As a criminal defense attorney, I watched with great interest the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd.
Here are my thoughts on the case that has mesmerized the nation and the world since May 25, 2020.
The visual evidence secured the conviction. Creating reasonable doubt in the mind of at least one juror is a defense attorney’s No. 1 task. In this case, the astounding amount of video and audio evidence available to the prosecution made that task extremely difficult if not virtually impossible.
The defense attorney could not afford to lose all credibility with the jurors because he needed at least one of them to buy into the arguments he made on his client’s behalf.
First, he claimed that Mr. Floyd died because of the drugs in his system and because of his diseased heart — rather than the knee on his neck. In the practice of law, this is known as the principle of causation and it was a dead-end for the defense because the prosecution had effectively proven that “but for” the actions of the officer Mr. Floyd would still be alive.
Next, he contended that the members of the crowd who were begging for Mr. Floyd’s life were at fault because the defendant felt threatened and turned his attention away from the person he was obviously killing — even though he could clearly be heard talking to Mr. Floyd while he had him pinned to the ground.
The jury did its job. In an earlier column, I said I was confident extensive voir dire had yielded an impartial jury capable of reviewing the evidence and rendering a just verdict. I believe the diverse group of 12 men and women who sat in judgment of what is undoubtedly the case of the 21st century did exactly that.
The system worked — this time.
That outcome would have been tragic for Mr. Floyd’s family and our nation.