If this were a play, perhaps a grand Shakespearian style play, set in a modern and virtual Globe Theater, we’d know the cast. The hero who meets a tragic end, the lady who has lost him, the villain who admits no crime. I get to be the narrator and at the beginning, I shall stride from the wings into the center stage. I’d be small on the grand stage, just a slender little man with a long brown braid, in cargo pants and a tie-dyed hoodie, nothing much to look at, but my movements, the way I carry myself would fortend some great story. The orchestra would slowly fade away, as I lean forward, my hands making a grand gesture framing my face, now the only fully lit feature of the stage.
“I lived through the trial of Derek Chauvin.”
“I was there when the trial happened. Tens of thousands of us watched the trial. It was a time of plague, when the whole world shuttered under the weight of death and plague. The virus left us in piles, but the plague of hatred had been with us longer and deeper.”
“I can’t tell you all the truths of the world,” I’d say, as I back away from the front of the stage and the lights shift away from me to the opening curtains, three stories tall, but still not enough black velvet to drape the coffins of those who had died from the virus of hate. “I’m just a little mouse, but I can tell you what I saw.”
The narrator completely disappears. A happy couple fills the stage, a tall strong man with dark skin and kind eyes embraces a woman with short dark hair and an adoring smile. Her recorded words, from the trial play, “I remember our first kiss.” The couple transitions to a little girl who looks like the man. Tears glitter in her eyes. “My daddy changed the world.”
There’s an old joke. There are two kinds of people... and uncounted ways to finish that sentence. In America, in 2020, there were two kinds of people - those that the police treated like human beings and those that they didn’t. It was a dark time.
On a less theatrical note, the Derek Chauvin trial entered into the defense’s part of the process this week. This trial could all make a grand three act play. The first act would be the prosecution laying out their case. That would put us in the second act where the defense their client isn’t guilty. The final act would be how the world changes after this trial, because the world is going to change.
So what can we say about the first act of the trial of Derek Chauvin?
The trial started with witnesses that had been present in the real world as George Floyd died. The first witnesses gave very emotional testimony. They spoke of feeling guilt for not doing more, from the clerk that told his supervisor he thought it was a fake bill to the firefighter who begged Chavin to check Floyd’s pulse. Each and everyone of them brought a facet of our society into brighter light.
There was an exchange between the defense attorney and the firefighter. The defense attorney was trying to make out that the crowd watching Chavin’s actions had distracted him, prevented this experienced police officer from realizing the man under his knee had died. The defense strategy was not very effective. The professional MMA fighter told him that he couldn’t paint him out to be angry, that he had stayed in his body. When defense got to the firefighter, she was a little more argumentative and told him that, in case he’d never watched a man die, it was upsetting.
Derek Chauvin needs a defense attorney, someone to mount a solid defense for him. That’s the way our legal system works. I’m not a lawyer and I’m certainly not Chauvin’s lawyer, but if I were, I would have advised him to plead to manslaughter and hope he could get off with just that.
Watching Chauvin sit and take notes at his own trial, it is not possible to read his mind, but his body language suggests that this is all a big bother. He’s no more outwardly concerned than he was when he rested his knee on George Floyd. He did plead innocent and it’s not hard to imagine that he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. That, if you ask me, is the biggest problem our country faces. The taking of human life should matter, deeply.
I’ve read the transcripts of as much of the trial as I could find. I’ve watched hours and hours of it.
There are several moments that really stand out to me. As the prosecution made their case the professional MMA fighter and the firefighter stood out with their knowledgeable testimony, with the emotion they showed when they talked about begging for Floyd’s life. There was the nine-year-old little girl who testified, her voice so small in that courtroom as she said she was in 3rd grade. In the video evidence where she identifies herself, she is this adorable little girl with a halo of hair, a shirt that reads ‘love’. At the end of her testimony, when she was asked why she was sad and mad, in her innocent voice, she said they were, “... hurting him.”
Then the trial moved into expert witnesses. People like the chief of police, a homicide detective, a pulmonary doctor, Chavin’s supervisor, experts on use of force, and of course, the very star witness who had been with the trial since the very beginning, all video of what happened. If this were made into a play, the center of the stage would be the defense lawyer. Like some comic subplot, he stands there and shuffles through his papers, looking for some really solid defense. Unlike in the movies the answer isn’t found in a perm (Legally Blonde) and hopefully unlike in real world past experience the blue wall of silence will stay broken.
The homicide detective pointed out a very obvious thing when he said that having a knee on the neck can kill a person and I doubt anyone would seriously dispute that, so when the defense cross examined him their best line of attack was to ask this senior, respected homicide detective who had been on the force for decades, when the last time he got in a fight was. Chauvin’s best defense is trying to insult and tear down the police officers testifying against him. That plan worked so well, they tried again against the chief of police. That was about as effective as a solid brick of milk chocolate in the shape of smoothie would help with a weight loss plan.
The trial isn’t over yet. We’re just into the second act. The raging protests in the streets of Minnesota aren’t for Floyd right now, but for another young black man named Daunte Wright. The defense asked to have the jurors sequestered. It’s possible that seeing another man dead at the hands of the police might influence the juror’s mood. The judge declined. All the jurors swore at the start to only take into account this trial and evidence submitted.
That doesn’t change the fact that the cops can’t stop killing people, even when they’re on trial for killing people. It begs the question, just why do so many unarmed, non-violent, human beings die when they have dark skin, but accused mass shooters who have light skin get arrested alive?
If Tamir Rice had been Tommy Rice with red hair and green eyes, maybe those officers would have talked to him, found out he wanted to be a police officer, and let him take a look at their patrol car. That’s not what happened though. All the ifs in the world won’t bring Micheal Brown, Sandra Bland, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, and too many more to list.
It’s faster with a weapon, but a person can be killed just by kneeling on them. We have to believe what people of color tell us. When they say they can’t breathe, we have to listen. Every single human being needs to be treated with respect and dignity. I mean how hard can that possibly be? Duante Wright is dead, leaving behind a son and a loving family because an officer couldn’t look down and confirm that she had a taser not a pistol before discharging that pistol into a young American man. So yeah, the jurors are going to find out about that, but there were so many they already knew about.
Let’s finish from a quote from Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” Racial strife has been with us a long time, but we can and must learn to do better. As the second act plays out in this trial, I’ll keep better notes on it, but for now, here are my thoughts on Act One.
About the Creator
I write a lot of lgbt+ stuff, lots of sci fi. My big story right now is The Moon's Permission.
I've been writing all my life. Every time I think I should do something else, I come back to words.