The Defense Rests

Who are these masked men? Eric Nelson and Derek Chauvin.

I originally didn’t plan to write about the defense mounted on behalf of Derek Chauvin by his pesky and annoying lawyer Eric Nelson. But I was asked several times to do so, and I’ve been known to take requests. I will not, however, play either Louie Louie or Whipping Post, which are my stock mock concert song requests. I once got Weather Report’s Joe Zawinul to play a few bars of the former and was mocked by Richard Thompson for requesting the latter.

I only watched bits and bobs of the defense presentation because Nelson annoys me so much. Besides, I have other things to do such as writing about my parents and the corrupt Gilroy cop. End of shameless plug for one of my better recent posts.

Nelson’s defense predictably consisted of throwing shit against the wall and seeing how much sticks. But the defense doesn’t have the burden of proof, in a case like this its job is to poke holes in the prosecution’s case. Nelson tried mightily but as far as I can tell failed. His experts simply weren’t as good as those of the prosecution. His use of force guy essentially paraphrased Tricky Dick:

Just substitute police for president and do for does and Bob’s your uncle.

Nelson’s medical expert Dr. David Fowler was no better. He’s the reflexively pro-police former chief medical examiner of Maryland. He’s currently being sued by the family of a 19-year-old black man killed by police. Fowler ruled Anton Black’s death to be accidental and caused by his heart problems and bipolar disorder. The facts of that case are strikingly similar to the Floyd case.

Dr. Fowler pulled a joker out of the deck and cited carbon monoxide poisoning as a factor in George Floyd’s death. That led to the prosecution calling lovable expert witness Dr. Martin Tobin to rebut Fowler’s claim. That was win-win for the prosecution: Fowler is a dick with a South African accent and Tobin is a nice guy with an Irish brogue. He reminds me of two Irish members of the John Ford stock company: Barry Fitzgerald and Arthur Shields.

The least surprising thing that happened yesterday was Chauvin’s decision to exercise his 5th Amendment right not to testify. The guy has 18 citizen complaints against him. If he testified, they would have come in. There was no way Nelson would advise him to take the stand. Nelson is a jerk, not an idiot. I stand by what I wrote on Tuesday.

The trial is on hiatus until Monday. The defense tried to throw Judge Peter Cahill for a loop by resting earlier than expected. The judge was not rattled by Nelson’s antics and stuck to the plan of closing arguments on Monday. He promised the jury the weekend off before being sequestered for deliberation. One of the least commented upon aspects of a judge’s life is jury management. This judge kept his word to his jury. He’s got a swell first name as well.

A few words about the teevee coverage. I mostly watched MSNBC and CSPAN, but I dallied with Court TV. I skipped CNN because of my Wolf Blitzer phobia. Mercifully, MSNBC let its regular hosts handle the coverage, which spared me from seeing New Jersey’s answer to Wolf Blitzer, Brian Williams.

Court TV is used to covering tabloidy trials and its coverage reflected that. This trial is significant in a way that the Casey Anthony trial never was. Their analysts and anchors were shockingly bad. One predicted that Chauvin *would* testify. Say what? Talk about pundit malpractice.

As to MSNBC, its reporters were in over their head and fell back on reporting on juror quirks. How can you read their reaction when they’re wearing masks? Oy just oy.

When MSNBC’s crack legal analysts such as Chuck Rosenberg, Joyce Vance, and David Henderson were on the air things were better. I could have done without some of the political/cultural analysts such as Professor Eddie Glaude who specialized in windy and negative pronouncements about the jury. Here’s the deal: even when juries get it wrong, they’re doing the best they can. It’s not easy being a juror in a high-profile case, you’re going to get criticized whichever way you come down.

The closing arguments should be interesting. Both sides will use them to remind the jury of what happened during the trial. The prosecution has the upper hand because it has a stronger case, but Nelson might be able to pester and annoy the panel into hanging.

Predicting outcomes in a jury trial is a sucker’s game. I don’t expect an acquittal, but a hung jury is a possibility.

Stay tuned.

The last word goes to the Allman Brothers Band:

5 thoughts on “The Defense Rests

  1. Archy says:

    No, we are NOT scoring on spelling. But Joe Zawinul would probably (if he were around to do it) ask for the slight correction.

    I always thought highly of the guy.

  2. socrates17 says:

    Richard Thompson, who I hugely admire, is in no position to kvetch about your request since he once recorded a Britney Spears song.

  3. waltauvil says:

    I have tried exactly one criminal case in my 40 years of practicing law – and that was as a poor sidekick to my very experienced former prosecuting attorney wife and co-counsel – so I could be way off base here. Also know nothing about MN practice.

    Now, disclaimers out of the way, a substantial portion of the evidence that has been admitted in this trial without any obvious objection by anyone amazes me. What conceivable relevance does how the third party witnesses felt about observing the events have? Indeed what relevance does what happened at Floyd’s mother’s funeral have? And no objection (apparently) is made to this testimony? I don’t get it.

    I would love to try an employment discrimination case where third party witnesses get to testify about how they felt about how they were treated by Wal-Mart, DuPont or some other corporate employer. I can’t imagine a scenario in which it would be allowed and I would probably be lucky to escape without sanction for trying to elicit such testimony. I just don’t get it.

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