Witness is a “thing”
The “little seen” trouble with how America absorbed the Chauvin Trial outcome
Darnella Frazier, photo courtesy of The Grio
How quickly we catapulted from Chauvin’s trial and the legacy of George Floyd and community to Alexei Navalny! As if we American “intellectuals” can’t hold onto two repressions at the same time. Consider the following riff on the Black Panthers’ credo: ‘repression anywhere is repression everywhere:’
The “new day” for America’s left veering intellectual is not criminal justice meted out for now in Minneapolis, it’s the cell phone held in the trembling hands of a seventeen year-old. Thanks to Steven Jobs, so we are told, and a terror-stricken teenager, the family of George Floyd get their “day in court.”
To me this cynical “validation” spells trouble.
Righteously we focus on Derek Chauvin. less the institutions that endorsed his behavior.
We are told that Chauvin was on trial, not the Minneapolis Police Department. But fairness in court does not restoration nor redemption make:
Derek Chauvin Trial summation: Chauvin’s defense team launches the latest legal conundrum:
Does witness testimony matter?
What is “reasonable doubt?”
Is bias “capricious?”
If you are confused, consider as a juror you are being asked to crawl through this moral morass to ferret out “reasonable doubt.”
Imagine as a juror at the request of the defense you are being instructed to assess the minds of the eye witnesses to Floyd’s strangulation. Obscene as this sounds, the defense attempts to parse witnessing a witnessing, a “meta witnessing.”
Instead of debating the evidence, in this case the iPhone video(s), you are asked to question the mind of the witness (es). Why were they present? Were they biased? Were they cowed by the other eye witnesses imploring Chauvin to release his choke-hold? In most states attempting to stop an arrest while in progress carries serious consequences. Add to this reality the horrendous ordeal of recounting the incident in public on the witness stand. But no, something is wrong here; the “witnessing” is awry. This did not happen.
Gore Vidal, novelist and chronicler of American politics once labeled the collective American polity as the “United States of Amnesia.”
He has a point. Did we hear a manifesto in support of witness rights resulting from the Chauvin trial? If the answer is no, or ‘not really,’ then this is one aspect of the Chauvin trial outcome “trouble” mentioned earlier.
The second aspect of the “trouble” is that ours is an “escapist” social culture, so the “witness thing” demands our scrupulous support, else we tolerate authoritarianism. How strictly enforced are our whistleblower protection laws? How much do we support witnesses to gang crime in our communities? To “white collar crime” in our institutions? To political corruption?
America is still reeling from an eviscerated Mueller “investigation.” If the “Mueller probe” is as good as we can muster, we have a journey ahead.