The prosecution suffered a serious setback on Tuesday in the George Floyd murder trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when two experts called against Derek Chauvin provided testimony helpful to the defense — though the media reported otherwise.
CNN sent a news alert on Tuesday evening reporting: “Expert testifies Derek Chauvin’s kneeling on George Floyd’s neck isn’t a trained restraint. Another says the arrest was excessive.” The bulk of CNN’s coverage followed the prosecution line.
The state’s use-of-force training expert, Johnny Mercil, did indeed say that the neck restraint was not a “trained restraint” by the Minneapolis Police Department — but he also said that the use of such a restraint was not necessarily against policy, given a suspect forcibly resisting arrest and under the influence of drugs.
Mercil also conceded that given the threatening behavior of the crowd that had gathered to watch and record the arrest, it might be reasonable not only to maintain a neck restraint, but to wait until medical personnel arrived before giving a suspect first aid.
Branca noted (original emphasis):
Today was a terrible, horrible no good, very bad day for the prosecution, to a degree that I haven’t seen since the trial of George Zimmerman.
Basing your narrative of guilt on only half the context is a dangerous ploy because we, thank God, enjoy an adversarial legal system, and that means the defense gets to pop right up and expose the jury to the other half of the context, the half consistent with a narrative of innocence—and, in this case, they get to do so with your own witness.
And that’s precisely what happened with Mercil, and in a big, big way.
The state’s medical expert, Nicole MacKenzie, also admitted on cross-examination that the threatening nature of the crowd would justify delaying medical treatment for the safety of the officers, and that police might have mistaken Floyd’s “atonal breathing” for regular breathing. The defense used her testimony to argue the crowd played a role in Floyd’s death.
None of that means that Chauvin is certain to be acquitted. But the mainstream media coverage is overwhelmingly favorable to the prosecution. That reinforces doubts about whether Chauvin can receive a fair trial, but also suggests the possibility of more public outrage if the jury returns a verdict of not guilty that the media suggest is impossible.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.