Live thread: The Chauvin verdict is in; Update: Guilty on all counts

Court TV via AP, Pool

We’re anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes away as I write this.

The jury had three charges against Chauvin to consider and needed less than a day to reach a consensus. What does that mean? Well…

Right, a long deliberation devolving into fears of a hung jury seemed like a plausible, if not likely, outcome. The fact that we didn’t get that means, surprisingly, that there was little disagreement on all three charges. And so if you had to bet, you’d bet on Chauvin being convicted of something. The prosecution’s case was strong and the defense was “lackluster,” according to those who watched the trial, making acquittal on all counts unlikely.

Then again, the most famous trial of my lifetime dragged on for many months and produced a verdict in less than four hours of deliberation. You know how it turned out.

Chauvin being freed would lead to some very tense days for the United States. Chauvin being freed after less than a day of deliberations, as if acquittal were a slam dunk, would be … worse.

Former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy watched the trial, seemed underwhelmed by the defense, and considered how he’d vote if he were a juror. Result: Guilty of manslaughter, acquitted on the two murder charges.

A salient, overarching law-enforcement principle is also relevant here: in my custody, in my care. If a person is in police custody, not actively resisting detention, and he becomes injured, ill, or unconscious — and especially if the person’s pulse or breathing is failing — the police are trained to take curative action and render basic medical assistance (particularly chest compressions that they learn in CPR instruction).

Viewed in line with those standards, the restraint position that Chauvin and the other police placed Floyd in clearly posed a significant risk. Holding a person in the prone position with part of the weight of three adult men pressing down on him can make breathing difficult.

There is a good argument that prosecutors have exaggerated the danger of the prone position, the amount of weight the police were applying, and the manner in which they were applying it. Chauvin never choked Floyd. The claims that he was, in effect, strangling Floyd by the neck are overblown. Still, within five minutes, Floyd stopped resisting, was obviously laboring to breathe, and lost his pulse. It was utterly irresponsible of the police, at that point, to fail to place him on his side and to render him medical assistance. Chauvin, a highly trained 19-year veteran, well knew this. The defense claim of fear that Floyd might regain consciousness and start fighting again is not reasonable — over time, that became an increasingly slim possibility that four cops could have dealt with in the unlikely event it happened.

The murder charges are a stretch, McCarthy argues. Second-degree murder, i.e. felony murder, would require proof that Chauvin intended to commit some other criminal offense against Floyd and that Floyd died in the process. Is there evidence that he meant to inflict physical pain, which might support an assault charge?

Third-degree murder, i.e. “depraved indifference to human life,” feels at first blush like a natural fit for Chauvin after keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck for so long knowing how Floyd was in distress. But McCarthy notes that third-degree murder typically doesn’t apply when the victim was the focus of the defendant’s actions. “Depraved indifference to human life” means firing a gun into a crowd, not caring if you hit anyone, and killing someone in the process. You didn’t intend to kill that person — in fact, you didn’t intend to kill anyone specifically — but you did and you should have recognized that was a foreseeable consequence of your actions. Under that understanding of the law, Chauvin can’t be convicted of third-degree murder because he didn’t show indifference to human life generally. He arguably showed indifference to Floyd’s life specifically. And that falls under other statutes.

I think the most likely outcome from the jury is the one McCarthy recommended, guilty of manslaughter. It’s possible that the jury will “compromise” by convicting Chauvin of third-degree murder, a charge more serious than manslaughter but less serious than second-degree murder. But, given what McCarthy says about how that statute may not properly apply in this case, it would raise the possibility of a higher court tossing out the verdict on appeal later. How the public will react if Chauvin goes down for manslaughter but not murder is unclear. Obviously people will be unhappy, but unhappy enough to burn buildings? Stand by.

Update: Exodus!

Update: Bombshell. They got him on all three counts, even second-degree murder.

Here’s the verdict:

Update: Presumably the angry riots are canceled. Possibly the celebratory “local team just won the championship” riots are still a go. Stay tuned!

Update: Best estimates are that Chauvin will serve eight years:

Update: The Floyd family’s lawyer reacts:

Update: Here’s a take.

Update: Tim Scott agrees with the verdict:

Update: “Thanks for dying” really isn’t the sentiment she should be expressing here: