I have zero sympathy for Derek Chauvin. I also have little sympathy for his fellow police officers who stood by and watched this happen. However, a lot of people in their zeal to punish him are potentially making it more difficult to see real justice done. Ironically, this is all too similar to the Jim Crow days when a black man in the South literally risked being lynched by an angry mob. That wasn’t justice then and this isn’t justice now. Angry mobs are incapable of justice.
Derek Chauvin has been tried and convicted in the press. I can’t begin to count the number of news anchors who have arrogantly pronounced him guilty of murder. I have also heard politicians do that and some protesters were demanding his arrest for first degree murder as a condition of ending the protests. Many “experts” are explaining why the video alone is enough to justify a conviction for first degree murder.
Derek Chauvin, like everyone else in this country, regardless of what the crime they allegedly committed is entitled to a fair trial. It is quite simple. The rule of law requires a fair trial, even for people we despise. It requires a fair trial even for people who appear to be obviously guilty. It requires a fair trial even when the suspect was anything but fair to his or her victim(s). That is the way the system works. That is the way the system must work. It is the rule of law that protects all of us.
What should have happened is a quick but thorough investigation. The evidence should have been suppressed, like it is on most criminal investigations. That is to protect the integrity of the investigation. It is also to increase the odds of a fair trial and a conviction.
In this case a video of this went viral generating nationwide outrage. If the intent was to hold Chauvin accountable, it may instead make it nearly impossible to give him a fair trial. Can you imagine being a judge asked to give Derek Chauvin a fair trial? How would that happen? How would you ever find 12 people who don’t know everything about this case, who have not seen that video, who have not heard him declared guilty over and over again. Who, exactly, could we find to be on such a jury that would be remotely capable of looking at the evidence objectively, without prejudging the outcome?
In addition the widespread public release of information will be used by skilled trial attorneys hired to put on his defense. It is a big mistake to underestimate these people. We can be sure of one thing; the evidence put on during the trial will not resemble the story being told in the main stream media.
Shouting is a poor substitute for the rule of law. Similar pre-trial publicity and public outrage was at least one factor in why the police involved in the Rodney King arrest were acquitted. That acquittal, predictably, resulted in more outrage and more violence.
No justice, no peace. Sounds good, unless you really do want justice.