Chauvin Verdict Shows Smartphone Video is Transforming Criminal Prosecutions
Criminal defense attorney Michael Panella says if not for the video of George Floyd's treatment by police, charges may never have been filed. If this occurred in Florida and charges were brought against Chauvin, it would be different from Minnesota.
ORLANDO, FL, April 27, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The three guilty verdicts for Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, was the right outcome, said Michael Panella, a criminal defense attorney with the Panella Law Firm. He also noted the essential role video recordings played in the trial.
He said that if not for a bystander making a video recording of George Floyd's treatment by police and his subsequent heartbreaking death, the public would never have heard of him.
"This case would likely not have been brought, nor would the prosecution have filed charges, if the video didn't exist," Panella remarked. "The name of George Floyd would not be known across the country without that video. All the positive work that has come out of this tragedy was due to the bystander video and police body cameras."
Panella explains that videos are changing the way trials happen in courts across the country. "The amount of video footage that can be available from bystanders' mobile phones is changing criminal trials significantly. This case is a prime example."
How criminal cases proceed can vary from state to state. Panella, who is an attorney based out of Orlando, explained that if the same crime had happened in Florida rather than Minnesota, Chauvin would have been arrested, but the charges would have looked a bit different.
"The charges in Florida would have been brought differently due to double-jeopardy concerns. Chauvin would not have received all three charges as separate counts. Second-degree murder supersedes the other two and would have likely been the sole charge the prosecution brought with the lesser included offenses subsumed into the higher offense," Panella said. Under Minnesota law, Chauvin was charged and convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He will likely only be sentenced on the highest offense for which he was convicted.
Ten years ago, Casey Anthony was on trial in Orlando for the murder of her young daughter. She was acquitted, in part, because prosecutors couldn't prove she had the intent to commit premeditated, first-degree murder, Panella said. It is important that the prosecution charges a case correctly from the outset which can help the jury decide a verdict in favor of the prosecution. If overcharged, the case can lead to an unexpected loss in court due to over complication. In the Chauvin matter, Panella says, the case was charged correctly under Minnesota law.
In Florida, a manslaughter charge would likely have been sustained against Chauvin because it fits the facts of the case, where there is overwhelming evidence that Chauvin killed Floyd through his actions, but not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin intended that Floyd would die. Florida does not have a crime of "second-degree unintentional murder" analogous to Minnesota. However, both Florida's second-degree murder and Minnesota's third-degree murder statutes (which Floyd was also convicted of) require that the defendant exhibited a "depraved mind, with reckless disregard for human life."
"We all saw the video of Floyd's death, we can see what happened, and it's strong evidence to prove second-degree unintentional murder. It would be difficult for any defense team to prepare a case against that."
Panella said the jury was probably most convinced of Chauvin's guilt because they didn't believe the defense's claim that he acted reasonably, especially given the fact that Floyd repeatedly told him he couldn't breathe, which they clearly saw and heard on video.
He identified two other reasons why the jury found Chauvin guilty. First, they didn't find compelling the claim that Floyd would have survived if he hadn't had a heart condition or used drugs. Second, when high-level Minneapolis police officers testified for the prosecution that Chauvin violated their procedures and went too far in restraining Floyd, they made a strong impression on the jury.
Chauvin's trial was a break from the "blue wall of silence" where officers may be reluctant to testify against each other. "The Minneapolis police department was supportive of the officers and leadership who discussed their impressions of this case, and the officers should be commended for testifying against Chauvin regarding his actions they thought were totally uncalled for," Panella said.
Had video footage of the crime not been so widely circulated, those officers may never have had the opportunity to make such a move toward justice, then again neither would we know the name of George Floyd.
Panella Law Firm is a tough and aggressive criminal defense firm that believes in justice and a defendant's right to a fair trial. Our Orlando firm is committed to preserving your freedom by asserting your rights under the law. Attorney and founder Michael Panella is a top Orlando criminal defense lawyer who is undefeated at trial. He has a strong commitment to fairness in the legal system.
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