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Analysis of the Derek Chauvin Verdict in the George Floyd Case

With over 25 years of experience in representing clients in serious cases involving criminal defense and constitutional rights, Page Pate is often contacted by the media to discuss important legal cases appearing in the news.

In this case, Page was contacted by 11 Alive News to discuss the verdict in the case against Derek Chauvin, the police officer recently convicted of the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Page is asked for his opinion regarding social media and the video recordings of the events surrounding Mr. Floyd’s murder and how it may have impacted Mr. Chauvin’s trial and possible future trials, in general. Page responds that he doesn’t “think there is a question that, without the video in this case, there probably would have been a different result. And that’s concerning perhaps. It’s disturbing perhaps. But police officer involved shootings like the one that happened here, when they are prosecuted, normally do not result in a guilty verdict. And that’s because the evidence boils down to what the officer says happened versus what maybe one or two witnesses say on the other side. When you have video, when you have multiple videos as we did in this case, it becomes a lot more difficult for the officer to claim that he was acting reasonably, when that clearly is not what appears on the video. So I think people having cellphones, people using those cellphones, could in some cases lead to more accountability and more justice.”

Regarding the effect the verdict in Mr. Chauvin’s case may have on future cases and the precedent it may set for those cases, Page says that he agrees that this verdict may have an impact on similar cases going forward, and explains that “if you look at this case, it may allow a prosecutor to look at a case involving a police officer and say, “Hey, in the past I may have not prosecuted that case, but now I know, if I have the right facts and the right evidence a jury will convict an officer for excessive force.” So perhaps a prosecutor now who may have been sitting on the fence about one of these cases will feel a little bit better about moving forward.”

Lastly, Page is asked about the possible sentence Mr. Chauvin may receive in this case. He notes that “Minnesota is a lot like federal court,” because they have sentencing guidelines for judges to follow. Page says “For a case like this, for someone like this officer, who has no prior criminal history, he’s looking at about 12 and a half, 13 years under the guidelines. The judge could give him more time or less time for you know extenuating circumstances, mitigating factors. But the guidelines are going to call for about 12 and a half years, could be up to 40.” Page also notes that “when you have sentencing guidelines, most jurisdictions then, like the federal jurisdiction, do not allow for parole. So you get some credit for good time, but more or less the sentence you receive is the sentence that you serve.”

TRANSCRIPT:

Jeff: Here to help us understand all of it from a legal perspective now is our analyst, Page Pate. Page, always good to see you. Good to have you with us tonight.

Page: Thank you, Jeff.

Jeff: How about social media here and the video recordings? How did it impact the trial? And, give me your perspective of how it will impact other trials heading forward.

Page: Jeff, I don’t think there is a question that, without the video in this case, there probably would have been a different result. And that’s concerning perhaps. It’s disturbing perhaps. But police officer involved shootings like the one that happened here, when they are prosecuted, normally do not result in a guilty verdict. And that’s because the evidence boils down to what the officer says happened versus what maybe one or two witnesses say on the other side. When you have video, when you have multiple videos as we did in this case, it becomes a lot more difficult for the officer to claim that he was acting reasonably, when that clearly is not what appears on the video. So I think people having cellphones, people using those cellphones, could in some cases lead to more accountability and more justice.

Jeff: My second question, many activists tonight, many leaders online calling all of this a step towards social justice. Now finally, how does the verdict set the tone for other cases? And there are many cases around America like this, with great similarities of which this may set precedent. Do you agree or disagree with that?

Page: I agree, I think, Jeff. I mean, if you look at this case, it may allow a prosecutor to look at a case involving a police officer and say, “Hey, in the past I may have not prosecuted that case, but now I know, if I have the right facts and the right evidence a jury will convict an officer for excessive force.” So perhaps a prosecutor now who may have been sitting on the fence about one of these cases will feel a little bit better about moving forward.

Jeff: [inaudible 00:01:57] who are not in the law profession, not lawyers, sentencing is always mysterious. You know? There seems to be an ambiguity about the crime versus the sentence, and it’s left to the discretion of the judge. How do you see this playing out?

Page: Well, Minnesota is a lot like federal court. In Georgia, we do not have sentencing guidelines, but they do in Minnesota. For a case like this, for someone like this officer, who has no prior criminal history, he’s looking at about 12 and a half, 13 years under the guidelines. The judge could give him more time or less time for you know extenuating circumstances, mitigating factors. But the guidelines are going to call for about 12 and a half years, could be up to 40.

Jeff: So if you get 12 and a half years, how much do you serve?

Page: Well, when you have sentencing guidelines, most jurisdictions then, like the federal jurisdiction, do not allow for parole. So you get some credit for good time, but more or less the sentence you receive is the sentence that you serve.

Jeff: Page Pate, thanks. Always appreciate your insight, your observations and thoughts tonight. Thank you.

Page: Thank you, Jeff.