The entire world was horrified by what appeared to be evidence that Officer Derek Chauvin caused the death of George Floyd by kneeling on his neck. Everyone saw the video. We were exposed to what has been described as "overwhelming pretrial publicity damning Mr. Chauvin." As a result, the four officers involved in this incident were immediately tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.
Who has not made up their mind about this? I don’t know anyone who, in the days following the event, thought it was anything but police brutality. "The officers knew what was happening,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. “One intentionally caused it and the others failed to prevent it. This was murder.” But is there a possibility that the police chief was mistaken? That we were deliberately mislead by the video? Could it be that this was not a case of police brutality but simply an example of cops doing their job? Considering that the Floyd incident was used as justification for a nationwide avalanche of looting, arson, and murder, it is imperative that we ask this question.
The politically correct response is total denial: no one should even contemplate the possibility that the cops are not guilty of brutality. According to the Black Lives Matter playbook, it was another example of an innocent black man victimized by racist white police. But if we can overcome the emotional reaction and stick to the facts of the case, a very different verdict is plausible.
Now let me make this clear—I am not saying the cops were innocent, but I am questioning the knee-jerk assumption that they are guilty. Here is the overlooked and all-important fact—the public doesn’t have enough information to determine whether or not Floyd’s death was caused by police brutality. We should keep an open mind instead of rushing to judgment.
To prove second degree murder, the state needs to prove that Floyd died while Chauvin was committing a felony assault. Was it an assault or was Chauvin attempting to restrain an uncooperative suspect? Floyd was a repeat criminal with an appalling record of violent offenses. As in so many arrest scenarios, he may have fought with the cops. Floyd was a big man. Under the influence of drugs, he may have been impossible to handle even by four policemen. Videos obtained by The Washington Post and The New York Times allegedly show Floyd resisting arrest in getting out of his original car, and then struggling with officers in the backseat of the police car. All we saw was the end of the arrest process. Until we have access to all available information, there is no way of determining that the cops were guilty.
Each of the charges against Chauvin concedes that Floyd's death was unintentional. To prove third degree murder, it must be shown that Chauvin's act was "eminently" dangerous, that it caused Floyd's death, and that Chauvin acted with a disregard for human life when he held his knee on Floyd's neck. The neck hold used by Chauvin was legal, says the New York Law Journal, and only in the aftermath of Floyd’s death is Minnesota attempting to ban it. “With a legal knee hold and Chauvin experiencing first-hand Floyd’s drug-induced state, the State will have a difficult time proving that Chauvin acted with a ‘depraved mind without regard for human life.’”
Experts have testified that no one dies from having a knee on their neck. Floyd may have died from natural causes or from a drug overdose, both unrelated to the knee. He had underlying health conditions including arteriosclerosis and hypertensive heart disease. The official autopsy report revealed that he was high on fentanyl, a drug stronger than heroin, and had recently used methamphetamine—a dangerous combination that can lead to respiratory distress. Floyd also had COVID-19. The autopsy indicated that he died of a cardiopulmonary arrest and not from suffocation.
Should Chauvin have removed his knee when Floyd uttered the now famous words, “I can’t breathe?” There is evidence that Floyd said “I can’t breathe” before Chauvin applied the knee. According to the transcripts, Floyd said “I can’t breathe” and “I want to lay on the ground” as the officers struggled to get Floyd into the squad car. “The decision to restrain Floyd was reasonably justified,” said Earl Gray, attorney for Officer Thomas Lane. “Based on Floyd’s actions up to this point, the officers had no idea what he would do next—hurt himself, hurt the officers, flee, or anything else, but he was not cooperating.”
“Cops can’t be prosecuted for using reasonable force while effecting a lawful arrest,” according to the New York Law Journal. “The question remains then, what is ‘reasonable force’ and whether keeping a knee on Floyd’s neck was reasonable or necessary with two other officers also restraining a handcuffed Floyd lying on his stomach.” Another issue is whether the other officers were guilty of “aiding and abetting.” Did they have a duty to stop Chauvin from holding Floyd down? Gray said there is no evidence Lane played an intentional role or knew Chauvin was committing a crime. The same can be argued about Officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao.
Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, pointed out that high-profile politicians and leaders have spoken out against his client. "On the other hand,” Nelson said, “one would be hard pressed to locate any pretrial publicity referring extensively to Mr. Chauvin’s innocence until proven guilty or that his alleged actions were justifiable in the line of his duties.” The public pressure to convict is overwhelming. Threats have been issued that if the four cops are not found guilty, a new outbreak of disturbances will occur. Regardless of their guilt or innocence, the cops are victims of the current racial hysteria. How can they get a fair trial?