The Man Who Sowed Irrational Fear and Created MORAL PANIC

On August 12, 1958, Congress passed Public Law 85-623, an “act to prohibit the introduction…into interstate commerce of switchblade knives…” This law became commonly known as the “Federal Switchblade Act,” and it was the culmination of a concerted effort by lawmakers backed by an outpouring of public support that can all be traced back to an article published in Woman’s Home Companion in November, 1950. The author of this article, titled, “The Toy that Kills,” was Jack Harrison Pollack, and he was well-known for his overtly inflammatory articles that preyed on the emotions of his readers, mostly women, tugging at their maternal instincts and unashamedly feeding their base fears.

Jack Harrison Pollack wrote and published more than a thousand articles for numerous magazines and periodicals in the 1950s and 1960s, many of them with inflaming titles like “They’ll Steal Your Vote,” “The Shame of our Local Health Departments,” “Six Ways Your Vote Can Be Stolen,” “Do Drinking Fountains Spread Disease?” and “Too Many Babies Die.”

The Toy that Kills was not written to espouse the dangers of children carrying knives. In fact, Pollack doesn’t seem to have a problem with kids carrying knives in general. He only has an issue with the “threat to our children’s safety,” the switchblade knife. He acknowledges that knives have utility and that society shouldn’t try to stop kids from carrying them. He writes, “(Authorities) don’t want to deny boys their pocket knives. They know that a knife to a growing boy is as important as a lipstick to a young lady.” In just one of the many quotes in the article that are attributed to some vague, unidentified figure, such as this one that he says is from “one of the nation’s top law-enforcement officers,” (whatever that means) he writes, “In a person’s pocket, a switchblade knife is a deadly concealed weapon—as dangerous as a dagger and at close quarters as lethal as a loaded revolver.” The article, which is filled with unsourced, vaguely attributed, unidentifiable quotes like the one above, was clearly meant to inflame its readers and to drive them to action.

In one paragraph Pollack claims to have witnessed an actual switchblade murder on the mean streets of Philly:

“I had no idea myself until I saw a youth stabbed with one on a Philadelphia street. Two young men were fighting with their fists. Suddenly one of them reached into his pocket. A second later his hand held an open knife. He jabbed the gleaming blade into his opponent’s chest. As the blood flowed, women onlookers screamed.”

In another, he has a direct quote from a deceased victim of knife violence:

“Recently—in more innocent spirits—two teen-age boys at a high school dance in a Newark, New Jersey, suburb were playfully showing off with a three-inch switchblade. Accidentally one was shoved against the tip of the knife, which pierced his heart. “You punctured me, Jim, please take me to a drugstore,” the wounded youth moaned and collapsed. His seventeen-year-old companion was aghast. But his sorrow couldn’t bring his best friend back to life.”

The article is filled with anecdotal stories from all over the country that are completely unsourced with no names attached and no references listed. Stories that have direct quotes from one subject to another as if the author witnessed the interaction first-hand. Stories that are quite obviously completely fabricated by Pollack who knows there is no way for his 1950s readers to verify or dispute these stories.

“At almost the same time, in Newark, New Jersey, a thirty-five-year-old woman accused her husband of being unfaithful. Before he had a chance to explain, she angrily yanked a switchblade from her stocking and stabbed her husband in the heart. The next day he died. “If she had only hit her husband with a dish or a rolling pin instead!” mused a police official. “A switchblade isn’t something for anybody with a temper to have.””

Immediately after publication of the article, with nobody of intelligence able to discern the obvious lies and fabrications throughout it, U.S. states began to take action, with New York becoming the first to ban these dangerous weapons. Other states followed suit, and after the federal ban against importation in 1958, the mass hysteria spread around the globe, with countries all through Europe, Asia, and the Americas taking their own steps to pass laws banning switchblade knives. And none of it was based on any sort of reality, data, science, or even logic.

In case you haven’t seen an actual switchblade knife before, I happen to own one. Here is a regular, modern pocket knife, completely legal throughout the country, side-by-side with a dangerous and scary switchblade knife:

And here is a video where I show the difference in the way these knives open:

Warning: Graphic content not suitable to the faint of heart!

As you can see, these two knives are nearly indistinguishable. Why did Pollack feel the need to fabricate his way through a story attempting to rouse his readers to take action against switchblade knives? It’s hard to say. Perhaps he was simply inspired to grow his readership in any way possible, or maybe the editors of Woman’s Home Companion preferred sensationalism to journalism. It’s quite obvious from this article that there was a clear and shocking lack of journalistic integrity in those days, at least in the magazines where Pollack’s articles flourished, his audience apparently enraptured by his histrionic prose. Whatever his intent, the article worked. After its publication, and with the release of films like Rebel Without a Cause, 12 Angry Men, and the musical, Westside Story, the public had seen enough of switchblade knives to know that they were a menace to society. Driven with fear by Pollack’s closing statement, “…don’t wait, either, until a youngster—it could be yours—is murdered with a “toy” pocketknife” the entire world went crazy.

Representative Sidney R. Yates, speaking to Congress before passing the switchblade act, was clearly taken in by the national hysteria surrounding the “deadly” knives:

“Vicious fantasies of omnipotence, idolatry… barbaric and sadistic atrocities, and monstrous violations of the accepted values spring from the cult of the weapon, and the switchblade knife is included in this. Minus switchblade knives and distorted feeling of power they beget – power that is swaggering, reckless, and itching to express itself in violence – our delinquent adolescents would be shorn of one of their most potent means of incitement to crime.” 

There’s no doubt that youth violence was a problem in the fifties, however, the switchblade knife was nothing more than a symbolism of that violence, a simple tool embodied in bloodshed by the media, and as such, it was targeted by activists who reacted on emotion rather than common sense.

When considering the Moral Panic created by Pollack against switchblade knives, it’s rather difficult to not draw comparisons to the current state of affairs with society’s Moral Panic about AR-15s. The AR-15 has become the weapon of choice for many of the most heinous mass shootings our country has witnessed in the last couple of decades, and as such, it has become bastardized by society. And yet, the AR-15 is nothing more than a symbol of gun violence. It’s not even the best choice of weapon if you want to create the most bloodshed, death, fear, and violence. A typical AR-15 shoots a tiny .223 round that, in many of its iterations, causes little damage when it strikes a human body. However, because the AR-15 has been used by so many shooters, it has become the target of activists and politicians who think that the murder problem of our country will disappear if the AR-15 is banned. They seem to have lost sight of the same logic missing in society in the 1950s. Banning switchblades didn’t curb youth violence, youths just continued to carry what were now illegal knives, or they just switched to similar knives that were legal. Banning AR-15s will just mean that shooters will choose a different type of weapon for their killing sprees. If I was writing this article sixty years in the future, I might write the previous paragraph this way:

There’s no doubt that gun violence was a problem during the turn of the century, however, the AR-15 was nothing more than a symbolism of that violence, a simple tool embodied in bloodshed by the media, and as such, it was targeted by activists who reacted on emotion rather than common sense.

Gersh Kuntzman is today’s version of Jack Harrison Pollack. In an article in the New York Daily News a few years ago titled, What is it like to fire an AR-15? It’s horrifying, menacing, and very, very loud, he writes the following lines:

The recoil bruised my shoulder, which can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions — loud like a bomb — gave me a temporary form of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.

Even in semi-automatic mode, it is very simple to squeeze off two dozen rounds before you even know what has happened. If illegally modified to fully automatic mode, it doesn’t take any imagination to see dozens of bodies falling in front of your barrel.

If you’ve ever fired an AR-15 you know what complete and utter nonsense this is. Squeezing off two dozen rounds requires a high-capacity magazine and 24 distinct and separate trigger pulls along with the corresponding “bruising” shoulder kicks, “disorienting” brass casings “flying past your face,” and “bomb-like” explosions. I’m pretty sure you can’t accomplish that “before you even know what has happened.” The AR-15 has one of the lightest kicks—a gentle tap to the shoulder—of any rifle you’ll ever fire. Youtube is full of videos of girls and boys under the age of 10 firing AR-15s with smiles on their faces, apparently unperturbed by this alleged bruising this full-grown man suffered from. The AR-15 is almost certainly quieter than every one of the handguns he claims to have fired, (loud like a bomb???) and definitely quieter than most other rifles, and his theatrical, melodramatic claim that he suffered PTSD after firing the weapon…let’s just say that did not sit well with members of our armed forces who took some issue with that, as seen in his retraction statement that was added to the bottom of the article.

Kuntzman’s attempt to summon the spirit of Pollack’s malicious writings through his hammy, histrionically contrived description of his experience firing the AR-15 have only one goal…to raise the ire of the ignorant readers of the New York Daily News by creating an emotionally distorted Moral Panic that will drive them to take action to ban these types of weapons that he sees as unnecessary and dangerous. His efforts to instill the image of “dozens of bodies falling in front of your barrel” should be completely transparent, yet a constant flow of disinformation and fear mongering about AR-15s by journalists and politicians alike would seem to indicate that it is not.

Magazines that publish articles like those by Pollack in the 1950s and Kuntzman today are blurring the lines between established and respected periodicals and sensationalist tabloids by their lack of editorial oversight or journalistic integrity. They care about nothing more than readership, and sensationalism-driven clicks and sales.

Moral Panic has reared its ugly head in numerous examples of legislation since Pollack started the trend. In the 1950s, Dr. Frederic Wertham went on a crusade to warn America about the dangers of comic book violence. He penned numerous articles, including “Seduction of the Innocent,” and “What Parents Don’t Know about Comic Books” in Ladies Home Journal. His completely unbased and unscientific, speculative assertions that comic books were a corrupting influence on youth, a public health problem, and a leading cause of juvenile delinquency created a Moral Panic that spread across the country. The Senate convened a special subcommittee to explore the matter, and legislation was enacted that forced government comic book censorship and “approval” stickers before they could be legally sold. At no time were any serious, scientific studies conducted; the subcommittee members relied almost exclusively on anecdotal evidence and “expert” testimony before coming to their conclusions.

In recent times, the media narrative that police kill minorities, particularly black men, at a higher rate than others, even that they have set out to intentionally murder black men as part of a racist crusade, has created a massive Moral Panic that is currently inflaming the public and dividing the country. This is a narrative that has been thoroughly and completely debunked by numerous scientific studies, and yet groups like Black Lives Matter and far-left media outlets continue to spew it, intentionally keeping America in internal strife as a means of forwarding their own nefarious agenda.  

Most of the Moral Panic in society today seems driven by the political left, however, the right is just as guilty. After the 1 October shooting at the Route 91 festival in Las Vegas, bump stocks became the new Moral Panic of society. A device designed to help disabled veterans and target shooters enjoy their passion was bastardized by a murderer and society reacted in sadly typical fashion. President Trump quickly blamed Obama for the legalization of such a deadly and dangerous device, and ordered the Department of Justice to ban them. This ban was issued in 2018 and went into effect in 2019, requiring owners to destroy them or turn them in to the ATF under penalty of ten years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. And why? Because one person misusing something that was designed to be simply a tool created a nation-wide hysterical Moral Panic and politicians reacted. This ban was only struck down as unconstitutional a few months ago by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the legal battle is still ongoing.

Is there a difference between a spring-assisted-opening knife and a switchblade? Sure. The blade on a switchblade deploys a small fraction of a second quicker. The switchblade requires a very slightly less dexterous movement to open. And, it makes a slightly louder and scarier “snap” when it opens. (I get a form of PTSD every time I open mine, as well as visions of dozens of bodies falling under my deftly slashing hand as I cut my way through a crowd while the song, “Gee, Officer Krupke” plays in my head.) But are these differences great enough to justify one of the knives being completely legal while possessing the other one gets you sent to jail? That is quite hard to fathom yet that is our reality, thanks to the moral panic riled up by Jack Pollack’s article.

It’s really not until recently, more than 60 years later, that this fugue of nonsensical hysteria has finally begun to unravel. Although switchblades are still federally illegal to import or sell over state lines, most states have now repealed laws against them and made them completely legal to own and carry. I believe they are still illegal to own in 11 states (including Washington) with a couple others having some restrictions on blade length or concealed carry.

Moral Panic causes our society to react emotionally rather than logically to problems our nation faces. It causes us to legislate by fear, to act impetuously and impulsively when confronted with real, germane and critical issues. Whenever we make hasty, impassioned decisions based on an emotional reaction rather than a well-thought-out, logical, data-driven response to an issue, we are much more likely to get the solution wrong, and quite possibly to exacerbate the problem. So, what can we do about the detrimental effects of our emotional reaction to Moral Panic? The first step is recognizing and crushing the driving force behind this plague, namely the media and their incessant drive to generate clicks at any cost. By calling out and demanding an end to the nonsense of histrionic articles like the ones by Pollack and Kuntzman, we can calm the fear they’re attempting to inseminate in our psyche.

The second step is by electing more logical, intelligent leaders to Congress and the Presidency. Political media whores like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Marjorie Taylor Green, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump who thrive on bombastic speech and the susceptibility of their audience to Moral Panic need to be soundly defeated. We need a Congress that passes laws and reacts to situations by using logic, data, and a careful evaluation of facts rather than legislating through Moral Panic. Emotional reactiveness has been a massive detriment to our society and our country. It is the malevolent fiend that has fatefully led us through things like the Red Scare, wars on drugs and in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the implication of a stolen election and widespread voter fraud, and uncountable examples of unnecessary and detrimental Congressional legislation.

It’s time we defeated the sixty-year-old demon known as Moral Panic that was summoned by Pollack and nourished by panicky, emotional simpletons through the decades. It’s time we moved on from the era of reactionary politics and to an era of logic, science, and data helping us drive all of our laws and our decisions.

Pollack, Jack, “The Toy that Kills,” Woman’s Home Companion, November, 1950. https://docplayer.net/209786811-The-toy-that-kills-woman-s-home-companion-november-1950.html 

The New York Times, Obituaries, October 2, 1984 https://www.nytimes.com/1984/10/02/obituaries/jack-h-pollack-69-author-of-books-and-1000-articles.html

Whitmore, Zac, “Why are Switchblades Illegal?” Blade Magazine. https://blademag.com/knife-history/why-are-switchblades-illegal

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ncr.4110450704

Kuntzman, Gersh, “What is it like to fire an AR-15? It’s horrifying, menacing, and very very loud.” New York Daily News July 14, 2016 https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/firing-ar-15-horrifying-dangerous-loud-article-1.2673201

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bump_stock

History of Comics Censorship, Part 1

8 minutes and 46 seconds that changed the nation?

On May 25th, 2020, at approximately 2025 hours, George Floyd, an African-American citizen, was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. The incident was captured on multiple cell phone videos and body-worn cameras and widely distributed. The images are disturbing: Officer Chauvin with his knee pressed on the back of the neck of Mr. Floyd while Mr. Floyd moans and complains that he can’t breathe, begging the officers for relief.

In an incredibly swift and judicious action, the Minneapolis Police Department fired Derek Chauvin and three other officers who were at the scene the very next day. This wouldn’t be enough to mollify the public though, as rioting, looting, and burning would commence that night and for the next several nights, turning downtown Minneapolis into a war zone, protestors even capturing and burning the MPD 3rd precinct where the four officers were assigned. Protests and riots would spread across the country in cities large and small. The protestors’ demands? The arrest and charging of the four officers involved.

The clear video and facts of this case are indisputable. Or are they?

On May 29, 2020, four days after the killing, former Officer Derek Chauvin was finally arrested by the BCA—the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, an agency with which fans of novelist John Sandford will be very familiar. The BCA is a state police force, tasked with investigating the actions of the officers involved. In addition to the BCA, the FBI and the Justice Department are running parallel investigations into potential federal charges under the “color of law” statutes.

The charges filed against Chauvin are: 1) Murder – 3rd degree, and, 2) Manslaughter – 2nd degree. The charges were filed by Michelle Frascone, a Special Agent with the BCA, and Amy Sweasy, a prosecuting attorney for the State of Minnesota.

Upon filing the charges, the public erupted in anger once again, insisting that the charges were too lenient, in what would seem at first glance to be a rather humorous flip of the normal complaint that prosecutors tend to overcharge suspects.

Was the charging appropriate? Let’s take a look at the specific Minnesota statutes involved here.

609.195 MURDER IN THE THIRD DEGREE.

(a) Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years.

At first glance, this seems a completely appropriate charge. I had to look up what “evincing a depraved mind” means because I’ve never heard that term, however, it’s apparently a fairly common term in several Midwest states. Here is what it means, according to the Minnesota Supreme Court: “The phrase “evincing a depraved mind, regardless of human life” as used in these instructions means conduct demonstrating an indifference to the life of others, that is not only disregard for the safety of another but a lack of regard for the life of another.”

There is little doubt that Officer Chauvin’s actions showed a complete indifference to Mr. Floyd’s life, as we’ll see a little later, so after some review, this charge seems completely appropriate. As a prosecuting attorney, you definitely want to charge as high as possible. This gives you maximum flexibility, lending strength to your negotiating platform for plea bargains, and giving juries and judges maximum flexibility during sentencing. When the arresting officer and the prosecutor decide on charges, even though this charge seems to fit the crime, they definitely want to take a look at the next higher charge to see if that one might possibly fit. So, let’s take a look at the statute for Murder – 2nd degree.

609.19 MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.

Subdivision 1. Intentional murder; drive-by shootings.

Whoever does either of the following is guilty of murder in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 40 years:

(1) causes the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation; or

(2) causes the death of a human being while committing or attempting to commit a drive-by shooting in violation of section 609.66, subdivision 1e, under circumstances other than those described in section 609.185, paragraph (a), clause (3).

Under subsection (1) we see that the key word “intent” comes into play once you charge murder in the 2nd degree (as well as murder 1st degree.) Subsection 2 doesn’t apply here, obviously, nor does Subdivision 2 which deals with protection orders and other felonies, but you can read them HERE if you’d like.

So, the question becomes, did Officer Chauvin intend to murder George Floyd?

Despite the outrage of the public, despite mayors, governors, and dozens of other elected officials calling this murder, implying or outright stating that this was blatant, intentional murder, objectively this seems absolutely ridiculous. In order to believe that Chauvin intended to murder Floyd, you would have to think that a cop—someone who ABSOLUTELY, DESPERATELY, under all possible circumstances wants to avoid the inside of a prison, where really bad things tend to happen to cops, decided, with multiple cameras rolling, in broad daylight, “Fuck it. I’m just going to go ahead and murder this dude right now.” This seems so completely implausible that it’s laughable, yet that is what “intent” would require. Even if you’re somehow allowing emotion to cloud your judgement and you think that’s exactly what happened, as a prosecutor, you still have to PROVE this in a court of law. You have to prove that Officer Chauvin thought exactly that, that his full intention was to murder. A defense attorney would have a field day with this charge, and the prosecutors know it, so it would seem that Murder – 3rd degree is absolutely the appropriate charge.

Now, prosecutors like to stack charges, and they like to be comprehensive and thorough, so they also tacked on the charge of Manslaughter – 2nd degree. Let’s take a look at that statute:

609.205 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.

A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both:

(1) by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another; 

Culpable negligence. Negligence that is deserving of blame. Negligence that creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances of causing death to another. Yeah. I think this is pretty clear, and the video would seem to indicate that Officer Chauvin definitely acted in this manner. So, Manslaughter – 2nd degree seems like a good charge, particularly if Murder – 3rd degree doesn’t end up holding up. By charging both, prosecutors can hope for a conviction on Manslaughter if the defense gets an acquittal on Murder. Could they have charged Manslaughter – 1st degree? Let’s take a look at that charge.

609.20 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE FIRST DEGREE.

Whoever does any of the following is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both:

(1) intentionally causes the death of another person in the heat of passion provoked by such words or acts of another as would provoke a person of ordinary self-control under like circumstances, provided that the crying of a child does not constitute provocation;

(2) violates section 609.224 and causes the death of another or causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense with such force and violence that death of or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable, and murder in the first or second degree was not committed thereby;

(3) intentionally causes the death of another person because the actor is coerced by threats made by someone other than the actor’s coconspirator and which cause the actor reasonably to believe that the act performed by the actor is the only means of preventing imminent death to the actor or another;

(4) proximately causes the death of another, without intent to cause death by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering a controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V; or

(5) causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a violation of section 609.377 (malicious punishment of a child), and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed thereby.

As used in this section, a “person of ordinary self-control” does not include a person under the influence of intoxicants or a controlled substance.

None of these sections would seem to apply to this scenario save section (1). You might be able to argue that Mr. Floyd’s actions provoked Officer Chauvin in such a way that it caused him to retaliate by maliciously killing him. However, this is a slippery slope for the prosecution. This argument would require the prosecution to shine Mr. Floyd in a negative light, something that would be detrimental to the prosecution and favorable to the defense, so this seems like a poor prosecutorial strategy. Which means that Manslaughter – 1st degree would be a poor choice of charges, which means that it seems they charged appropriately here as well.

Let’s go back to the statement above that shining Mr. Floyd in a negative light is detrimental to the prosecution. This seems really obvious, right? The prosecution should be attempting to downplay his criminal background, his crimes at this scene, his efforts to resist arrest. The defense will want to bring all of these things up; it will be their job to paint Mr. Floyd in as poor a light as possible, to vilify him in subtle ways that may turn jury opinion to the favor of the defendant. This is super clear to everybody, right? Apparently it’s not that clear to the Minnesota Prosecutor’s Office.

Let’s take a look at the Probable Cause charging document for the arrest warrant for Officer Chauvin.

This document was likely prepared as a coordinated effort between the prosecutor, Amy Sweasy, and the BCA agent, Michelle Frascone. They should be stating the facts of the case and establishing probable cause for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Chauvin. That’s it. This document does not need to be lengthy. Extraneous information is not necessary. It needs only to establish probable cause.

So, what does it say? Let’s pull a couple passages from the document. You can read the entire thing HERE if you choose.

BWC (this is body worn camera) video obtained by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows that the officers approached the car, Lane on the driver’s side and Kueng on the passenger side. Three people were in the car; George Floyd was in the driver’s seat, a known adult male was in the passenger seat and a known adult female was sitting in the backseat. As Officer Lane began speaking with Mr. Floyd, he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands. When Mr. Floyd put his hands in the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back in its holster.

Here, prosecutors are laying out the facts of the case. They’re using footage not yet available to the public to establish their probable cause. At this point in the document, Officer Chauvin hasn’t even arrived onscene. So, why are they describing actions taken by other officers prior to his arrival? Why are they outlining that another officer, Officer Lane, drew his gun and pointed it in the direction of Mr. Floyd, in a document to establish probable cause for the arrest of Officer Chauvin? This is extraneous information. It’s irrelevant to the probable cause. The only purpose that I can ascertain for its inclusion would be to shine the light that Mr. Floyd was a dangerous subject, whose very presence, or the nature of his crime, or actions in the vehicle caused enough alarm in Officer Lane that he felt the need to draw his weapon. This is a bizarre inclusion in a probable cause statement. It would seem to be something the defense would draw attention to during trial, actions they would be trying to get included in their evidence, actions that the prosecution might object to on the grounds of relevance since the defendant wasn’t even present at the scene at this point. Why is it included in the probable cause document?

Let’s look at another section.

Once handcuffed, Mr. Floyd became compliant and walked with Officer Lane to the sidewalk and sat on the ground at Officer Lane’s direction. In a conversation that lasted just under two minutes, Officer Lang asked Mr. Floyd for his name and identification. Officer Lane asked Mr. Lloyd if he was “on anything” and explained that he was arresting Mr. Lloyd for passing counterfeit currency.

Officers Kueng and Lane stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car (MPD 320) at 8:14 p.m. Mr. Floyd stiffened up, fell to the ground, and told the officers he was claustrophobic.

MPD Officers Derek Chauvin (the defendant) and Tou Thoa then arrived in a separate squad car.

The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of squad 320 from the driver’s side.

Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers by intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still. Mr. Floyd is over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.

In the first paragraph, the state points out that Officer Lane asked Mr. Floyd (sic for the original) if he was “on anything.” Again, the defendant, Officer Chauvin is not even on the scene at this point. Why is the prosecution establishing a basis for the defense to argue that Mr. Floyd may have been acting under the influence of drugs? This is such a bizarre inclusion in a probable cause document that is supposed to be concise and brief. In the last paragraph, the prosecution points out Mr. Floyd’s resistance to being placed into the patrol car. This is not that unusual as they’re establishing a basis for him being proned out on the ground where the incident occurred. What is odd though, is that they describe him as “over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.” Why are they including this line? Once again it seems like they’re trying to establish a basis that the officers’ actions were appropriate, that they were dealing with a large, strong, bull of a man, and that they had no choice but to elevate to the level of force they used. This is such an odd description to put in the PC document. It seems like a point the defense would want to make at trial, not something the prosecution would want to point out, and certainly not something necessary for the establishment of probable cause for Chauvin’s arrest.

The rest of the PC document is very telling. It describes how Chauvin refused to turn Mr. Floyd onto his side, even when Officer Lang suggested they should do just that. It describes how he kept his knee on his neck through multiple pleas that he was suffering. This plea is not too terribly unusual, by the way. Defendants often complain they can’t breathe, even when they can clearly breathe. However, positional asphyxiation is incredibly dangerous, and I suspect that Mr. Floyd could breathe just fine, however, he could feel the asphyxiation building, and that was the feeling he was trying to describe when he used the term, “I can’t breathe.”

The most sickening part of the PC document is this paragraph:

BWC video shows Mr. Floyd continue to move and breathe. At 8:24:24, Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At 8:25:31 the video appears to show Mr. Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. Lane said, “want to roll him on his side.” Kueng checked Mr. Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, “I couldn’t find one.” None of the officers moved from their positions. At 8:27:24, the defendant removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. An ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrived, the officers placed Mr. Floyd on a gurney, and the ambulance left the scene. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.

At 8:24:24, BWC video shows that Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At this point, how does Chauvin keep applying a neck hold to him? The suspect had quit resisting many minutes earlier. The neck hold should have been released at the latest when the resisting ended. De-escalation as the suspect de-escalates is just as critical, lawful, and important, as appropriate escalation is. Officer Lane again asks to roll him on his side. Apparently, this again doesn’t happen. Officer Kueng checks for a pulse and can’t find one. What do the officers do at this point?

“None of the officers moved from their positions.”

WHAT? They can’t find a pulse and Chauvin (I’m done using the title Officer Chauvin here, he doesn’t deserve it) continues to use the knee to neck hold??? Nobody starts CPR? Nobody takes responsibility for a suspect in their custody who doesn’t have a pulse!?

At 8:27:24, exactly three minutes after he stops moving, Derek Chauvin finally removes his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. Why? Because an ambulance has arrived and it’s time to roll him onto a gurney.

This video, and the statements in the PC document that describe video not yet released, is sickening. It’s so disturbing. As a former cop, I’m appalled and saddened. As a human, I’m disheartened and repugnated. The actions of Chauvin in particular, and the other officers in general, are vile, abhorrent, and so unworthy of the badge that so many officers take so much pride in.

So, what will happen to Derek Chauvin? You’re not going to like this…

I don’t think he will be convicted of either of the crimes to which he’s charged. I would lay money that he won’t be convicted of murder. There are many reasons for this, and I’ll outline a few:

For starters, as I have shown in the PC document, it really seems that the fix is in here. The statements made by the prosecution in that warrant application are bizarre, and I’m struggling to find a beneficent reason behind their inclusion. Additionally, neck holds are authorized uses of force in the Minneapolis Police Department. This will change obviously, and probably like next week, but as of this moment, they are completely legal holds. From that point of view, Chauvin did nothing wrong by applying the hold. Where he went wrong was the length of time he applied it, and his wanton disregard for the life of Mr. Floyd. But this is going to be so difficult to prove. Once the defense is granted a change of venue, away from the jury pool immersed in this scene, once they go through a rigorous voir dire process, where they will weed through jury members who might have any knowledge of the incident, once enough time has passed for people to forget, years down the road, they will be able to argue so many points in their favor. They will be able to include Mr. Floyd’s criminal record, his history of resisting arrest, his size, his demeanor. By the time they’re done, they will make him look worse than Hannibal Lector. They will make it seem as if extraordinary measures were necessary for the safety of the police officers and the public. They will villainize Mr. Floyd and elevate Chauvin to the status of guardian hero. They will point out Chauvin’s commendations and his awards. They will exemplify his nineteen years of service to the community.

Here is the second to last paragraph in the Probable Cause document, in my opinion, the biggest smoking gun for my theory that the prosecutor really doesn’t want to try this case and is simply acceding to public pressure:

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner (ME) conducted Mr. Floyd’s autopsy on May 26, 2020. The full report of the ME is pending but the ME has made the following preliminary findings. The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.

What?? Why is this paragraph in a document whose sole purpose is to establish probable cause for the arrest of the officer? THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF PROBABLE CAUSE! THIS SAYS THAT IT REALLY WASN’T CHAUVIN’S FAULT AT ALL! Once again, this seems like ammunition for the defense. It feels like the prosecution is trying to help them make their case! I have NEVER seen a statement like this in a probable cause document. With this statement in the PC document, I’m kind of surprised the judge even approved the warrant!

The prosecution is always facing an uphill battle when they charge a police officer. When they start that battle in what seems to be a completely half-hearted, almost seditious manner with the most simple and basic of documents, it feels like they will completely blow the prosecution, intentionally or apathetically.

Don’t be surprised if Derek Chauvin ends up being convicted of some lessor charge. Something like Assault in the third degree, or Misconduct of a Public Officer. When this happens, get ready for cities to burn again. Because if this happens, they should burn. We need change, and there’s another article coming sometime soon that will describe what I think needs to happen to effect that change.

Let’s hope George Floyd’s death has meaning. Let’s hope his 8 minutes and 46 seconds of suffering results in meaningful change. Let’s hope America can finally rise to the challenges of racism and brutality. Let’s hope police departments can throw aside the heavy net cast upon them by the tiny percentage of officers who give all the good ones such a bad name. Let’s hope Derek Chauvin gets a fair trial followed by swift and appropriate justice. Let’s hope this never happens again.

***edit — The prosecutors later caved to public pressure and added a charge of Murder 2nd degree, something that is complete and utter nonsense. As I outlined above, there is absolutely no basis in my opinion for this charge, and the only possible reasoning for adding it later was that the DA was beginning to hear the tolling bells of his career if he didn’t add it. Disgusting politics at its finest right there.