Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Derek Chauvin's murder trial reveals the truth about George Floyd's death, which was obsccured in artfully misleading press release from Minneapolis PD

Derek Chauvin

A guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd could be a sign of hope that America will get its raging police-brutality problem under control. But the trial itself, which understandably focused on Chauvin's cruelty and indifference at needlessly taking a human life, also revealed part of policing's dark underbelly that might make reform more difficult than most of us can imagine.

What is this ugly secret, which likely remains unknown to many Americans? It's simple, really: Cops lie, and they lie a lot, especially when one of their own is in trouble. This issue resonates here at Legal Schnauzer because my wife, Carol, and I have seen firsthand how brazenly cops can lie -- even when they are filling out official reports or testifying in a court of law. 

How did the "cops lie" problem manifest in the Chauvin trial? That becomes apparent when you compare early Minneapolis PD statements about the Floyd incident with sworn testimony that came out in court. You might say there is a wide gulf between the two. From a CNN report, under the headline "How Minneapolis Police first described the murder of George Floyd, and what we know now":

"Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction."

That was the headline of a Minneapolis Police press release on May 25, 2020, in the hours after an unnamed man in his 40s died. Absent from the nearly 200-word post is any mention of officers restraining him on the ground, a knee on his neck, or any sense of how long this "interaction" lasted. 
Thanks to video from a 17-year-old bystander, we now know what really happened: Former police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, by using excessive and unreasonable force when he kneeled on Floyd's neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Chauvin was convicted Tuesday on two counts of murder and a count of manslaughter in a Minnesota criminal court.
In light of his conviction, that original press release is worth revisiting to understand the ways that police statements can hide the truth with a mix of passive language, blatant omissions and mangled sense of timing.

CNN is being deferential to police with that last paragraph. The simple truth is this: Cops lie, and they lied about the Floyd case -- and they probably would have gotten away with it, except that a 17-year-old with a cell phone thought the cops' actions were wrong and had the courage to take video of them:

The link to the [press release] now redirects to the Minneapolis Police website, but its text remains accessible through the Internet Archive.
The [release] begins by saying that Minneapolis Police officers responded to a report of a "forgery in progress," and notes that the suspect "appeared to be under the influence."
"Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.

Was Floyd "suffering medical distress" because Chauvin's knee had been on his neck for more than nine minutes? We now know the answer is yes -- but the cop press release makes no mention of that tidbit.

"At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been called in to investigate this incident at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department.
"No officers were injured in the incident. Body worn cameras were on and activated during this incident."
The post was sent by John Elder, the director of the Office of Public Information under Minneapolis Police.

CNN suggests the Minneapolis press release was merely deceptive, not wholly dishonest. But our experience indicates cops can totally make stuff up -- as if pulled from some "alternate reality." (More on that in a future post.):

Everything in the police post is, technically speaking, true.
The police were responding to report of a man using a suspected counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd was under the influence of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time, according to a toxicology report. He did physically resist officers when they tried to get him into the squad car. They were able to get him into handcuffs.
The officers did notice he appeared to be in medical distress, and they did call for an ambulance. No weapons were "used," at least in the sense that they did not shoot him or beat him with a weapon.
But taken together, the post is deeply misleading and works to obscure the officers' role in his death. 
It flips the timing of the handcuffing, hiding the fact that Floyd was in handcuffs nearly from the start of their interaction. 
It notes that he was put in handcuffs and "suffering medical distress" in the same sentence, even though they occurred about 20 minutes apart. Most importantly, it ignores what police did in between those two events.

How misleading was the PD's account? Let's count the ways:

There is no mention that police restrained him in a prone position on the ground or that Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck. It does not mention that Chauvin remained in that position for an extended period -- 9 minutes and 29 seconds. It does not mention that Floyd repeatedly said "I can't breathe" and called for his "mama" before he lost consciousness, stopped breathing and lost his pulse. It does not state that Chauvin stayed on his neck until paramedics motioned for him to get up off Floyd's limp body.
It also does not mention that former officer Thomas Lane pointed his gun at Floyd while he was in his vehicle, which can be interpreted as "using" a weapon.
We know the truth of all of this because of a remarkable amount of video showing what really happened that day.
The 17-year-old, Darnella Frazier, posted her video to Facebook, which was seen by people across the world, including the Minneapolis Police chief. Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty firefighter who was rebuffed from rendering aid to Floyd, also filmed parts of the scene from a slightly different angle. Another high school student used her friend's phone to film the incident, she testified.
A city surveillance camera from across the street showed the restraint of Floyd from a distance. A 911 dispatcher who watched the live feed of that video called her supervisor to voice her concerns about what she had seen. Other videos from inside the Cup Foods store, outside a Chinese restaurant and from a bystander in his car showed what happened prior to the fatal restraint.
Finally, three of the officers' body cameras showed their extended interactions with Floyd up close. Chauvin's camera fell underneath the squad car prior to the restraint so does not show everything, but it reveals his arrival to the scene and his attempt to defend his actions afterward.

The PD, naturally, tried to defend the content of the press release:

Elder, the police spokesman who sent out the alert, told the Los Angeles Times last year that he based the initial release on information from sergeants who work in the area and computer-aided dispatch, which did not mention the use of force. He hadn't reviewed the body-camera footage yet.
"This had literally zero intent to deceive or be dishonest or disingenuous. Had we known that this (situation) was what we saw on the video, that statement would have been completely different," Elder told the LA Times.
In response, the Minneapolis City Council voted last summer to move the Public Information Office out from the police department and under the city's control, according to CNN affiliate WCCO.
On Wednesday, George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd said it was the presence of cameras that opened doors for the "historic" verdict in the Chauvin trial.
"To me, Emmett Till, he was the first George Floyd," referring to the 14-year-old Black boy who was tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955. "It just wasn't any cameras around. That's the only thing that changed — the cameras, the technology. It helped open up doors because without that, my brother just would have been another person on the side of the road left to die."

Cops, meanwhile, appear to have a massive credibility problem, one that goes way beyond Minneapolis -- one with which journalists around the the country will have to wrestle. (Details in an upcoming post.)


Anonymous said...

It never occurred to the cops that Mr. Floyd was in medical distress because he had Chauvin's knee on his neck?

legalschnauzer said...

Apparently not, and that's stupid. In fact, I can't decide if the worst trait in cops is dishonesty or stupidity.

legalschnauzer said...

NPR: Derek Chauvin seeks new trial:

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin who was convicted last month of murdering George Floyd filed court documents for a new trial on Tuesday.

His attorney, Eric Nelson, petitioned the court, alleging that Chauvin's constitutional rights were violated when Judge Peter Cahill refused to change the venue of the trial, and that the pretrial publicity deprived the officer of a fair trial.

Nelson also cites "prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law."

legalschnauzer said...

More on Chauvin request for a new trial:

The publicity leading up to the proceedings, Nelson said, allowed for "intimidation of the defense's expert witnesses, from which the jury was not insulated." Nelson suggested that such fallout may have a long-lasting "chilling effect" on the ability of defendants in other high-profile cases to obtain expert witnesses in the future.

"The publicity here was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings," Nelson wrote.

The blame for Chauvin's alleged unfair treatment also extended to the jury, the court and the prosecution, according to Nelson. The filing asks Cahill for a hearing to impeach the disgraced officer's verdict, in part, on the grounds that the 12 jurors "felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings." As a result, he said, jurors were left vulnerable to intimidation and potential retribution.

The jury was significantly less white than Hennepin County itself; the 12 jurors included four Black people, two people who identify as multiracial and six white people.

According to the motion, the court abused its discretion in the following instances:

When it failed to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, or in the least, admonish them to avoid all media
When it permitted the State to present cumulative evidence with respect to use of force
When it failed to order that a record be made of the numerous sidebars that occurred during the trial
When it submitted instructions to the jury that failed to accurately reflect the law with respect to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and authorized use of force

Anonymous said...

Police have a frightening amount of power over our lives. When you add in their propensity to lie, it gets real scary.

Anonymous said...

Simple fact: A dishonest cop can ruin your life, assuming he doesn't end your life.

Jim Beamer said...

You can focus on uniform cops, but hey.....the secret surveillance using vigilante goon squads, murder teams, and torture is far more outrageous (I know, that's hard to believe). The comparmentalized surveillance state depends on civilian vigilante squads who don't have badges (or maybe they do use reserve deputy Sheriff's badges) or warrants (that's a crime).

When our wonderful tough guy slob cops in Sioux Falls, SD, found out that the illegal gang stalking surveillance vigilantes came on our property at night to hunt our cat with a bow and arrow...resulting in the death of "mauser" (the cat)..our wonderful tough guy, GOP, hack, Sheriff at Minnehaha Cty Sheriff's Dept issued a response to my allegations.

The local clown corporate rag (The Argus Leader) published Sheriff Milsted's quote in support of vigilante gang stalking that never ends, has no focus, doesn't use warrants and feeds tainted evidence to the cops: "'re our eyes and ears out there...". The Sheriff seemed to be sanctioning killing Target's family pets on our property at night. Somehow, the bozo clown cops didn't think a crime had been committed?

That's how the South Dakota tough guy pigs, feds, prosecutors, public clown defendors, and tough guy Judges all think: there is no prohibition on any crime committed by gang stalking criminal scum.....just as long as "you're our eyes and ears out there".

The gang stalkers and surveillance, in the past, happily murdered my known associates to prevent a mere civil suit filing that sought a ruling concerning the Unconstitutional patterns and practises that are protected by law enforcement, prosecutors, and Judges (who aren't too concerned with vetting tainted evidence, just as long as civilian vigilantes are committing all the warrantless surveillance so the cops and Judges can later invoke "The Citizen Rule Exception to The Exclusionary Rule").

This Technocratic, Full Spectrum Dominance, Orwell meets Kafka surveillance state is run by criminal, wacko, vigilante, right wing, Gov Tit Vultures sucking off all that free Gov Gravy known as "outsourcing surveillance using contracts" (with no warrant requirements, or due process notice to any Defendants).

It's alot worse than this murder of a black man by a corrupt cop who threw his camera under the car to pretend that it fell off so that the evidence was not available so that idiots could only be in a position to rely on the dubious spin provided by the cops.

The Republican trash have learned how to operate without warrants while still enjoying use and abuse of illegally obtained info from invasive electronics. It's an ongoing pattern and practise that has been perfected to get plea bargains to move paper through the Marsupial Courts as fast as possible.

The bogus fraud known as Public Defendors, all seem to be dedicated to promoting their own complicity in this type of full spectrum Commie style surveillance.

The cops and feds and tough guy, grandstanding prosecutors......all know, "they successfully gamed out the system in pursuit of maximizing the police state's powers and descretion" by subverting the warrant requirement and due process notice requirements. They think it's a Covert War, and they want you to pay taxes every year so these heroes can abuse there special priviledges as special heroes.

We've seen this in the harassment of Roger and his wife for years...across state lines (Interstate Stalking is a Fed Offense ignored by the worthless, ruthless, jack ass punks known as The FBI and DOJ).

legalschnauzer said...

Again,, thanks for your insights. So sorry to hear about your experiences and the killing of your cat. Horrible. I would love to have a front-row seat to see the appropriate person held accountable for that.