately, not over the weekend.”

                      We, well, who can argue with Carnac the Magnificent?

                      Do you feel better now, maybe somehow you’re just a little bit more superior?
                      A Friend wrote, “2. The specific advice IS for the host. Blogs go better when the host doesn’t immediately jump on any comment with which he disagrees. I believe this habit has lessened Jack’s readership.”

                      You’re welcome to your own opinion on that topic, you’re welcome to spout any advice that your little mind can muster up, and I never wrote otherwise as you have implied; however, you’re not welcome to your own facts. You’ve verified with your doubling down (twice) that you are most definitely being hypocritical and transparently so. Own it.

                      A Friend wrote, “3. Your resort to profanity as opposed to your genial manner when everyone agrees with everyone is indicative that you want to live in a political echo chamber. Kind of just like the intolerant woke! And thus my final, most important point:”

                      Oh my, did the phrase “rhetorical bull shit” somehow offend you. Your personal attack on my intelligence, character and you making up things to attack me shows the core of an ad hominem attacking the messenger character. It’s inconvenient when other commenters bring up facts that you can’t argue with, falling back on that old tried and true lefty attacking the messenger is telling.

                      A Friend wrote, “4. I am not even remotely a “lefty.” I am very centrist by today’s standards.”

                      Your argumentation is that of a fully consumed Liberal regardless of where you want to “think” you are in the political spectrum. Personally I don’t believe you’re a centrist, I think you’re hiding behind a false mask, I think you’re a Liberal and an arrogant one to boot. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

                      A Friend wrote, “The fact that you race to assume that anyone who does completely… disagrees with you and needs to be shouted down indicates to me that you do not spend enough time with people who disagree, and prefer the echo chamber.”

                      Again, you’re welcome to your opinion but not your own facts. We’ve discussed this, you’re beating a dead horse.

                      A Friend wrote, “…given your constant presence here…”

                      “Constant”, really? Maybe you don’t fully understand the meaning of the word constant or maybe you’re trying to bastardize it to attack me for being a regular participant at Ethics Alarms but I think I’ll let that one go because it’s based on pure ignorance, especially recently.

                      Fin.

            • No, it is because I know what they are referring to, and so would anyone else in context. New commenters who try to debut with “I agree!” or “Right-on!” get dinged, and I ding quite a few of these every week; almost as many as I ding “You’re an asshole” and “You are full of shit!”. The response you’re obsessing about was a commenter saying that the two cases I contrasted and compared had no basis for contrast and comparison. That made, and makes, no sense, and was also insulting since I specified what the cases had in common in the post. I asked for clarification, not for me alone, but for anyone. And I warn commenters in the guidelines that they are likely to be challenged.

              • Jack wrote, “New commenters who try to debut with “I agree!” or “Right-on!” get dinged, and I ding quite a few of these every week”

                I get a bunch of those really short blowing sunshine comments every week from internet trolls trying to drag people down some rabbit hole of absurdity too, they’re almost always usually associate with an email address from proxy servers. I ding them all too.

                  • But you’re fine with Steve’s absolutely unbelievable, immature, and self-indicting further response to me just above?

                    In particular, Jack, please comment on Steve’s ludicrous line to me that goes like this: “Your argumentation is that of a fully consumed Liberal regardless of where you want to ‘think’ you are in the political spectrum. Personally I don’t believe you’re a centrist.”

                    Now how many times do I have say things like (paraphrasing) “Katie is too kind to Joe Biden” or “overall I think Biden is doing poorly” (I said something like that a month or two ago) or “the societal response to George Floyd went overboard even if I believe Derek Chauvin got more or less what he deserved” or “The New York Times made a mistake in 2020 in firing their op-ed editor over a perfectly legitimate column (agree or disagree) with a sitting US senator, but that is no reason not to access their uniquely deep reporting on trend issues today or the current mix of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ guest essays and the resulting intelligent comment discussions objectively moderated by somebody at the NYT.”

                    In other words, is it not obvious that you do have some daily, obsessive commenters who 1) have time on their hands and 2) are here all the time because they WANT to be in an opinion bubble and cannot bear to be otherwise? When I read Steve’s comment, I swear that my first thought was, “Steve, you do want a cookie?” You know, exactly like brainwashed college students who cannot bear to hear anything other than far-left speeches and must retreat to a “safe space.” And call anyone who does not fully agree with their POLITICAL opinion in every sentence an inferior human and a liar? Looking forward to your explanation, Jack. I’m sure other people have noticed this contradiction, too – it’s right here on the Internet – but I’ll take your explanation seriously. TIA.

                    • Your pique in this respect is reasonable, AF. I prefer to let commenters debate civilly among themselves unless it get out of hand; I do not agree that your efforts to defend the Times would make you a “fully consumed liberal” (though I understand how someone might leap to that conclusion). I also prefer that commenters don’t resort to labeling comments and other commenters, as it bypasses substance. It’s a tricky problem though: when someone (not you) seems to be regurgitating a standard partisan mantra verbatim, it is tempting to say, “you’re regurgitating a standard partisan mantra verbatim.” Yet this is also often “dirty pool”: I know I get annoyed when someone’s whole argument against something I write is “You’re just parroting Fox News!” when, in fact, I have reached my own conclusions from my own analysis, and barely pay attention to (and certainly don’t trust) Fox News.

                      I honestly don’t understand how you (or anyone) can deny the Times’ destructive bias, but your rationale clearly doesn’t come from a progressive bias of your own. The vast, vast majority, however, of the “Nah, there’s no progressive/Democratic Party bias in the Times!” chorus does.

                    • Just so everyone knows, here is what I mean when I use the word argumentation the way I did in my comment that A Friend is referring to, I mean rhetorical tactics or strategies not necessarily core ideological beliefs that tend to define Liberals and Conservatives.

                      Rhetorical strategies, or devices as they are generally called, are words or word phrases that are used to convey meaning, provoke a response from a listener or reader and to persuade during communication.

                      Here are some online definitions of the word argumentation.

                      The action or process of reasoning systematically in support of an idea, action, or theory.

                      The act or process of forming reasons and of drawing conclusions and applying them to a case in discussion.

                      The interdisciplinary study of how conclusions can be reached from premises through logical reasoning.

                      The process of forming reasons, justifying beliefs, and drawing conclusions with the aim of influencing others.

                      So when I write “argumentation is that of a fully consumed Liberal” I’m talking about how the argumentation tactics mirror that of a fully consumed Liberal and yes many (not all) fully consumed Liberals seem to argue in very similar ways. I’ve been doing this online “debating” thing for a very long time and I’ve found that people that use argumentation like that of fully consumed Liberals usually turn out to be hard core Democrats and it’s very rare that that’s untrue, very rare indeed. Based on my experience and my perception, I stand by my previous assessment of A Friend. Now if A Friend were to choose different argumentation tactics then it’s quite likely that I’ll get a different perception. Maybe A Friend is a centrist but I’m just not seeing it based on argumentation. Sometimes, how people argue in their online comments can be just as significant in revealing the mindset behind the pseudonym as what’s being argued.

                      If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

                      I know, I know, I welcome to my own opinion.

                      Everyone take a minute and look back objectively at how this conversation began and make up your own mind.

                      For me, this conversation with A Friend is strike two.

          • “As for the post, since police officers are due more margin for error, not less, since they are trying to protect the public,”

            Wow–I don’t think I could possibly disagree with you more.

            Police are supposed to be trained to deal with hostile incidents in ways that civilians are not. They are trusted with immense power over our lives. They are agents of the government. For all of these reasons, I would expect we would hold them to higher standards than regular people–not lower standards. It is precisely *because* they are supposed to help the public that it should be notable when they unnecessarily kill a member of the public. (And in what way could holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes be seen as “protecting the public?”)

            The idea that armed agents of the state should be held to lower expectations of when it’s appropriate to use deadly force than the average citizen strikes me as authoritarian and scary.

            “And yes, reverse the races in both, and the sentences are completely different.”

            You can’t possibly draw that conclusion based on just the two cases along, so I’m curious what you are basing it on. Is it your impression that black people routinely face *less severe* sentences than white people? Because I have the opposite impression, and I’d be interested in seeing what data you have on this.

        • [This reply somehow ended up in the wrong thread. Thanks to Katie for the heads up!]

          “the Chauvin/Floyd situation was way more newsworthy by any measure at any time”

          How so? A single cop who should have been canned years before used excessive (not not normally deadly) force on a perp resisting arrest, who died. Local story entirely: perps resisting arrest die many times every year; it’s a big country. What national newsworthy factors did it have? A single incident proves nothing, and the basis of the national news coverage that it was a racist incident—yet no evidence that this was the case ever was produced. The news was the overblown reaction to the episode by those deliberately misrepresenting it.

          • “Man bites dog” is always more newsworthy than “Dog bites man,” precisely because it’s more unusual. “Cop kills civilian” is more shocking than “civilian kills civilian” not only because it happens less often, but because cops represent the government, and in this country we are, on both the right and left, deeply suspicious of government power.*

            Of course a single incident proves nothing, but even setting aside the race angle, I think it’s hard to argue that police brutality in general is not a problem, and that this wasn’t a particularly striking example of it. You can’t really tie the Cook murder to any particularly relevant social problem, unless it’s “people getting too angry at being called the n-word,” and even then it’s unclear what institution we should demand accountability from. To tie back to my earlier points about protests, a killing that potentially implicates a whole institution is always going to be more newsworthy than a killing that just implicates one dude that nobody’s ever heard of.

            *At least when it’s used in ways we don’t like, or by people we don’t like, or against people we do like. When it’s used by people we do like against people we don’t, we tend to think that government power, as the kids say, slaps.

  5. Lady justice’s blindfold has been removed and tossed away. I read somewhere that part of the decision was based on the determination that the puncher did not intend to harm the punchee. What then did he intend?

  6. As a non lawyer, may I ask a dumb question? In sentencing, is “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior” taken into consideration?

  7. Dave, Tim, and Knowledge Miner have well covered what you’re missing about the differences between the two cases. I’d like to cover what you’re missing about the point of protests:

    “ There were no protests or angry demonstrations or riots; no organization called “Old White Guys’ Lives Matter” took up his victim’s cause”

    Why would anyone protest such a random killing? What purpose would that serve? Did people protest the Zodiac Killer, or any number of intentional killings by civilians of any race?

    People protest the police, corporations, government institutions, and others with power in order to pressure them into making systemic change. There’s no point in doing that with a random civilian who kills someone, because that’s not going to change anything. Random criminals do not typically have PR people.

    A common talking point on the right is, “Why don’t black people protest black-on-black crime when that kills more than police violence?” But the answer is obvious: the same reason people don’t protest “crime” in general. That’s not what protest is for.

      • But it wasn’t committed by a random civilian, but a member of the police force–the exact type of group that can respond to protest.

        • What? That makes no sense at all. The protest was over a “murder” of a vulnerable citizen on the basis of race. The individual targeted by the protests had no ability to “respond” to them. The protests were for justice regarding an unjust death. The killing of the old white guy was also unjust.

          • Are you still being facetious? The protests were against police killings of black men as a whole, and you know this. Chauvin himself couldn’t respond to them—the hope was that the protests would create change in the justice system so that police would be less likely to engage in brutality, and more likely to face consequences when they do. Whether you think these demands are valid or not, these were the clear purposes.

            Can you name a single protest in the last few decades that was targeted at an individual civilian, rather than an institution or representative of an institution? If not, then you have the answer to your question of why there was no protest against Pujols.

    • Tell that to George Zimmerman. That guy was maligned the world over for the “premeditated, racially motivated murder” to Trayvon Martin, where Zimmerman should have never been charged, let alone prosecuted, for first degree murder. The Florida AG took the case away from the grand jury when it was apparent the grand jury was not going to issue a first degree murder charge. There was no evidence of intent to kill Martin by Zimmerman and Zimmerman had a rock solid claim of self defense.

      jvb

      • The Zimmerman protests were nominally because the police did not arrest him right away, and later, about the verdict. They were not targeted against him as an individual—they were about what the protesters saw as the failures of the justice system. The demands of the protesters were directed at said system. Again, whether you think their demands are valid or not (and I agree the murder charge was a bridge too far) doesn’t change the purpose of the protests, nor does it change the fact that people protest systems and individuals who represent them, not individual citizens.

        • Of course, if they think that Pujols was sentenced too lightly, the good white people of Tampa, Florida, are free to organize a protest saying as much. But the target of that protest would be the justice system, not Pujols. Though I’m not sure what the demands would be: harsher sentences for non-cops? For people who respond violently to being called the n-word? The goal would still be unclear, but it would make more sense than protesting the initial killing.

        • Really? Methinks you are being too clever by half.

          NBC edited the 911 call to make it look like Zimmerman volunteered Martin’s race. The New York Times called Zimmerman a “white Hispanic.” The media reported the case as if it were police brutality leading the to death of yer another black male.

          jvb

  8. Regarding race-based topics: I don’t steer into the predominant ethics topics, they steer into Ethics Alarms. There have been lots of race-based posts lately. In education, a conservative professor at my law school alma mater was suspended for raising objections to racial discrimination in the SCOTUS pick. That pick immediately showed a conflict of interest because of her connection to Harvard’s racially discriminatory admissions policy. BLM was exposed as the racket it has always been. The Rittenhouse case involved false accusations against the teen for being racist. Jussie Smollett’s hate crime hoax was about race.Tucker Carlson made a racially biased attack on Judge Jackson. The big controversy in several states, including my own, is over CRT-based lessons in public school. Black public officials continue to use race-baiting as their reflex excuse when they get legitimate criticism, recently in NYC and Chicago. And there is more.

    I wish all of these weren’t necessary to write about, but they are. I writing about ethics in an unhealthily race-obsessed culture, and one where, if you call out the race hucksters, they accuse you of being a racist.

    • I just checked (you know, I take the time to use tags and categories on the posts, and they are right on the right-hand column.) In exactly a month’s time, there have been 20 race-related posts, including single items in the daily collections. Not one was gratuitous or trivial.

      I love it when EA is criticized for doing its job.

      • Twenty in a month. Exactly. If I told the average person on the street that there was a blog called “Ethics Alarms,” they would never imagine this kind and volume of content. Besides, when it’s not about race, Steve O. in New Jersey steers it that way anyway.

        • 20 posts in 30 days is 20 topics out of about 200 posts a month.

          I listed the topics, AF. “Racial reconciliation,” diversity and inclusion, CRT indoctrination in the schools, the Biden administration attempting to parcel out benefits by race—these are necessary topics. The “man on the street” doesn’t know ethics from rutabagas. I literally could not care less what “he” thinks should be on an ethics blog. Your complaint in this area is cheap and absurd. Look at the hosts for the Academy Awards. Look at who Democrats are desperately trying to prop up as she proves that giving out high offices based on skin-color is insane. One entire party decided to base it’s argument for holding power on a “systemic racism” theme, and is tearing the union apart in the process. It’s an ethics issue, and a major one.

          If anything, I should be writing more about it.

          • I was going to say that 20 posts about *anything* in one month is a lot…but…you write 200 blog posts a month? “How do you write like you’re running out of time?” Jack, I hope someone is paying you for all this!

            • Not 200 posts, 200 topics. One post each day includes 4-7 topics. That’s 5 topics in that post and usually another 3 posts, for a total of 8 a day. 8X30 is 240, but there are COTDs in that, so 200 is fair.

              No, I get no monetary compensation at, though the regulars banded together in 2020 and sent me a substantial cash gift, for which I remains grateful and touched by.

  9. For some reason, there’s no “REPLY” button below your last reply, Jack, so I’ll do it here. To clarify, I’m not piqued, I’m amused. I read Steve Witherspoon’s meltdown directed at me on Saturday and I almost fell off my chair laughing at its hypocrisy (it’s obviously directed at my non-compliance with 100% of the general opinion here, not the actual tone of my words), its over-the-top dramatics, its numerous factual errors about anything I’ve ever said, and as I mentioned how much it reminds me of brainwashed college students whining about microaggressions and the horrors of “free speech.” Also, to clarify, I don’t deny that there’s such a thing as the mainstream media or overall media bias – the persistence of the “Republicans pounce” framing of a great number of valid issue debates proves it (and is also very funny once you notice it).

    If I’m PIQUED, it’s not at any words directed at me, it’s at your own selectivity in enforcing “rules” which obviously has some significant element of ideological leaning in one direction rather than the other. If you’re so active in rooting out and flushing away rude comments that we never see, then how on earth something like good old Steve’s wild and fact-challenged personal attack managed to make it through unscathed is just very striking. As always, Jack, BMYS – watch out for it in all directions!

    • I’ve explained that. Once any commenter makes the cut, I will not generally intervene even if lines are crossed. I tried that approach early in the blog’s life, and it was unworkable. I don’t selectively censor comments by vetted commenters; I do sometimes send off-site admonitions or advice. I will give commenters a “time out” or a suspension, if the misbehavior is egregious. I don’t believe I have ever done either based on an exchange with another commenter. (I may have). I am much stricter about interactions with me.

    • A Friend wrote, “For some reason, there’s no “REPLY” button below your last reply”

      The nesting of replies on the HTML blog is limited to the settings that Jack chooses and sometimes it get’s really hard to read once you get past level 4 or 5. If you open a WordPress account you get more nesting levels when commenting if you use their Reader for commenting.

  10. Responding to the last Steve Witherspoon reply to me (“if it looks like a duck,” etc.):

    This is an ethics forum. I could have seen a response something like these choices: “Oh okay, I didn’t realize you have various views not easily characterized as left or right, I read too fast.” “I still think you’re wrong on most things, here’s an argument you haven’t considered.” (or on the original topic) “I think Derek Chauvin really got screwed compared to actual murderers, I know you don’t agree but consider this.”

    Instead, here’s what I got:

    1. I’m right, you’re wrong.
    2. Conservatives are smart, liberals are stupid.
    3. I’ve spent way more time on this Internet thingy than you have arguing politics, I’m far more qualified to talk than you are. (Even though I might observe that in real life it’s the other way around, online life can really distort things.)

    My motivation here is mainly to remark on the echo chamber problem while delving into the substantive issues raised. I leave you all to consider what this colloquy with my friend Steve reveals about that, on a blog that does actively monitor the comment threads – see all the “rules,” about which my basic observation remains that they will be inevitably enforced by political preference. Have a nice day.

    • A Friend wrote…

      Responding to the last Steve Witherspoon reply to me (“if it looks like a duck,” etc.):…

      …here’s what I got:

      1. I’m right, you’re wrong.
      2. Conservatives are smart, liberals are stupid.
      3. I’ve spent way more time on this Internet thingy than you have arguing politics, I’m far more qualified to talk than you are. (Even though I might observe that in real life it’s the other way around, online life can really distort things.)

      That false misrepresentation of what I wrote is unadulterated trolling (that’s a verb not a noun), as in an intentional inflammatory message posted in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking a reader into an emotional response.

      You’re welcome to your own opinion but not your own facts.

      Strike three.

      Side Note
      I honestly tried Jack, I really did but this “A Friend” persona doesn’t appear to be willing to argue in good faith (a sincere intention to be fair, open, and honest, regardless of the outcome of the interaction) with me, maybe his bias is just towards me and he’ll argue in good faith with others. A Friend does appear to have a rather large chip on his shoulder that seems to be driving him to seek some kind of rhetorical revenge for some perceived past wrong I’ve done him, I have no idea what his problem is and at this point I don’t really care. Maybe things can change between him and I in the future, but out of respect for everyone here I think it’s better for me to just walk away and not make things worse than they already are. I tried as you requested but now I’m done with A Friend.

    • A friendly note to a fellow commenter.

      A Friend wrote, “…a blog that does actively monitor the comment threads – see all the “rules,” about which my basic observation remains that they will be inevitably enforced by political preference.”

      I understand that you and Jack are “friends” but you might want to be a little more careful how you publicly characterize Jacks integrity, statements like the one you wrote are borderline and covered in #17 in Jacks Comment Policies….

      Insulting me, in particular by questioning my integrity, honesty, objectivity, intentions, motives, qualifications, or credentials.

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