Expert attorney concludes there is reasonable doubt in Chauvin case

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The prosecution and the defense are presenting their closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin murder trial beginning today. The prosecutor so far told the jury that Chauvin “had to know” Floyd’s life was in danger.

Floyd was “just a man, lying on the pavement, being pressed upon, desperately crying out. A grown man crying out for his mother. A human being,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said as he sought to convince the racially diverse jury that Chauvin’s actions as he pinned Floyd to the pavement with his knee were reckless, unreasonable and criminal, Politico reports.

The murder case is built on emotion, not necessarily facts. That doesn’t mean these officers are good at their jobs or should ever be officers again.

Schleicher told the jury that George Floyd was “not a threat to anyone.” That, of course, is very debatable.

Expert Defense Attorney Andrew Branca who has followed the Derek Chauvin case and reported at Legal Insurrection throughout the trial believes there is more than enough reasonable doubt to find Derek Chauvin innocent of the charges. There are, of course, other factors at play.

Branca wrote yesterday, “The bottom line: If the verdict were based solely on the legal merits, the facts and law, in this case, were I personally a juror I would have more than enough reasonable doubt to be unable to vote guilty on any of these criminal charges, for all the reasons of fact and law that I detail below [we only summarized them on this site].

“That said, this case left the “facts and law” train station quite some time ago, making where it will end up largely unpredictable in any realistic sense, especially given the political and social dynamics looking to drive this train clear off the rails.”

Mr. Branca stuck to the charges as well in coming to his conclusions.

“None of the killing charges brought against Chauvin fall into the unlawful and intentional category of homicide, and so would not in most other states be referred to as murder.”

Mr. Branca discussed the charge of Murder in the Second Degree in some depth which you can read at Legal Insurrection.

About that charge he says, “if Floyd’s death was the result of factors largely independent of Chauvin’s use of force, then that use of force did not cause Floyd’s death, and could not be the basis of a felony murder conviction on the facts of this case.:

That takes you to causation and there is no way you can know the cause of Floyd’s death due to his heart condition, the drugs in his system, and other issues discussed at trial. That is reasonable doubt.

Also considered in these charges: was this reasonable use of force by the officer?

Branca writes, “The bottom line there, however, will be that if Chauvin’s use of force was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, then there is no criminal assault, and if there is no criminal assault there is no predicate felony for the felony murder charge—and neither the predicate assault nor the felony murder will have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The other charges are third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Branca says the same challenges come up. These charges do not require intent to kill Mr. Floyd but the intent is not irrelevant.

What the jury has to decide is if the use of force was reasonable. If it is, the charges do not apply. Chauvin, you must remember, didn’t know about his illnesses and the drugs in his system.

Branca writes:

That is, Chauvin would have no knowledge of Floyd’s profound coronary artery disease, pathological hypertension, enlarged heart, paraganglioma, nor the possibility that Floyd’s respiration was dangerous[ly] depressed, on the one hand, or that he had fatal levels of fentanyl on board, on the other hand, depending on your preferred view of the fentanyl issue.

What would Chauvin have known, or reasonably believed to be true under the circumstances? That he was dealing with a forcibly non-compliant, physically very large and apparently fit and healthy suspect, a suspect who had required the efforts of multiple police officers to subdue, and who they believed might be experiencing an unspecified but likely overdose-related medical crisis requiring the prompt medical attention of an intensity that only paramedics, or higher-level care, could provide.

Chauvin would also have believed that this higher-level medical care would be arriving within moments, a reasonable expectation according to state’s witnesses, and thus that Floyd would (he believed) need be restrained only briefly until that care arrived.

Then there is the Third Degree Assault charge.

Again, the prosecution has to prove Chauvin used unreasonable force. He goes into great detail to show it may not have been wise and maybe the officers should have known, but it was not unlawful.

After acknowledging the protests, riots, heart-wrenching video, and other factors that will affect this verdict — which no one can predict — Mr. Branca said there is reasonable doubt.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing that George Floyd died—it’s definitely not a good thing—nor does it mean that the officers involved did nothing wrong or that they should still be police officers.

“It just means that based on the evidence I saw in watching literally every minute of this trial, and having reviewed the relevant law to the best of my abilities, I can’t conclude that these criminal charges have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

 


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