Updated: May 7
Lawyers are known for watching trial proceedings with a critical eye, picking apart what has gone well and what hasn’t. The highly-publicized criminal trial for Derek Chauvin regarding George Floyd’s death is fertile ground for viewing and commentary.
But emotionally and racially charged cases like this one are harder to objectively critic.
This case requires unwavering adherence to proper legal procedure. There is a very real concern that any potential irregularity during the hearing, however slight, would result in post-conviction proceedings that could potentially overturn the trial court outcome.
Not to mention that the world is watching this extremely publicized trial.
Nuances are important. For example, whether approaching it from the mindset of prosecution or defense, you do not want jurors who say they cannot be fair or impartial on your jury. Full stop. Race considerations and potential Batson challenges do not matter if the jurors can’t be impartial.
The prosecution must meet its burden of proof for each element of the charges. Evidence must be proffered and admitted in accordance to the applicable rules of evidence. In the courtroom, it doesn’t matter if that evidence happens to be a video that has been watched over and over again by the masses for almost a year now. It still must go through the methodical process to be admitted as evidence.
Derek Chauvin is entitled to present whatever defense his lawyers think they can make. It is important to recognize that the defense strategy is trying to pick away at some of the underlying elements of the specific charges (second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter), including elements like causation. Even when it feels like they are denigrating the victim.
There are memes floating around with sentiments like, “How do you know the US is a failed state? We’re holding a four week trial for a murder everybody saw.” But these do not capture the depths of our legal system. The process itself, while sometimes imperfect, is what makes our legal justice system. There cannot be exceptions to the required process based solely on publicity, or race. Without the process being followed, we all lose.
The Sam Cary Bar Association is hosting Justice for George Floyd? Lunch & Chat sessions, next happening on April 15 and April 22, 2021. The chat sessions provide a place to discuss and provide commentary on what is happening in the Derek Chauvin trial from the Black legal perspective.
And critically, the chats provide an avenue for not being alone while watching this trial unfold.
If you are interested in attending the next two sessions, please reach out to Info@samcarybar.net to register.
Marty Whalen Brown is a Staff Adjudicator at the Office of Appeals in the Colorado Department of Human Services. She holds a J.D. degree from the University of Colorado Law School and clerked at the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge under the Colorado Supreme Court after graduating.