Dan Abrams: State's Case in George Floyd Death Stronger Than Expected
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State’s Case in Death of George Floyd Is Going Even Better Than Expected, Says Dan Abrams

Dan Abrams, the chief legal analyst for ABC and the founder of Law&Crime, said Sunday that the prosecution’s case against fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was even stronger than anticipated.

“I think it’s a stronger case than many even expected coming into this,” he said on the new episode of This Week. Abrams maintained that the state successfully addressed the use of force question through testimony of police witnesses. The prosecution also made progress on the “trickier” question of cause of death.

On the other hand, he said that the defense was going with a “dangerous” strategy in suggesting bystanders distracted police during the death of George Floyd.

“The defense’s pursuit of this claim that he was distracted is dangerous as a legal matter,” Abrams argued. “Why? Because you’re basically saying ‘I may have kept my knee on this man’s neck and may have potentially killed him because I was distracted.’ What kind of legal defense is that? It just doesn’t hold water.”

All told, he expected at least a hung jury, if not a conviction on any of the charges. He voiced doubt of an outright acquittal, but said that the main element the defense should focus on is cause of death.

Nonetheless, Law&Crime Daily co-host Terri Austin, an attorney unaffiliated with the Floyd case, said that she would not be stunned if there was an acquittal, citing how historically it is difficult to convict police officers.

As seen on video, Chauvin, 44, knelt on the neck of Floyd, 46, during a fateful, fatal arrest on May 25, 2020 for the alleged use of a $20 counterfeit bill. Outraged bystanders called out officers for how they were treating the man, who increasingly became unresponsive.

Defense lawyer Eric Nelson highlighted the dynamic during opening statements, asserting that people diverted officers’ attention away from Floyd. That theme continued through sometimes tense cross-examination of the crowd members.

“There were potential pitfalls for the prosecution coming into this case that they seem to have avoided so far,” Abrams said. “Remember, two key legal questions. Number one is the reasonableness of the force. Number two is the cause of death.”

Abrams maintained that police witnesses, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Los Angeles Police Department use of force expert Sgt. Jody Stiger, rendered the first legal question a “non-issue” through their stance that Chauvin’s kneeling was unreasonable.

The “trickier” question was cause of death, said Abrams. Dr. Andrew Baker, who performed the autopsy of Floyd, noted that the victim also had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, and also fentanyl, and evidence of recent meth use. Though he found no evidence of strangulation or aspiration, he maintained that law enforcement restraint killed Floyd.

Abrams found Baker’s testimony to be stronger than the written report, benefiting the state.

[Screengrab via Law&Crime]

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