Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter over the death of George Floyd. This historic case captured the attention of the public as protests raged across the country. To discuss the happenings of the trial, the likely next steps, and the aftermath, is Liberty Nation’s Legal Affairs Editor Scott D. Cosenza, Esq.
Mark Angelides: With this guilty verdict, Scott, what does this mean for Derek Chauvin regarding the kind of sentencing he can expect? And when will the sentence be handed down?
Scott D. Cosenza, Esq.: Chauvin will be sentenced only on the most serious conviction, that of second-degree murder. Judge Peter Cahill will impose the sentence and has scheduled it in eight weeks. During the intervening time, the state will prepare a presenting report which the judge will use to inform his choice. Minnesota sentencing guidelines allow for a sentence of between 120 and 180 months for a person with no prior records convicted of this type of murder; if the judge issues a sentence outside those bounds, “the judge must state the reasons for departure and either the prosecution or the defense may appeal the pronounced sentence.”
MA: This was a high-profile case with international implications. Did the lawyers behave professionally, or is there a lot of grandstanding taking place?
SDC: The prosecution team committed numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct. They called the defense attorney, his arguments, and defense witnesses liars; that is not okay, and Judge Cahill sustained objections to that effect. While not unprofessional strictly speaking, the prosecution’s appeal to emotion and feeling rather than judgment and reason is, of course, quite a disappointment. I expect the statements the prosecutors made to be listed amongst others in Mr. Chauvin’s almost sure to be filed appeal.
MA: Based on events outside of the court, most particularly those of elected politicians like Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) and even President Biden, should we expect an appeal on those grounds? Judge Cahill mentioned this in Monday’s session, didn’t he?
SDC: Judge Cahill did say that perhaps Maxine Waters’ comments could be grounds for an appellate court to declare Chauvin’s right to a fair trial was violated. Cahill declined to issue a mistrial on this issue himself, however. The judge called these statements by politicians “abhorrent,” but it appears more likely that Chauvin’s chances for a reversal of fortune from the appellate courts lie with issues within the courtroom rather than outside it.
MA: In your opinion, as a lawyer, were the statements of Waters and Biden detrimental to Chauvin’s defense? And more importantly, could the jury have been swayed or influenced by their comments?
SDC: Well, those statements certainly didn’t help guarantee Mr. Chauvin a fair trial. Beyond that, we’ll likely never know the reach they had into the jury room. For instance, even if no juror heard them, if a juror’s spouse or child did and gave a plea about safety or the trial’s outcome, you can see how the pressure can seep in on a juror.
SDC: Those are strictly political decisions whose answers depend solely on the whims of the Democrats in charge.
MA: Scott, you’ve been watching this trial day in day out. Was justice served here? And do you think the public would agree with you?
SDC: If the jurors really did feel free to issue any verdict they chose and were fairly swayed by the evidence, then yes. I doubt that’s the case, however, because of the stakes involved and the publicity generated by the trial. Jurors aren’t supposed to have a stake in the outcome of the trial. So, if you’re worried about your local shopping center burning down, or your home being vandalized, or worse, you can’t give a fair verdict as a juror. For that reason, the case should almost certainly have been sent to another venue for the trial.
There is a basis for several lines of attack on appeal. That doesn’t mean any will be successful, but this verdict is far from air-tight. The public has largely been spoon-fed a narrative by the big-box media that no rational person could think Chauvin was not guilty. By and large, people have accepted this story, so no, I don’t think the public would agree with my assessment. It stands to reason their opinions, and the verdict itself, might differ if the press presented fewer half-truths and narrative, and more of the facts as discernible.