What Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd was despicable — but it’s unlikely to get a murder conviction


We exist in a period of ideological purity tests and zero tolerance for what F. Scott Fitzgerald described as “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” For that reason, it is necessary to balance the revulsion for disgraced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s mistreatment of George Floyd — an appalling case of police brutality — with recognition that prosecutors may have made a critical error by overcharging the case. Let us stipulate that the conduct of Chauvin — an armed instrument of the state — was repugnant and yes, criminal. Casually kneeling on a handcuffed, prone suspect’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds does not meet the definition of proportional police use of force. No twisted, distorted interpretation of “objective reasonableness” — codified as the means to judge law enforcement actions by the Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor — changes that. Law enforcement professionals won’t defend Chauvin’s misconduct. There is no defense for it. However, criminal cases are often messy, complicated, and complex.

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