Derek Chauvin Trial: Will Minneapolis Burn?

Terrorism: noun: the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

If Derek Chauvin is not found guilty of murder, riots will break out in Minneapolis and probably across the United States. I know it. You know it. The police know it. The judge knows it. And the jury knows it too. But the case is not as simple as most people believe. The way Derek Chauvin treated George Floyd was despicable, kneeling on a man’s neck, who had been struggling to breathe for nearly half an hour, is an abhorrent crime. However, it is uncertain whether Chauvin’s knee was the primary cause of Mr. Floyd’s death. The cause of death in the official postmortem was given as: “cardiopulmonary arrest complicated by law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” At the time of his arrest, George Floyd was recovering from Covid-19, which has been shown to impair breathing even after recovery. Mr. Floyd also had fentanyl in his system, a highly lethal opioid that depresses breathing and reduces blood pressure. There was also methamphetamine in his system, a stimulant that causes an irregular heartbeat, breathing difficulties, and impairs blood pressure. The video below corroborates the findings of the toxicology report, showing Mr. Floyd consuming a drug or drug packet:

This is not to dismiss Derek Chauvin’s awful actions, nor to say that George Floyd simply died of a drug overdose. Cause of death is often more complicated than that, as it is in this case. Multiple factors were involved, and the degree to which each factor led to Mr. Floyd’s death will determine whether Mr. Chauvin is guilty of Second Degree Murder, Third Degree Murder, or Second Degree Manslaughter. We are all too familiar with the harrowing video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck while Mr. Floyd cries: “I can’t breathe”. However, it’s uncertain whether or not his breathing was inhibited by Mr. Chauvin’s knee. While a knee on the side of the neck could restrict bloodflow to the brain, it’s unlikely to restrict the trachea and impair breathing. As the video below shows, George Floyd was struggling to breathe long before Mr. Chauvin knelt on his neck:

The restricted bloodflow, the exertion caused by police restraint, the effects of the drugs, and the failure of officers to get Mr. Floyd timely medical attention all contributed to his death. If the jury finds this to be the case, then it would rule out Second Degree Murder, which requires the prosecution to prove Chauvin had “intent to effect the death of [George Floyd], but without premeditation”. Particularly, considering the knee restraint is taught in Minneapolis PD training, it will be difficult to prove that Chauvin had any other intent than to restrain Mr. Floyd. Chauvin could be found guilty of Third Degree Murder if he is found to have: “without intent to effect the death of any person, caused the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life”. This charge generally relates to recklessly dangerous acts that were not intended to kill. For example, if someone were to set fire to a building that they thought was empty, but happened to kill someone inside. This charge had originally been thrown out by the judge, because Chauvin’s actions hadn’t been generally reckless, no other person was put in danger, only George Floyd. However, precedent from another case asserted that even if a sole person was put in danger by a defendant’s reckless actions, they may be prosecuted for Third Degree Murder. Given the judge’s previous reluctance to indict Chauvin on this charge, the prosecution may have difficulty proving him guilty of the charge.

George Floyd memorial at the intersection of Chicago Ave and E 38th St in Minneapolis, Minnesota ©Lorie Shaull

Most likely, Derek Chauvin will be found guilty of Second Degree Manslaughter, that is: “by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another”. Using such restraint on a man clearly in a medical emergency, and failing to get him medical attention certainly falls well within the bounds of Second Degree Manslaughter. But Second Degree Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of ten years. With mitigation, he will probably be sentenced to much less than that. With good behavior, he would only serve a fraction of his sentence. Would that be sufficient to appease the racial justice warriors who spent months, on and off, rioting, looting and burning?

The barricades surrounding the courthouse where Derek Chauvin will be tried ©Lorie Shaull

Fencing, barbed wire, and concrete barriers surround Minneapolis PD Stations and the Hennepin County Courthouse in anticipation of a recurrence of violence that the city is all too familiar with. Will the threat of rioting influence the decisions of the jurors? Kandace Montgomery, a Minneapolis activist who organized multiple racial justice protests, has called the increased security “an intimidation tactic” against the black community. But will the jurors feel intimidated, as they pass through the three lines of barriers, with barbed wire overhead, while under armed guard? The jurors will become more familiar with the case than anyone outside that courtroom. People on the outside believe George Floyd was murdered, simple as. The complexities of murder, manslaughter, and the degrees of each charge are beyond the knowledge of most–including myself until I researched this article. Can the jurors act in good conscience with the threat of rioting and destruction raised above their heads? Or will they appease the terrorists by finding Chauvin guilty of Second Degree Murder against their better judgement? Some will say it’s justice. Many innocent black men have been sentenced to unduly long incarcerations. And Derek Chauvin is no innocent man. Advocates of “anti-racism” believe in restorative justice; that is, the only way that black people can achieve equality is by discriminating against the “dominant race”. This must come to pass or Minneapolis will burn. This is racial justice now. This is America.

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