Why the weak Chauvin defense?

As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve had a couple of people ask me about the trial going on now with Officer Chauvin, accused of murdering George Floyd.

Mainly, people are wondering why, in a case where it is so obvious the officer is guilty, is the defense team even trying?

The apparent theme of the defense’s case

Well, there are a few reasons.

First, you have to understand that you go to trial if your client insists on it, even if you advise otherwise. I’ve had to go to trial on cases before where I had a weak defense but my client wanted his day in court and demanded his right to a trial. And despite what some memes are saying, this is not a sign of a “broken system” but instead proof that our system of justice works. Everyone has the right to their day in court, and you shouldn’t get mad at someone who exercises their Constitutional right to a trial.

Second, you might go to trial because the prosecution isn’t offering you a good deal. I’ve certainly done that before. My attitude is “How am I any worse off by going to trial? What you’ve offered me isn’t any better than what I would get if I go to trial and lose.” So you go to trial, hoping that maybe the prosecution will screw up somewhere, or a witness will be less reliable than you thought, or a jury may do the kind of thing juries sometimes do and surprise everyone with their verdict.

Third, you might go to trial because you have issues you want to appeal. There are often many pre-trial motions you will file in a case and if the judge rules against you, you deal with it and can’t appeal those decisions until after the trial is over, in case those decisions become moot (with certain exceptions). So you have the trial and if you lose, part of your appeal is trying to convince the appeals court that those rulings against you were so bad that you deserve a new trial.

So yeah, the defense seems really weak in this case. This cop should be found guilty of murder. But there may be real, legitimate reasons the defense is taking it to trial instead of working out a deal.

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