Everybody on Trial in America is Presumed Innocent, But Derek Chauvin Was Presumed Guilty
Derek Chauvin was found guilty of killing George Floyd by a jury of his peers. That is the American justice system in action; 12 people sit and deliberate and decide your fate. Obviously, if you have done something to need 12 other people to sit and judge your actions, it is a solid assumption you did something wrong.
But that last part is not how the American justice system works. If you are sitting in a court with 12 people ready to judge you and decide your fate, the only assumption you can make is the man is innocent. Innocent. Innocent until prove guilty is the bedrock of the American justice system. However, our justice system was flipped on its head; Derek Chauvin was presumed guilty, not innocent.
This is not some defense of Derek Chauvin or his actions. Nor is this some “how dare you” rant asking, “how could you not presume Derek Chauvin innocent?” In all honesty, the easiest thing to do in the world was to assume Derek Chauvin was guilty. Everybody did it. I even did it in my first article after the incident.
We were all shocked when we watched Derek Chauvin apparently put his knee on the neck of George Floyd until he could no longer breathe and killing Floyd in the process. Anybody under that circumstance would then naturally assume Derek Chauvin was guilty. But again, that is not how the American justice system works; the American justice system explicitly demands the presumption of innocence.
Yet, can anybody honestly say Derek Chauvin was presumed innocent at any point? Or was Derek Chauvin presumed guilty, rather than innocent?
Derek Chauvin Was Presumed Guilty as Another American Foundation Stone Crumbles
Derek Chauvin was presumed guilty by everybody. He was presumed guilty by me, you, and all the people who saw the initial video. But those are not the people who matter most in a trial. The people who matter most in a criminal trial are the jurors. It is their job as jurors to presume the defendant is innocent. But they did not. Nor can you blame them for presuming Derek Chauvin was guilty when everybody else did as well.
They failed in their duty to take the most basic step as jurors, but that step is no longer basic. In a day and age where somebody is put on trial long before he gets to trial, Derek Chauvin was presumed guilty and found guilty by everybody. Everybody does not mean all the people in Minneapolis. It does not mean all the people in Minnesota or even in the United States. The whole world saw the video and yelled their guilty verdict long before Derek Chauvin’s trial began… including the jurors.
We know this because the prosecution presented their case as if Derek Chauvin was presumed guilty and they had already won. They did so because it was. How many people changed their minds or reevaluated their initial conclusions when new evidence came to light? Anybody? When the video leaked of George Floyd saying, “I can’t breathe” well before he was put on the ground, how many people stopped and reconsidered if it was Chauvin that stopped Floyd’s breathing?
When Minneapolis Police Chief, Medaria Arradondo, admitted that Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s shoulderblade and not his neck, how many people doubted their first takes? Or when the defense’s own use-of-force expert admitted that the use of the knee was of lesser force or that Chauvin did not, in fact, use a carotid choke, did anybody–including the jurors— stop and think, “maybe my video-induced decision was wrong?” Or merely, maybe I came to a conclusion before seeing all the evidence? Nobody said that, nobody thought that, and clearly nobody did that.
There Was Reasonable Doubt Chauvin Did Not Kill Floyd, But No Reasonable Doubt to Expect a “Not Guilty” Verdict
This was a case where we all knew the facts; a police officer pressed down on a man’s neck for more than eight minutes. A police officer used his knee to force the life out of another human being. We knew all of this in late May, and nothing changed.
Nothing changed even when new evidence was presented that said Floyd had three times the lethal amount of fentanyl in his system. Nor did it matter that Hennepin County’s Medical Examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, only came to his conclusion after watching the videos. A conclusion where Dr. Baker stated Floyd died of, “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” (emphasis added). The same video where both the Minneapolis Police Chief and its use-of-force expert both agreed Chauvin’s knee was not on Floyd’s neck. Remember, Dr. Baker “performed the autopsy before watching the videos of police restraining Floyd, with Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, because Baker wanted to avoid bias in his autopsy.”
Or, to put it another way, the medical examiner came to the conclusion that Floyd died of “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” in a video where two prosecution witnesses admitted there is no neck compression. This is also why that same autopsy performed before watching the video shows “no life-threatening injuries identified.” But the video is all that mattered in this case. And that is the point; Derek Chauvin was presumed guilty because the first video–and the subsequent coverage of that video–convicted him before the calendar turned to June 2020.
The Derek Chauvin Trial Was About Social Justice, Not Justice
Derek Chauvin was guilty long before he went to trial. He has been guilty since whenever most people watched the video for the first time. The prosecution knew this and presented a case with that understanding. They should be applauded for doing so much with such a weak case; they understood their best evidence was that first batch of videos and used it as the smoking gun. The smoke from that gun shrouded all other reasonable doubt evidence: Floyd’s panic and mania prior to being restrained, the lethal amounts of fentanyl, and the prosecution’s unwillingness to grant immunity to Floyd’s alleged drug dealer who was in the car with him.
All of these things that could–and do–provide reasonable doubt were glossed over and ignored by the jury because Derek Chauvin was presumed guilty. That is not how the American justice system is supposed to work. But this case was never about American justice, it was about American social justice. This was a perfect instance of threatening mob rule and utilizing the heckler’s veto to accomplish a task; flipping the American justice system on its head and compelling the world to view Chauvin as guilty before innocent.
That is why a sitting congresswoman can use “KKK tactics” and threaten a jury and incite violence knowing she will not suffer any repercussions. Or why the President of the United States–a terrible law student and liar–can opine about “the right verdict” without looking at all the evidence. And it is also why BLM can immediately come out against due process after the “guilty” verdicts. Because this case confirmed what everyone already knew; it was never about the facts or the evidence, only about convicting Chauvin. There is no reasonable doubt it was ever about anything else.