You call that a defense?

Here’s a good summary of the first day in the trial of George Floyd’s murderer.

To summarize the summary, the defense has two key arguments. They are fundamentally racist arguments.

First, they want to claim that choking by kneeling on Floyd’s neck was not the cause of death. What killed him was poor health, specifically hypertension, and drugs. Don’t you know that all black people have high blood pressure and are jacked up on drugs? You can’t blame that poor white cop who was just doing his job in a perfectly normal way when Floyd up and died in custody! They claim that the killer was just following his training, which if true, means the entire Minneapolis police department ought to be fired and indicted.

Their second defense is even worse: that the killer didn’t mean to murder George Floyd, he was just so distracted by what the unruly mob of citizens, who were on the verge of erupting into savage violence, that he forgot how long he was crushing the throat of his victim. We’ve all seen the videos, the jurors have all seen them multiple times now, and there’s nothing accurate in that representation. It was a small group of citizens who are mostly begging and pleading with the cop to let him breathe. They are mostly black, though, so I guess this is an appeal to the prejudices of the kind of juror who sees a gang if they spot two black people in conversation.

These are bad arguments that rely entirely on biases, not facts.

They might just work.


  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    That second defense is incomprehensible, when he was being told by an EMT to check his pulse and let him breathe, which he heard and kept refusing. A uniformed EMT officer, and not some random bystander.
    The opening argument that he was “only following his training” is not a valid excuse.
    Echoes of “only following orders” start ringing in MY ears.
    Pretty sure the training of how to physically restrain a violent offender includes more than kneeling on their neck to render them unconscious.

  2. drew says

    If their training kills people it doesn’t mean that everyone who’s had the training should be “fired and indicted.” They should be laid off because the police should be disbanded. They should not be punished for taking mandatory training.

  3. KG says

    Well, in the face of a video of the murder, what else does the defense have?

    If the facts are against you, pound the law. If the law is against you, pound the facts. If both are against you…
    play on the prejudices of the jury.

  4. raven says

    Do you really have a justice “system”?

    We have the best one that money can buy.

  5. kome says

    Not really. Our judicial system exists to protect the powerful from the powerless.

  6. says

    “Darek Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do”
    Well at least I can agree with the defense attorney on something. Reminds me of the NAZIs at the end of the war saying “We were just following orders”. Doesn’t that make the entire police department guilty of murder then?

    Sorry to go straight for Godwin’s Law but it’s how I see it.

  7. stroppy says

    Given the number of complaints and investigations, Chauvin was certainly a known problem within the department. He obviously wasn’t dealt with properly.

    On the one hand, it’s not too much to ask that they hire people with a conscience. On the other hand one of the problems with the militarized training they get is instinctual, hair trigger violence. On the other, other hand calmly grinding someone’s neck with a knee for nine minutes is not hair trigger, it’s indifferent to another person’s humanity and pretty damn cold blooded. And correct me if I’m wrong, none of that sounds like by-the-book police training.

    Chauvin is culpable, and so is the department, which is one of the reasons this is so fraught. It was murder by both the man and the system, imo.

  8. mnb0 says

    “First, they want to claim that choking by kneeling on Floyd’s neck was not the cause of death.”
    Ah, the same strategy the defense of the killercops in the Mitch Henriquez case used.

    “the killer didn’t mean to murder George Floyd”
    Yup, a complete copy. The difference: those killercops didn’t kneel, they used

    Compare the picture – Mitch Henriquez was lying on the ground, held down by six cops.
    His crime: when one of the six killercops asked him if he wore a gun he pointed at his reproductive organs and replies “here is my gun”.
    The really bad news is that the killercops were acquitted, so be prepared for a disappointment.
    Oh – and Henriquez wasn’t black. He was an Aruban Latino.

    Western freedom and justice are not for everyone.

  9. mnb0 says

    @7 RayC: “We were just following orders”
    The difference is that the prosecutors and the judges at the Nürnberg trials (among them Americans) didn’t buy that excuse. For instance Paul Blöbel was hanged just fine (I’m not an advocate of death penalty, but just read the biography of that pos).

  10. jrkrideau says

    “” Do you really have a justice “system”?””

    We have the best one that money can buy.

    That was what i feared

  11. kathleenzielinski says

    There’s an old joke about the guy who wrote a letter to the Governor of Nebraska offering to be Nebraska’s Secretary of the Navy. The governor wrote back that Nebraska has no Navy. To which the writer responded, “But you have a Department of Justice.”

  12. kathleenzielinski says

    By the way, assuming George Floyd was in fact high as a kite on drugs, I would consider that an aggravating factor for Chauvin rather than a mitigating one. Anyone with an IQ over room temperature would be expected to know that if someone is high on drugs, you don’t keep your knee on their neck for nine minutes.

  13. naturalistguy says

    My 86 year old mother has been following the trial from Florida and she also has seen through the defense strategy, which tells me it’s obvious and insufficient. The crowd wasn’t very angry and police are trained to cope with that in any case, and also not ignore the concern expressed by an EMT about the condition of George Floyd. I would have expected the defense to go with a strategy of trying to show that Chauvin was not motivated by any animus towards Floyd to avoid a murder conviction, but maybe that will come later in the trial.

  14. ajbjasus says

    Problem is, as there has to be a trial, someone has to defend him.

    If it’s a shitty defence, so much the better.

  15. says

    The training argument has some merit, this problem is too pervasive to be anything but a systemic issue. I would happily stomach some leniency for the perpetrator if the Police as an institution was held co-responsible.

  16. Ridana says

    Have they offered an explanation yet of why Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the cop car to begin with? He was already in custody and “under control” so why did he need to do that?

  17. garnetstar says

    I was heartbroken that they had a nine-year-old testifying, who witnessed this murder (she was one of the threatening people in the crowd, because cops with guns find even 9-year-old black people frightening.) But they needed her, because what she said she saw was that, when the ambulance arrived, the personnel motioned or told Chauvin to get up off of Floyd, so they could put him on a stretcher.

    But Chauvin didn’t move, or release his knee. The ambulance personnel had to push Chauvin off Floyd’s neck so that they could even pick him up.

    Explain that with these racist, ridiculous theories!

    Actually, nine minutes of that sociopathic dead-eyed cold stare is quite enough evidence, IMO.

  18. garnetstar says

    The crowd was a “threat” only because at least two people asked Chauvin “Are you having fun?” and “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Yes, to both.

  19. lotharloo says

    The testimony of his girlfriend was so heartbreaking holy shit, like the moment she touched the screen without knowing it would write on it. It is difficult to not hate the lawyer of that scumbag but I am happy he seems to be incompetent, so hopefully some justice can be served.

  20. brightmoon says

    I can’t watch those videos. I just can’t watch a sociopath murder someone. This isn’t like watching a silly R rated movie

  21. Prax says

    kathleen @13: You have to remember that drug intoxication unleashes dark powers in brown people. When you get all cautious because of his “sensitive medical condition,” you’re just giving him a chance to charge his heat vision.

    On a number of occasions an older white relative has explained to me how important it is to put ten bullets into some drunk, depressed guy staggering in circles with a knife pointed at the ground, before he can whip it into your eye socket from twenty yards away like a Double Dragon extra. Doesn’t matter if you outnumber him five to one and you’re all wearing vests, black people are just special like that. Indigenous women too, of course.

    You’d think it would follow that all our law enforcement officers should be black or brown, since apparently they’re genetically optimized for war, but America does not seem to concur.

  22. stroppy says

    Ridana @ 18
    “Have they offered an explanation yet of why Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the cop car to begin with? He was already in custody and “under control” so why did he need to do that?”

    I haven’t been following this very closely, but from the video it looks like they were having difficulty getting him all the way into the car. Difficult maybe, but was he threatening? No. From the little I saw, it looks to me like Chauvin was itching to “teach him a lesson” in compliance.

  23. DLC says

    The defense attorneys are of course just spamming out whatever dorky excuses they can in order to have a hope that some one of the Jurors has something to hang his hat on in terms of acquittal, long enough to get a hung jury. Their other hope is to goad the judge into committing some reversible error, or get the prosecution to over-extend in order to find grounds for appeal. There isn’t much chance of them finding grounds for appeal based on ineffective counsel. Yes, as skeevy as this all is, in the United States everyone is entitled to not just pro forma defense, but actual zealous advocacy, even if anyone but a low grade moron can see that Chauvin is guilty. I take comfort in the fact that this case is so tight that a molecule on a diet couldn’t get through. The next thing after a straight acquittal or hung jury will be a lesser verdict. You can expect the jury to pick the lowest, weakest charge on the menu, and the judge to hand down the least, weakest sentence. In this, I hope to be wrong.

  24. rydan says

    I’m curious though. Would they have used the same defense if George Floyd was an overweight middle aged white guy who was an addict? I’d like to think the defense would since that’s literally their job but I guess we’ll never know since the cops never murder such a person in broad daylight.