Chauvin trial bias

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Chauvin trial bias refers to one-sided flaws in the jury trial of Derek Chauvin in late March and April 2021, who was declared guilty of murder and all charges for his on-duty role in restraining George Floyd as he failed to cooperate with an arrest. Reportedly 11 out of the 12 deliberating jurors were ready to convict nearly at the outset of deliberations.

Sources of the bias include:

  • transfers to an impartial venue free of the pre-trial publicity are common such high-profile cases, but the motion to transfer was denied in this case.
  • prosecutors leaked to the New York Times that Chauvin was supposedly prepared to plead guilty to a third-degree murder charge, and the newspaper published this confidential, unverified information a few weeks before the start of the jury trial, to the prejudice of Chauvin.[1]
  • the revelation that one juror did not disclose during jury selection his prior participation, while wearing a provocative Black Lives Matter "Get Your Knee Off Our Necks" T-shirt, in a rally in D.C.[2] He was also photographed wearing the T-shirt in another setting prior to trial, yet says he does not remember owning or wearing it.[3]
  • the failure by the attorney purporting to defend Chauvin to specifically raise this issue in a post-trial motion for a new trial.
  • comments suggesting bias during jury selection did not result in removal of the potential jurors, such as the comment by one juror during voir dire that "why didn't the other officers stop Chauvin."[4]
  • crackpot testimony by a medical "expert" for the prosecution, who invented a wacky, fringe theory of "positional asphyxiation" due to a light man (Chauvin weighed only about 140 pounds) kneeling on the shoulder blade of a much heavier man (the muscular, former football lineman George Floyd weighed 230 pounds or so).
  • allowing the prosecution medical "expert" to lead the jurors through a self-examination procedure which unjustifiably led them to believe his off-the-wall medical claims about "positional asphyxiation."
  • prejudicial public statements by elected officials, such as Rep. Maxine Waters and President Joe Biden, before the jury rendered its verdict.
  • downplaying the significance and harmful medical effects of the drugs which Floyd had taken.
  • the inadequacy of the questionnaire used to screen biased jurors, which asked only a few general questions without specific ones probing for bias.
  • the repetitive playing of the upsetting video during Floyd died of unknown causes, as determined by the official autopsy.
  • the lack of a retail business owner or similar potential victim of city crime on the jury.
  • the lack of persons free of any potential retaliation on the jury, such as retired or independently sufficient individuals
  • the calling of 38 witnesses over 11 days by the prosecution, compared with only 7 witnesses over 2 days for the defense.
  • the listing of 400 potential witnesses by the prosecution, which makes it difficult for a defense to focus on cross-examining the smaller group (less than 10%) of witnesses who are called.
  • the denial by the court of a motion to sequester the jury amid protests during the trial, which meant that jurors had to try to go around protests in order to get home from the court.[5]
  • in this trial about the physical effects of a wrestling-like confrontation between two men, 9 out of the 14 jurors (including alternates) were women, one of whom said afterwards that it was not believable when a defense witness said a man could lie comfortably on the ground chest down.

See also