New Orleans legal experts weigh in on verdict in Derek Chauvin trial

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 10:07 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The jury deliberated for 10 hours over two days in the Derek Chauvin trial, coming back with a guilty verdict on all three charges.

“It was a very straightforward case, I think the jury reached the correct verdict,” Fox 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti said. “I think it was clear to everyone who’s got eyes as to what happened.”

The trial was all about the prosecution proving to the jury Derek Chauvin’s actions were not objectively reasonable and were the cause of George Floyd’s death.

“None of the three charges do you have to prove an intent to kill,” Jancy Hoeffel a criminal law and procedure expert at Tulane University pointed out. “So, the prosecution didn’t have to do that they had to prove various mental states, but not an intent to kill.”

Chauvin could now face up to 75 years in prison, although first time offenders could receive a much shorter sentence.

“It took the judge *snap* that long to decide, he’s not gonna let Derek Chauvin stay out on bond, he remanded him to prison,” Hoeffel said. “So, I think the judge will be interested in the upward departures that the prosecution is going to ask for.”

Many say this is a step in the right direction when it comes to accountability, but not a solution when it comes to abuse of force and inequities in the justice system.

“This trial wasn’t just about, you know, Derrick Chauvin but it was about the criminal justice system, the whole criminal justice system was on trial,” Dr. Ashraf Esmail, a criminologist at Dillard University said.

According to our experts, 95 percent of use of force cases result in plea bargains or don’t even make it to court.

“We see a trial in Minnesota and it was well documented, but there were 2,600 misconduct complaints last year and only 12 disciplined and so and that was just you know, basic slap on the hand,” Esmail said.

In this search for accountability, legal experts believe this trial may set a precedent of taking police misconduct cases to court, which could also result in city’s and police departments wanting to pass the responsibility off onto another entity.

“They might say, well, you know what, we’ll just put it before the grand juries and then we put it before a criminal jury and see what they think, and so that’s, that’s a little bit of a dangerous position for somebody to be in,” Eric Hessler, attorney for the Police Association of New Orleans said. “But at the same time, when there’s clear excessive force cases or clear violations of policy which results in a violation of somebody’s civil rights or or criminal rights well then, of course it needs to be pursued.”

Some experts have hope this will lead to policy reform, while others remain skeptical.

“I think that there were enough experts who thought maybe it was okay to be on his neck for nine and a half minutes, and loud and clear, it’s absolutely not,” Hoeffel said. “So, the training of police on use of force has to have more bright lines of what you can and can’t do in none of this, putting someone in risk of dying.”

“We’re gonna have to wait and see if police, you know, stopping and searching and seizure of minorities, mainly black, will this stop? I don’t know,” Esmail said.

This intense racial reckoning we’re experiencing when it comes to police use of force, also impacts the man power in every community. Many departments around the country, including New Orleans, are having a tough time recruiting and keeping officers.

“All of the negative publicity is really impacting the recruiting, the retirement, not wanting to go into law enforcement,” Esmail said. “I’m used to local recruiting, but I’m getting emails nationally, constantly. That’s new for me in the last year or two, very new for me to get all these national recruiters from all over the country, you know, ‘let me talk to your students, hook me up with a zoom,’ et cetera. So, they’re really digging deep to to recruit.”

“It’s human nature to think that you could you could go to jail or lose your house or home or be sued for for adhering to a policies that set forth by your police department,” Hessler said.

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