Derek Chauvin Is Gonna Walk
Guilty as charged on three counts of felony homicide.
The verdict in the trial of George Floyd’s brutal murderer ranged from being a huge relief to those of us who remembered past injustices such as the not guilty verdicts in the Rodney King outrage in 1992 to enormous surprise by members of the Black community who expected no conviction under any circumstances. It’s a segment of our society who have grown over the decades to accept judicial denial of facts as justice being pronounced, “Just Us.”
Many, if not most of us, predicted that night that Derek Chauvin’s reckoning before the rule of law was going to be a watershed event in which the Blue Wall of Silence would no longer protect rogue cops from answering for criminal misconduct. Police reform, we thought, might actually be possible without racial strife and over-reactions that would either significantly harm or even destroy our institution of democratic law enforcement.
Not so fast.
Derek Chauvin is now imprisoned in protective segregation and will be sentenced in about eight weeks for his horrendous crimes. He is facing something over 20 years of maximum-security confinement and much more if the prosecution can convince the sentencing judge to exceed the Minnesota sentencing guidelines for a first offender because of the aggravating circumstances of his crimes.
But a lengthy appeals process is guaranteed to follow and, quite frankly, anyone would be foolish to believe that Chauvin and his lawyers will not prevail to one degree or another, given the circumstances of outside prejudicial behavior during his trial.
Appeal is common in both criminal and civil verdicts and is an essential safeguard in our overall application of due process. What is not common is for the trial judge himself to counsel the accused from the bench on his substantial grounds for appeal.
That is precisely what happened in Hennepin County District Court when Judge Peter Cahill ruled on Chauvin’s defense motion for a mistrial following Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ (D-CA) inflammatory, intemperate, and inciteful rhetoric before an agitated and angry crowd of protestors in the Brooklyn Center suburb of Minneapolis at the very height of Chauvin’s trial.
What I find particularly egregious in Ms. Waters’ thinly disguised threats of rioting and looting in the wake of a Derek Chauvin acquittal is the archetypical irony of all ironies. The very political leaders who are best positioned to decry her reckless, if not outright unlawful, conduct have the very least moral standing to utter a single word of protest.
The idea that Chauvin might be granted a new trial and even worse, be either partially or totally acquitted in a retrial makes me ill just to contemplate. But when this happens (or if it happens, if you prefer) the culprit will not be any flaw in our criminal justice system.
It will be the consequence of elected political leaders who surely must know their civic and political duty to abstain from provoking and prejudicial speech but who indulge in such misbehavior for the most grievous and self-aggrandizing motives, incumbency and power.
The unprecedented and blatantly undemocratic assault on our election’s integrity began long before the November 3, 2020, election day as President Donald Trump and his supporters vociferously pronounced that if he were not reelected then it would be solely due to election fraud.
Trump supporters sought to eat away at voter confidence even before early voting and absentee balloting began with unfounded and scurrilous claims of potential ballot fraud. That was despite years and even decades of remote voting under the identical processes without any hint or evidence of corruption.
With Trump’s landslide defeat in both popular votes and in Electoral College votes on November 3, a completely fabricated “Stop the Steal” campaign ensued. Despite accusations that were dismissed in both state and federal courts for lack of evidence in nearly 100 lawsuits, the campaign gained a momentum that culminated with a violent insurrection against the U.S. Congress on January 6, 2021.
How did such a campaign gain traction in the face of overwhelming proof against such outrageous claims and conspiracy theories? Largely by the self-serving and vocal support of Republican elected political leaders who disingenuously dismissed the lack of evidence of ballot fraud by instead claiming that “the people have concerns” about the integrity of the November voting.
It was a self-fulfilling prophesy given the pre-Election Day hyperbole and the “Stop the Steal” campaign of misinformation and outright deceit. These elected Republican leaders included the four remaining GOP members of the Virginia U.S. House delegation.
I will not burden you by reciting the allegorical tale of a wolf and a little boy claiming to warn his village and neighbors. Suffice to say that integrity is like moral virtue and once compromised it is irretrievable.
Thus, well-founded demands for censure and even expulsion of Representative Waters by these same Republican leaders, beginning with U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, can be readily dismissed as nothing short of stunning hypocrisy. Waters’ unethical behavior will likely result in some amelioration of Derek Chauvin’s sociopathic attack on the public and will go unpunished.
As they say, Trumplican GOP politicians, the shoe really pinches when it is on the other foot, doesn’t it? I am certain that you will be welcomed at Derek Chauvin’s Welcome Home celebrations. Cheers!