George Floyd’s Killer Takes To Trial: what killed George Floyd?

April 1, 2021

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2 min read

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What's going on here?

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd, is currently on trial.

What does this mean?

Derek Chauvin has found his actions instigated a new zeitgeist of black rights activism across the world, which developed into the BLM movement. Police brutality became a term which rallied calls for protests, clashes with police, their defunding, and fostered a fiercely fractured political landscape.

Chauvin faces three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. All of these contain the actus reus of causing the death of another. Chauvin’s Defence will analyse autopsy reports readily and with them, will be hoping to prove that Chauvin was not Floyd’s killer. If successful, Chauvin will be acquitted.

Pleading not guilty, Chauvin’s defence will be expected to make effective use of the system and the standard of proof ensure his client’s acquittal. Of course, this case stands to be immensely important in terms of U.S legal history.

What's the big picture effect?

Chauvin’s defence has vehemently advocated that it was not Chauvin’s knee, but Floyd’s underlying heart condition and drug usage which caused his death.

The defence will invite the jury to consider the language of the autopsy report at length which lists heart attack “complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression” as Floyd’s cause of death. Additionally, the autopsy asserts that Floyd experienced a heart attack while being arrested. The autopsy also mentions drug use, as well as underlying health conditions such as atherosclerosis, a common cause of heart attacks. With these facts, Chauvin’s Defence will maintain that it was ultimately a heart attack that killed Floyd.

The consensus among experts from toxicology, cardiology and illegal drug use is that it was Chauvin who caused Floyd’s death. Overall, six experts have concluded that the autopsy reports and other relevant documents, when paired with contemporaneous footage and the chain-of-events of the evening, made death by drug use or heart attack almost impossible.

However, the standard of proof is “beyond reasonable doubt”. If the defence can raise even some apprehension amongst the jury, Chauvin may be acquitted. Defending this position may be complicated for Chauvin’s lawyers, as Chauvin has already been convicted in the “Court of Public Opinion”, which may influence the jury’s decision.

A prudent defence attorney will hope to raise doubt amongst the jury, maintaining that there is, at least, a case to be tried. It is unlikely Chauvin’s team will have much success given the seemingly overwhelming evidence against their client.  Cases such as these test our moral convictions. The result seems clear, but we will see what the trial brings.

Report written by Matt Bryan

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