Derek Chauvin’s depraved indifference charge was dismissed but it won’t help


The depraved indifference charge against Derek Chauvin was dismissed finally because it never applied. He didn’t shoot into a crowd or put anyone besides George Floyd in danger.

It won’t make a difference in the other charges account for Chauvin’s 22-and-a-half-year sentence. Judge Peter Cahill imposed that term mainly because Chauvin was also convicted of second-degree unintentional murder (i.e., murder committed in the course of committing another crime — aggravated assault). That charge is unaffected by the state supreme court’s new ruling.

Chauvin specifically targeted Floyd in his use of force and had a rational reason for doing so.

Chauvin’s conviction for second-degree unintentional homicide is the result of the jury finding that his encounter with Floyd evolved into the use of excessive force. That is the crime of aggravated assault, and allegedly caused Floyd’s death.

In Chauvin’s case, no court that had the discretion to overturn the depraved indifference conviction was willing to risk making a correct legal ruling that was likely to have the streets erupting in violence.

As a result, the Chauvin prosecutors had the considerable advantage of having a charge that should not have been in the case. It likely would not have made a difference in the end.

So now, with Chauvin safely convicted months earlier, the state supreme court finally deigned to rule on Officer Noor’s appeal. The depraved indifference charge against Noor was thrown out under circumstances relatable to Chauvin’s whose charge then had to be tossed.

The key issue in Chauvin’s appeal will be whether prejudicial actions and public statements by state and federal officials, including remarks by President Biden and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), deprived him of a fair trial. The claim has legs because Judge Cahill failed to address prejudicial publicity adequately. Also, the jury’s rapid-fire verdict, in the reaching of which they asked not a single question despite the trial’s length and complexity, goes to bias.

The second-degree murder count carried a possible 40-year sentence. As a practical matter, because of some quirks in state sentencing law, Chauvin was facing a sentence of up to 30 years on that charge alone, Andy McCarthy writes at National Review. The 22.5-year term imposed was well within the guidelines.

Andy McCarthy explains at National Review that the third-degree depraved-indifference count carried a possible sentence of 25 years; and as with the manslaughter count on which Chauvin was also convicted, it was subsumed for sentencing purposes in the more severe second-degree count. Consequently, the 22.5-year term will stand unless Chauvin can get the second-degree murder conviction reversed on appeal.

The evidence was sufficient to uphold the guilty verdict. The question is whether the trial was fair. No one will take on the mob and the question will probably remain unanswered.

There is also the question of what actually killed Mr. Floyd, which is not being questioned. Mr. Floyd had enough drugs in him to kill him several times. There was no proof that he suffocated. That seems to be something no one is allowed to question.

The mob is watching.

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