The Chauvin Trial – Some Thoughts

Many years ago, I served on a jury for the trial of a man who was accused by his ex-wife of threatening to kill her.  Now this is a serious felony that can land you in prison for a number of years.  The prosecution produced the wife and she testified that after her two-year-old daughter returned from her weekly stay with her father the daughter told her that her ex-husband told the daughter that he was going to kill the ex-wife.  She claimed that the daughter drew her finger across her neck to indicate that he planned to kill her.  The only other witness was the two-year-old daughter.  The tiny child was placed on the witness stand and as soon as the prosecutor approached the stand the child burst out crying hysterically.  After a while, the jury was taken out of the courtroom to a conference room down the hall and waited.  After about a half hour we returned to the jury box and the little girl was brought back to the witness stand and as soon as the prosecutor neared the stand, the little girl once again burst out crying.  The whole process was repeated again and with the same result.  After a third attempt the little girl was excused and was taken from the courtroom.  While all of this was going on I watched the child’s parents.  Her mother was cajoling her from the seat in the front where she was sitting to stop crying and talk to the prosecutor.  Her father, the defendant, looked visibly shaken by the spectacle and during the third attempt there were tears in his eyes.  The defendant was Hispanic and the ex-wife was a blonde who might have been Irish-American.

When we were brought back into the courtroom after the third failure the two lawyers made their closing remarks.  We were given three different charges of lessening severity that the defendant could be charged with.  The defense counsel stressed that the wife’s statement had not been corroborated by any other evidence and that a reasonable doubt was all that was needed to conclude that not guilty was the correct verdict.

The jury was made up of eight women and four men.  We ranged in age from our thirties to forties.  About half were dressed in business attire and the others more casually.  One of the women was made foreman and we had some discussions.  The woman given the lead thought that since we didn’t have much evidence, we should just assign a guilty verdict to the charge that was intermediate in severity and call it a day.  And much to my surprise every other person in that room but myself agreed.  They were perfectly willing to give the defendant a guilty verdict on a crime that could give him five years in prison.  For a minute I was shocked.  When it was my turn to talk, I said, “That’s crazy.  If you have any reasonable doubt of his guilt you are compelled to vote not guilty.”  The answer the foreman gave me was, “Well, he’s probably guilty of something so we won’t be far off with the five-year charge.”  I wanted to say some pretty horrible things to her but instead I just said, “If that was you in there would you want us to just give you five years in prison just in case you were guilty?”  She just grimaced at me and said we should write out our votes.

The first vote was eleven to one.  We called for the court officer and told him the vote.  He said we would have to spend a couple of more hours and try to reach a decision.  We talked some more but no one changed his vote.  We had three more vote and they were all exactly the same.

After two hours the judge came into the jury room and told us he wasn’t surprised that we couldn’t come up with a verdict.  He said it was very unusual to try to get a witness that young into court.  Also, he let us know, now that the trial was finished by a hung jury, that there was a custody battle going on for the child and it was not unusual for spurious complaints to be filed against an ex-spouse to strengthen a custody case.

The point I am making here is that it isn’t likely that most of the jurors will follow the correct procedure for determining guilt.  What Derek Chauvin is down to hoping is that at least one honest man is on that jury.  And I don’t think his chances are very good.  Minnesota is much like New England and most of the inhabitants are very strong adherents of the civic religion that is known as social justice.  They will think it is their duty to heal the racial divide by punishing the scape-goat and that is what Derek Chauvin has been designated.

My guess is they will select the middle severity charge and declare him guilty.  So that is the current state of race relations and justice in the Blue States.  If Chauvin is found guilty of murder I would expect a huge exodus from the police departments across all of the blue states and the blue cities in the red states.  After all, is a dangerous civil service job that pays pretty well worth the chance of spending twenty years in prison?  I’d say no.  Good luck Derek Chauvin, you’ll need it.