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The ‘Blue Wall’ of Police Silence Crumbled, But Will It Mean Justice for George Floyd?

On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle and Toure are joined by Elie Mystal, one of the finest legal minds in the country and justice correspondent for The Nation, to discuss the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

  • As Derek Chauvin’s trial ends its second week, former Minneapolis PD officer Chauvin looks guilty as hell –– but will he still walk away a free man?

  • Legal expert Elie Mystal says it’s a distinct possibility. From the jury selection to decisions made by the judge about admissible evidence and the theatrical nature of the trial itself, the odds are stacked in Chauvin’s favor.

  • And although there’s still hope for justice for George Floyd, Elie argues that the justice system doesn’t have to function this way. He joins Danielle and Toure to break down the trial so far and what it tells us about America.

As we look toward week three of the trial, Toure is still optimistic about the likelihood of Chauvin’s conviction, Danielle is as skeptical as ever.

“We're looking at this from an emotional lens. And what the jury will be instructed to do is look at it from a technical lens,” she says.

The defense’s case, however flimsy, seems to hinge on the drugs in George Floyd's system and whether or not that could have contributed to his death, as well as the position of Chauvin’s knee (Was it really on his neck? Or was it on his shoulder blade?).

“They are working to confuse the jury” about technicalities, Danielle says.

But in the past week, we've seen several police officers from Chauvin’s own department, including the chief of police, testify not just that he was wrong, but that he acted against the department’s own policies.

“We never see police officers testifying against a [fellow] officer,” says Toure.

Guest Elie Mystal, a Harvard Law-trained litigator turned journalist and commentator, agrees that it’s unusual. But he’s decidedly circumspect about the likelihood of justice for George Floyd.

“There's always the presumption that the cop's gonna take a walk,” he says. “That's just the society we live in.”

As Danielle wrote last week, she thinks “this trial is not just about Derek Chauvin. This trial is about America. … about police being able to do whatever the fuck they want, whenever they want, and having no accountability or responsibility because of the shield that they wear.”

Episode Highlights –– Is Derek Chauvin Goin’ Down?

‘Looks like murder to me’

“I know you've been watching the trial, getting re-traumatized, like most Black people,” Toure tells Elie. “Can you give us a score at this point? Do you think we're headed toward a conviction or an acquittal?”

It’s difficult to say, since we’ve only seen the prosecution’s case so far.

“But the prosecution has done everything right,” says Elie. “There have been no screw-ups. There’ve been no surprises. It's straightforward –– like, look at this video. That looks like murder to me. And here are all these other people, including, as you point out, people from his own police department who say, looks like it’s murder to them.”

Meanwhile, the defense “is doing exactly what you’d expect the defense to do,” Elie adds. “Chauvin should go to prison. It doesn't mean he will. There have been lots of cops who should go to prison who don't.”

But it is different to see other police officers and the chief himself come out against one of their own. “That's problematic for Derek Chauvin,” says Toure. “That's hard to defend. You would think that would mean a lot to jurors.”

Jury selection is a game of ‘find a racist’

Elie has a theory about why cops go free in the first place.

“This is an inveterate racist country, and if you roll the dice with 12 people off the street, you're gonna find one racist.”

Not only that, the “defense is trained to find one racist. It only takes one racist to hang that jury,” he explains.

“But the other theory, the more acceptable legal-strategy theory, is that cops get off because people trust and are inclined to believe the cops. So if that theory is true in this situation … with not just the chief but multiple cops speaking out and testifying against Chauvin … are they going to love the ones telling them this guy was wrong?”