The prosecution in the Derek Chauvin trial stuck the landing Friday.
After a week of emotion, the most senior member of the Minneapolis Police Department, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, broke the Blue Wall and tell the jury, in a steadfast and winning manner, that the “deadly” use of force was “totally unnecessary.” The Lieutenant, Chief of the Homicide Division, and 36 year veteran of the MPD said: “Pulling George Floyd down to the ground and putting a knee on a neck for that amount of time? It’s past uncalled for.”
He added, “I saw no reasons why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt. And that’s what they would have had to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”
This week saw a full day of children sobbing from the trauma of what they witnessed, but they were far from the only witnesses to cry. Mixed martial artist Donald Williams cried between his cogent and and sometimes righteously contained anger. So did the firefighter who approached the scene from across the street — Genevieve Hansen — who first reasoned, then ordered, then almost begged the officers to just “check his pulse!” (“Check his pulse, right fucking now!”)
George Floyd’s girlfriend, a great storyteller, cried between tears, and Mr. Charles McMillan, 61, (and new love of my life,) slayed any human with a heart by first making us laugh and love him before breaking down in sobs that would melt Antarctica.
But Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, cautions reason. Of course we hate to see a man die, but don’t blame my client. He was just doing his job.
Lt. Richard Zimmerman told us, with a charming sort of authority that seemed won by reason and time instead of force, was that what Derek Chauvin did was most certainly not his job.
And in fact, let me give you a laundry list of those ways he did not do his job…
Zimmerman explained why Chauvin was required to give medical aid. Why Chauvin should have used less force. How putting a knee on a handcuffed person’s neck was never a part of anyone’s training. He even used the “use of force continuum” policy that was the backbone of the successful defense of the officers who beat Rodney King, to bury Derek Chauvin so deep I don’t know if he’ll ever be found.
The pool reporters have told us all week that many in the jury have cried, including at least one man. One juror had to take a break from Mr. Charles McMillian’s testimony because he was so upset. But on Friday what the pool reporter observed was a jury enraptured and taking more notes than they had on any day of the trial.
In high profile cases I am always disappointed by the prosecution, because being so rarely challenged they’re usually quite atrophied. The Minneapolis Prosecutor’s Office has been criticized for bringing in a wealth of high-powered, experienced, big guns to pro bono their way through this case. This week of excellence shows what that means for The People. And we, the people, desperately want to see justice done. If a bunch of wealthy lawyers who are courtroom stars want to give away their time to help achieve that in Minnesota, count me in.
These jurors will spend the weekend processing what they’ve seen, heard, and felt. I’m glad that Richard Zimmerman, an old cop with a sideways smile and dancing eyes who doesn’t want to kill everyone will be the bow on the box of tears that was this first week in The People versus Derek Chauvin.