Today Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, began in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The death of Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, under the knee of police officer Chauvin, who is 45 and white, sparked dramatic civil unrest in the United States. The murder was captured on video by onlookers who tried to intervene as Floyd cried for help, said he couldn’t breathe, called for his mother, and then died.
Today, prosecutors showed a 9-minute 29-second video of the murder, and told jurors to “believe your eyes.” They presented evidence from a 911 dispatcher who called a supervisor after seeing the event on a police surveillance camera. “Something was not right,” Jena Scurry said. The defense, in contrast, urged jurors to look at the scene in a larger context: the death happened in a part of the city where residents were hostile to officers, so Chauvin was concerned, and Floyd died not from the pressure on his neck but from underlying causes, including drug use.
In our adversarial justice system, each side tries to present the best case it can. The defense is doing what it is paid to do, that is, to defend the accused. The jury is supposed to remain impartial and be swayed by the evidence. Remember that Boston patriot John Adams famously defended the British soldiers accused of killing five civilians in the Boston Massacre.
The Chauvin trial is expected to take about a month.
The other big news today is the coronavirus. The increasing rate of vaccinations appears to be racing against increasing infections to see which will win.
While the Biden administration is administering vaccines at a pace that seems likely to have us at 200 million vaccines in arms by April 20, Biden’s hundredth day in office, the highly contagious variants of the disease along with loosened restrictions are driving numbers of infections back up again. On Sunday, the average from the previous week for vaccines administered hit 2.7 million a day—an impressive uptick— and today Biden announced that by April 19, more than 90% of Americans over the age of 16 will be eligible for a vaccine and will live within five miles of a vaccination site, including 40,000 pharmacies.
But the average number of new cases of Covid-19 per day also increased. More than 30 million of us have been infected since the pandemic began. And 549,892 of us have died.
Today, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned that she had a sense of “impending doom” and begged people “to just hold on a little longer,” wear masks, and get vaccinated. President Biden recorded a message urging governors who have gotten rid of mask mandates to reinstate them and to slow down plans to reopen. “Please,” he said. “This is not politics…. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down, and businesses should require masks as well. A failure to take this virus seriously — precisely what got us into this mess in the first place — risks more cases and more deaths.”
There is, of course, a backstory to the Biden officials’ pleading.
Just a year ago, on March 29, 2020, then-president Trump backed off from his insistence that the country could reopen for business on Easter Sunday, April 12, perhaps after he heard Dr. Anthony Fauci’s estimate that the nation might suffer as many as 100,000 deaths over the next year from Covid-19—a number that then seemed incredible. On March 29, our coronavirus cases topped 139,000 and at least 2425 people in the United States had died, while health care workers had inadequate protection and few supplies.
Trump tried to downplay the pandemic as he tried to reopen the nation’s economy, but apparently found some relief in the daily briefings that put him before the television cameras. On this day a year ago, he tweeted: “President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘the Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to rise…[“] “Because the ‘Ratings’ of my News Conferences etc. are so high, ‘Bachelor Finale, Monday Night Football type numbers’ according to the [New York Times], the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY. ‘Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him.’ said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!”
Last night, on a CNN documentary titled “COVID WAR: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out,” Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of Trump’s White House coronavirus response team, said that while the first surge of Covid-19 deaths—about 100,000 Americans—was unavoidable, “[a]ll the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.” Birx added: “The majority of the people in the White House did not take this seriously.”
Birx was not the only former official airing grievances. Brett Giroir, the nation’s coronavirus testing chief under Trump, admitted, “When we said there were millions of tests available, there weren’t…. There were components of the test available, but not the full… deal.” Former director of the CDC Robert Redfield said that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar personally tried to change scientific reports that the White House didn’t like.
Today, the Biden administration announced it would investigate the interference of government officials with scientific evidence during the past administration in order to press political points. The Trump administration got rid of researchers who worked on climate change and other issues the administration disliked, ignored studies of chemical dangers, and refused to listen to doctors and public health officials regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The Biden administration hopes to restore faith in the government by emphasizing that it will take the advice of scientists seriously.
Tonight, the former president released a rambling statement attacking Dr. Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, calling them “self-promoters” with “bad instincts and faulty recommendations” that he “almost always overturned” and which would have “led us directly into a COVID caused depression.”
But Biden has taken the opposite tack Trump did and it is working: 71% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the pandemic.
According to polls, Republican men—Trump’s key demographic-- are reluctant to get the vaccine. A CNN poll says that 92% of Democrats have had the vaccine or plan to get a shot, while 50% of Republicans say they plan to get one. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today urged Republican men to go ahead and get the shot. He said there is “no good argument not to get the vaccination.”
I’m not going to link to Trump’s statement. It is public.
The Floyd murder case speaks for itself. It sickens us all, as do the mass shootings throughout our lives. I am 71, and am experienced enough to know it is not likely to stop before my death. Yes, I hope it will, and will fight against the slaughter.
As to the coronavirus, I and my wife are fully vaccinated, still wearing masks and acting according to CDC guidelines. It is prudent, smart and will help the community to rid ourselves of this menace.
We hope you all feel the same way, because none of us can do this alone!
If Derek Chauvin's intent was to restrain George Floyd, he accomplished that as soon as Mr. Floyd was on the pavement. If he thought he needed to kneel on Mr. Floyd's neck to "teach him a lesson" - as if this experience could have taught Mr. Floyd anything he didn't already know about the dangers Black people face when they are arrested in our country - that too he had already accomplished in less than a minute. The remaining 7 or 8 minutes of Chauvin's kneeling on Mr. Floyd's neck was deliberate torture, and when this continued past Mr. Floyd's calls for help as he breathed his final breaths, when this grown man was in his last waking moments, thinking of and then calling out for his mother as he died unnecessarily and unjustly, what was Chauvin thinking and feeling? Obviously, only he knows, but judging from the expression on his face he was not worried about or even much interested in the fact that he was snuffing out a human life with an act of wanton violence, under the eyes of horrified onlookers. That no one intervened physically to throw officer Chauvin off his victim is a testament to the justifiable fear of the police shared by many Americans, especially People of Color.
Of course Derek Chauvin has a right to be represented by a competent lawyer who will try however he can to prove his client's innocence or at least that there were mitigating factors and that Mr. Floyd died from a combination of traces of illicit drugs in his blood and pre-existing health problems, not from the physical stress and damage caused by a police officer kneeling on his neck. Our Constitution (6th Amendment) guarantees the right to counsel.
At least in this case, an instance of unprovoked police violence was witnessed by multiple bystanders, captured on several smart phones and shown to all Americans in all its horror. There was no way to simply pass it off as an accident or a case of the police reacting in self-defense or out of fear that a "suspect" was armed and intended to commit violence. The prosecutor had little choice but to bring this to trial. And now we will find out if our Constitution and our laws are worth the paper they are printed on.