Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley is warning that the media’s slanted reporting could contribute to rioting that is expected to follow the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.
Chauvin is the white former police officer charged with multiple counts for the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day last year.
The jury got the case on Monday, and on Tuesday, while deliberations continued, George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley wrote in a column on his website that the “line between the press and the prosecution” disappeared in the case.
Officials in the Twin Cities have declared an emergency, and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., was at a protest Saturday encouraging more “confrontations” if Chauvin is not convicted.
He noted he previously warned the media coverage “was dangerously incomplete and slanted. ”
“The concern was that the public was not being informed of strong defense arguments that would be used at the trial,” he said.
“The danger is that any acquittal or hung jury would then come as an even greater surprise — contributing to more rioting and violence.”
When closing arguments were delivered, he said, the problem was “only magnified.”
“Those concerns were evident within minutes of the defense starting its closing argument. Defense attorney Eric Nelson did a remarkably good job in defending his client. However, CNN’s senior legal analyst, Laura Coates declared ‘Defense begins the closing by defining reasonable doubt, not with why #DerekChauvin is innocent. Think about that,'” he said.
“Many of us did ‘think about that,’ particularly those of us who are criminal defense lawyers. My guess is that over 90 percent of defense arguments begin with defining reasonable doubt since that it is the framing standard for [a] jury decision. It is the virtual mantra of the defense. We start by reminding the jury of its burden, particularly after a prosecutor has given a more fluid understanding of that standard. The last thing that you want to do as a criminal defense attorney is to suggest that the jury should focus on whether a defendant is innocent. The burden is on the prosecutor to prove that he is guilty.
“The defendant is presumed innocent … at least outside of CNN.”
Turley also cited claims by Yamiche Alcindor of PBS, who “went on attack the minute the defense rose to make its closing argument.”
Alcindor declared: “Chauvin’s lawyer said it flies in the face of common sense to say Floyd’s death was not caused at least in part by his underlying conditions or drug use. This argument is in direct contradiction to the prosecution’s case which says believe your eyes, Chauvin’s knee killed Floyd.”
Turley said the statement “is so bizarre that it is breathtaking. Alcindor appears aggrieved that the defense had the temerity to directly contradict the prosecution on the question of guilt.”
“The coverage was striking in the glowing accounts of the prosecution’s closing arguments as opposed to the criticism of the defense. More importantly, the coverage shows little concern over the rights of criminal defendants or appreciation for the position of defense counsel,” Turley said.
He said the same circumstances developed in the media’s coverage of the Trump administration, “when legal experts adopted ridiculously broad interpretations of criminal provisions in a blind obsession to find any way to charge Donald Trump or his family.”
The bias, he said, comes with a cost.
“The failure to inform the public of the countervailing arguments in trials like the trial of Eric Chauvin fuels our social divisions and the ongoing violence in our cities,” he warned.
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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.