But to make that claim, I believe is disingenuous. It was not so simple as that.
I will try to examine the reasoning in a systematic way.
Those who claim it was murder base that claim on the following reasoning:
(1) That Chauvin had no reason to place his knee on Floyd's neck, (2) That Chauvin knew that it would kill Floyd, and (3) That the knee to the neck was the cause that killed Floyd
The reality is that neither of these three premises are completely true.
It should also be pointed out that placing a knee on the neck was an accepted police restraint technique.
https://www.kare11.com/article/news/loc ... a1237fc496
Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane presented Minneapolis Police Department training materials, including information on a restraint called the "maximal restraint technique," and a photo of an officer with his knee to a suspect's neck.
The training materials specify: "the maximal restraint technique shall only be used in situations where handcuffed subjects are combative and still pose a threat to themselves, officers or others, or could cause significant damage property if not properly restrained."
It might have been a mistake to use that in that situation, and another mistake to do it for that long, but a mistake does not automatically necessarily equate to murder or manslaughter.
If there is a little mistake, which then leads to another little mistake, that is much more understandable than if that first mistake was made when it was absolutely clear at the time it should not have been done.
In other words, this was a mistake that was much easier to make and more understandable than normal "manslaughter" incidents typically are. It might have been reckless, but we have to talk about the degree of that recklessness. If the degree is very low it might not even rise to a level that it should be criminally prosecuted, or if it is only a little higher than that, maybe it should be criminally prosecuted but the punishment should be extremely minimal.
The thing is, it may not have been entirely reasonable to do what he did, but it was not entirely unreasonable either.
Let's break this into separate components and analyze one thing at a time.
First, Chauvin put his knee on Floyd.
Second, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd for 9 minutes.
When we are looking at degree of mistake and level of fault, I don't think it's fair to just lump those together.
Ignoring the length of time it happened, for a moment, I don't think it would have seemed like such an obvious big mistake to Chauvin at the time to do that.
It's important to emphasize here that this isn't a yes or no thing, either a mistake or not a mistake. It was somewhere in the grey zone between those two.
Next, after that, although it constituted another mistake, I don't believe it's such a great jump to go from placing a knee on the suspect for 2½ minutes to placing a knee on the suspect for 9 minutes. That is a mistake that is not too difficult to make. If you're already doing something, and there's not really any definite way to know exactly how long to do it, it is easy to do it too long.
All the training in the world will still not always prevent mistakes sometimes in these situations. Humans are not computers or robots. They do not have the luxury of time to carefully think over all their decisions in these situations. When police are involved in physical altercations, decisions have to be made under pressure.
When a big strong man with a large body frame physically resists, what are police supposed to do? It's simply unreasonable and unrealistic to expect to have a perfect outcome 100% of the time in that situation.
Police in these situations often have to think on their feet and improvise.
What happened here seems more like a mistake that could have been seen as not entirely completely obvious, or at least close to the borderline of being that.
Some will say that it was Chauvin's actions that killed Floyd, but that is not so clear.
I believe there were multiple factors that all combined together which resulted in Floyd's death.
The application of the officer's knee which restricted flow of air, combined with a high level of fentanyl, combined with impaired lung capacity from the coronavirus, possibly combined with an arterial clot, combined with "excited delirium" from the interaction between the illegal drugs and the interaction with police, combined with the physical exertion during the struggle which put additional strain on the heart.
Handwritten notes of a law enforcement interview with Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, say Floyd had 11 ng/mL of fentanyl in his system.
"If he were found dead at home alone and no other apparent causes, this could be acceptable to call an OD. Deaths have been certified with levels of 3," Baker told investigators.
In another new document, Baker said, "That is a fatal level of fentanyl under normal circumstances."
But then Baker added, "I am not saying this killed him."
https://www.kare11.com/article/news/loc ... cd4ead3d04
Would he have died if it hadn't been for the knee? Probably not. But to say that it was the knee, the knee and nothing else that killed him would be disingenuous.
The knee was like the final straw that pushed the situation over the edge.
In some ways it was like the "perfect storm" of multiple causes coming together.
That type of pressure applied to the neck usually does not kill, but in this case it did because there were several medical conditions combining together.
So we can talk about how likely was it that Chauvin knew (or should have known) those actions would have resulted in death.
There is always a small chance of death in any situation like this. That does not necessarily totally excuse Chauvin, it is fair to say that this type of restraint probably inherently carries with it at least an exceedingly small chance of death. That does not mean this type of restraint is never justified, however. Chauvin could not have been aware of all the special factors that existed in this situation that made the chance of death much higher.
The coronavirus was a relatively new phenomena at this time, and people did not know much about it. That probably would not have entered into the minds of any of these officers in this situation.
The fentanyl may likely have played a big role in the asphyxia. Opioids are well known to result in depressed breathing. Between the fentanyl and reduced lung capacity function from the virus, that could have rendered him far more vulnerable to constriction of his airway.
My personal opinion... he deserved some punishment.
However, the existing laws were just not very well-suited to this sort of exact situation.
Technically it could be possible for a rational person to look at the facts and decide that what he did constituted a violation of all those laws he was convicted of.
But it's not as simple as that. Applying laws doesn't always work so simple as people imagine.
He will likely end up getting more prison time than he deserves (although that's a little premature to say since the sentencing phase hasn't begun yet).
The meaning of words are not always so black and white. There is a spectrum.
And laws don't exist to cover every conceivable possible specific situation. So sometimes it's a cookie-cutter approach, the laws don't exactly fit the offense perfectly, but those are the only laws that exist.
What do you call it when someone makes a mistake, causes a death, probably had some reason to believe what they were doing might result in a small chance of death, but the decision they had to make was when they were under pressure and they only had a short period of time to think about it, and when much of the blame for the death was not theirs? When their decision was not reasonable, but also did not seem entirely unreasonable in the moment either.
See, the law doesn't really have a specific classification for that.
Yeah, that's sort of like "second degree murder", but really more like only 15 percent of a typical "second degree murder".
Just to point out, I'm not conflicted. I'm just trying to look into detail at the truth and reality. Reality is not always so simply black & white.
Sometimes it can be too complicated for people to want to be able to think about or really understand.
It gets more complicated, because putting the knee on the neck was not as big of a mistake as keeping the knee on the neck for so long. Yet we can't really know if it was the first that actually killed him or the second.
I think that may have been a big factor to the jury in why they decided to find him guilty of second degree murder.
(But again, that's more like a mistake that MIGHT have resulted in the death, but we can't be sure)
In my view, it falls somewhere in the grey zone between, reckless endangerment, manslaughter, and being accidental.
While it is true that under Minnesota law, intent to kill is not required for second degree murder, I'm not sure that law really intended to apply to situations like this. The wording of the law says "while committing a felony offense". I'm pretty sure that was not meant to apply to mistakes made while police are restraining a resisting suspect.
Unintended consequences of the wording in laws, or rather wording being interpreted too broadly.
For those that think he is guilty, here is a hypothetical you can ask yourself. If Chauvin had only kept his knee on Floyd for two and a half minutes, should he still be considered guilty?
Is the fact that he kept the knee on for so long a crucial element to his guilt, or is that not needed for him to be guilty?
Keep in mind we cannot even know for sure whether Floyd would have died or not if the knee had only been on him for two and a half minutes, or whatever duration of time it might have been more reasonable to have the knee on him.
And yes, that does make truly and fully logically analyzing this more complicated.
Are you capable of seeing this in a way that's not all or nothing?
Murder is not murder, not always at least. There can be all sorts of different degrees of murder (and I'm not even referring to how the law classifies those degrees).
The toxicology report found methamphetamine and fentanyl in Floyd's system, along with high levels of THC, presumably from marijuana.
The drugs caused this man to act irrational and erratically, and probably impaired his thinking process probably causing him to act illogically. He almost certainly would not be dead if there were not high levels of drugs in his system. Both because he wouldn't be trying to resist, and those drugs put additional strain on his body that, combined with the other factors, caused the death when he was under that type of restraint.
I'm not saying this man didn't have the right to not have those things happen to him, but some of the fault for his death has to be seen as being on him.
They said there was enough fentanyl and meth in his system to potentially kill him. Now you take that combined with impaired lung capacity caused by the coronavirus, a huge rush of adrenaline from being in an altercation with police, the physical exertion from struggling, all this interacting both ways with the drugs (a state police commonly informally refer to as "excited delirium"), the drugs causing impaired heart function, and then on top of all that the airway being constricted from the (somewhat questionable) knee restraint technique, it was certainly enough to tip him over the edge into having a heart attack. It was like the perfect storm of factors coming together to cause the death.
If you had taken any one of those single factors out of the equation, he very likely would not have died.
Using drugs can end up putting you in situations where your life is at risk.
This includes altercations with other people and interactions with police.
I am not saying it was all his fault, or that the police deserve absolutely no punishment. I am just saying that some of the fault is his.
This was a big strong man with a big body frame. If this had been some frail elderly person who couldn't put up a struggle, it would be an entirely different story.
What are police expected to do when the suspect they are trying to arrest is a big strong man who won't stop struggling and resisting and there is no other way to pacify him?
With all these underlying conditions that existed, even shooting him with a tranquilizer gun probably would have had a high chance of causing death.
Some might argue there must have been plenty of other ways to pacify the suspect.
That may be true, but people are not always going to make perfect decisions when they're forced to think fast.
If your job was to pacify people who had that sort of body build, you'd probably make mistakes once in a while too.
I would suggest that if this is a murder, it is a very low degree of murder. That means the officer has some responsibility for the death, but not all the responsibility.
If the situation were just a little bit different, like if the suspect wasn't in handcuffs and the officer had kept the knee on him for only 2 minutes instead of 8, this wouldn't be murder at all.
A mistake does not automatically equate to murder.
It wasn't just the knee that resulted in death.
It was that combined with enough fentanyl in his system to kill him, having the coronavirus, and then him just having gone through a struggle and physical altercation, exertion that put additional strain on his heart.
The knee tipped him over the edge, to death.
It was a mistake, I'm not saying it wasn't. But to automatically equate a mistake with murder is taking it a little too far.
In my opinion, it was the drugs, combined with the knee, combined with the coronavirus, and combined with the physical altercation and exertion as well, which only placed additional strain on his heart.
It is true the medical examiner made an official "determination" that Floyd died from "asphyxia", and that the prosecution made a strong case during the trial that neither Floyd's history of drug abuse nor his heart condition would have likely manifested itself at this exact moment.
The medical examiner applied his subjective opinion to the facts. I doubt he determined the "cause of death" only through his medical findings.
A lot of times people are too quick to buy into determinations of "experts", without any clue how these experts typically arrive at their findings.
It's not the perfect exact precise science that many people assume. There can easily be situations where you can bring in different "experts" and they can disagree on interpretation of the facts.
There were a lot of medical factors here coming together.
I have researched cases of wrongful convictions, and one of the typical factors that often came up were experts who provided wrongful interpretations of the evidence.
Maybe I can state it this way: He did have the right not to be killed while he was on drugs, but the fact that he was on drugs should make the punishment against the one who killed him less.
I think unfortunately due to the nature of the law, it was "all or nothing".
This is something I've been complaining about for a while, the structure of legal system. The jury can only either vote "guilty" or "not guilty", even for laws that were not really made to address that exact situation. It's like trying to hammer in round peg into a square hole.
All the discretion lies in the hands of the judge, but they often abrogate all the responsibility into the hands of the prosecutor and jury. Whether out of mental laziness or incompetence, all too often they just simply follow the sentencing guidelines for whatever criminal statutes the jury convicted them of.
He was intentionally applying pressure to the neck, which made it more difficult to breathe. He did this because the suspect was out of control, and there was no other way to pacify him or get him to stop resisting. This was a big strong man who was acting irrationally and erratically and under the influence of drugs.
Under normal circumstances that would have been very unlikely to kill him, but there were multiple special medical issues that combined together which the officer did not know about. High levels of drugs in his system, combined with fear and physical exertion from the struggle, combined with the coronavirus which was new and not well known about at the time, all this combined together may have been enough to trigger a heart attack.
Although the medical examiner made the determination that the cause of death was asphyxia, we cannot know for sure whether the death was actually caused by the a heart attack or directly from the asphyxia. The asphyxia could have been the cause of a heart attack in this situation, or limited air could have been the trigger of the heart attack. I know those two things seem similar but they have a subtle important difference with big legal implications. The first one implies that the asphyxia would have been destined to cause death regardless of whether there had been a heart attack. The real issue at stake here is whether death would have resulted if there had not been special additional conditions present which strongly factored into the heart attack.
A blood clot was found, but it is impossible to determine whether that could have been the cause of the heart attack, or a result of it. When the heart stops working, it is not uncommon for blood to be able to pool up while it is motionless and then clots are much more likely to form.