TRIAL AND TOWN: "Ridiculous," cable expert declares!

THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 2021

It could always turn out that she's right: Tuesday night, we were surprised by what Ali Velshi said.

Velshi was guest-hosting for Brian Williams on The 11th Hour. Teasing his upcoming segment, Velshi offered this:

VELSHI (4/6/21): Coming up, the defense has its best day yet at the Derek Chauvin trial. But is it enough to leave a reasonable doubt with the jury? A former federal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney join us next.

Was the highlighted statement accurate? Had the defense "had its best day yet" at the Chauvin trial? 

Indeed, had the defense even had a good day? Had the defense had anything like a good day to that point in the trial?

We don't know how to answer those questions, but we can tell you this. On Tuesday, the prosecution had been making its case as part of the normal sequence in a criminal trial

AS of Tuesday, every witness who had appeared had been a prosecution witness. Any points the defense might have made would have been done in cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.

In the American system we all love, the prosecution makes its case first. After the prosecution is done, the defense is entitled to present its case.

Cable news hosts and cable news pundits rarely state that basic fact in discussing the events of this high-profile murder / manslaughter trial. On the "cable news" channels most widely viewed here in Our Town, pundits will often say that the trial is going well for the prosecution without noting a basic fact:

So far, every witness has been a prosecution witness. So far, the defense hasn't been able to put anyone on the stand.

At this point in our failing society's headlong decline, the dumbness of our upper-end press corps is remarkably general. We'll address that point this afternoon as we review the New York Times' latest attempt to explain the recent ruling by the Senate parliamentarian regarding "reconciliation."

This latest attempt is amazingly hapless. And yet, this is us. This sad skill level routinely prevails here in the streets of Our Town.

Returning to the Chauvin trial, we'll ask a basic question:

Has the defense had anything like a good day to this point? Like Velshi, we have no idea. 

That said, we were surprised by Velshi's statement that night. Obviously, sentiment on the "cable news" channels in Our Town runs very heavily—indeed, uniformly—in favor of conviction in this particular trial. And so it (somewhat comically) went when Velshi began the segment he had teased.

The defense had had "its best day yet," Velshi had surprisingly said. And not only that! Velshi had said that we'd be hearing from "a criminal defense attorney" as well as "a former federal prosecutor." 

In cable news lingo, this seemed to mean that Velshi's next segment would be "fair and balanced." Given prevailing sentiment about this trial, that would have been a departure from form on the TV shows in Our Town. 

That's where the unintentional humor starts! Velshi's criminal defense attorney turned out to be Yodit Tewolde, "a former prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney" who is currently "host of Making the Case on The Black News Channel."

Would this cable host from  The Black News Channel see this trial through a defense attorney's lens? Perhaps somewhat comically, when Velshi threw to Tewolde, this is the first thing she said:

VELSI: Yodit, let me start with you. The defense has, on a daily basis, either made some case of the fact that there were bystanders, onlookers, who you can hear in some of these videotapes, you can see in the video, and the fact that they were very frustrated with the police as part of their case, that that affected the judgment of Derek Chauvin and the other police officers. What do you make of that that argument?

YODIT TEWOLDE, FMR. PROSECUTOR: I think that that argument is falling flat. It's ridiculous. And I think that it's going to hurt them with the jurors...

Perhaps somewhat comically, the official MSNBC transcript identifies Tewolde as a "FMR. PROSECUTOR," not as a defense attorney. At any rate, her instant reaction was extremely friendly to prevailing views in Our Town:

The defense attorney's argument was "falling flat," Tewolde said. Indeed, it was "ridiculous." We recalled the first thing Laura Coates said to John King on the very first day of the trial. It was the first bit of expert reaction CNN viewers would hear:

KING (3/30/21): Just as a veteran attorney, your sense so far of the opening statements.

COATES: I give no weight to the defense's opening statement whatsoever...

As we noted yesterday, King hadn't even explained what the defense attorney had said in his opening statement. Instantly, up jumped Coates to say, perhaps a bit heatedly, that she gave his statement no weight.

Briefly, let's be clear! The statements by Tewolde and Coates are perhaps lacking in nuance. But that doesn't mean that their assessments may not be basically right. 

It may be that the defense attorney won't be able to support the claims he seemed to make in his opening statement. (We remember, of course, that the defense doesn't have to prove any claims within our American legal system—the system we all deeply love.)

It may also be that Tewolde was right in her somewhat heated assessment. It may be that jurors will reject the idea that Chauvin was distracted, in some legally relevant way, by the behavior of the crowd which formed during the events in question. 

Full disclosure:

To our eye and ear, that allegedly "angry crowd" didn't seem to be posing much of a threat that day. Indeed, to our eye and ear, the group of onlookers was so small that it barely qualified as a "crowd" at all.

For such reasons, it may turn out that the jurors don't accept this defense claim at all. In that sense, Tewolde's assessment may be correct—but we were struck by the heated way the "defense attorney" threw down against the defendant's case. 

It reminded us of the heated way the expert Coates had quickly thrown down on Day One of the trial—even before she and King bothered explaining what the defense attorney had said.

Admiringly, let's be fair! As Tuesday evening's segment continued, the segment turned out  to be much more "fair and balanced" than most such segments have been in Our Town.

Incredibly, Tewolde went on to identify a claim being made by the defense which might have some actual merit. After that, "former federal corruption prosecutor" Paul Butler did in fact provide the source for Velshi's surprising tease. 

"The defense had its best day since the trial started," Butler said, though he went on to offer this overall assessment:

"But make no mistake, the prosecution is presenting an exceptionally strong case."

Is that true? Is the prosecution "presenting an exceptionally strong case?" We can't really answer that question—and like everyone who loves our American legal system, we're even going to wait to hear what the defense has to say when it gets to make its case.

Having said that, we'll also say this, and this has been a surprise:

We would have found it hard to believe that a (legal) case could possibly be made in defense of Chauvin's conduct on the day in question. 

Some of Tuesday's events at the trial made us start to doubt that prior certainty. Tomorrow, we'll review a bit of videotape which surfaced on Tuesday, March 31—and we'll show you the way one CNN anchor blew right past the role it might play in this trial.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we just aren't super-sharp in Our Town. Our cable stars are corporate hires, and we love the stories they tell us.

Tomorrow: Tragically, an accurate statement, uttered early on


30 comments:

  1. We are talking about the crowd without one good guy with a gun, correct?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm starting to think we shouldn't accept the wholesale slaughter of rooms full of 6-year olds, since hoping for a mythical "good guy with a gun" to show-up doesn't seem to be working.

      Delete
    2. Yeah. I think the story were suppose to believe goes like this: The NRA only sell guns to good guys, but then, some of them become mentally ill. We just need more thoughts and prayers to God to stop the mental illness. That must be why there are dozens of countries with virtually no shootings. Those countries prayed away their violence, but the USA is too sinful and is being cursed by God.

      Delete
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  2. Somerby thinks his readers here are idiots. He says:

    "Cable news hosts and cable news pundits rarely state that basic fact in discussing the events of this high-profile murder / manslaughter trial. On the "cable news" channels most widely viewed here in Our Town, pundits will often say that the trial is going well for the prosecution without noting a basic fact:

    So far, every witness has been a prosecution witness. So far, the defense hasn't been able to put anyone on the stand."

    Cable news doesn't need to tell us that the prosecution goes first because that is a basic fact that pretty much everyone except children knows.

    However, what Somerby doesn't tell you is that the defense can do well during the prosecution's portion of the trial by cross-examination that knocks holes in the prosecution's evidence and reasoning, asking questions of the witnesses that reveal flaws in the prosecution's case. In some trials, the defense does this so effectively that the judge will grant a motion to dismiss before the defense presents any case of its own.

    So, yes, the defense can have a good day even though it is the prosecution's turn to present their case. In fact, if the prosecution is ineffective, the defense need not present any case at all because it is up to the prosecution to make a case and prove the defendant guilty, not the defense's job to prove innocence. The defense need only show that the prosecution has not done its job.

    Everyone who has ever seen a courtroom drama or read a legal thriller knows this basic stuff. So, when Somerby tries to make Velshi look stupid for his entirely reasonable statements, it is Somerby who is the idiot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "because that is a basic fact that pretty much everyone except children knows."

      This is anti-Right-wing discrimination.

      Delete
  3. This is a rather vacuous post, in our opinion, dear Bob.

    Did you have any point to make, or was it just a graphomaniac thingy on your part? With all due respect, alas, it feels like the latter...

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    Replies
    1. It's his typical nonsense in service to criminal police officers.

      Delete
    2. And you are in service of criminals and thugs, who reek havoc on the black community everyday.

      Delete
    3. My service of criminals and thugs, who reek havoc on the black community everyday is, to fight poverty.
      If you can see through your crocodile tears for the black community, try to post yours.

      Delete
  4. Somerby seems to be objecting to Velshi's intro because of the word "and". Somerby took it to mean that there would be two experts, whereas it actually meant that the same person was both a former prosecutor AND a criminal defense attorney. It is not uncommon for someone who leaves the District Attorney's office to become a criminal defense attorney -- because there are no jobs as prosecutor outside of the D.A.'s office and thus how would they work without switching to defense? Similarly, there are no defense attorneys within the D.A.'s office, because of legal system is adversarial, it has two distinct and separate sides.

    So what is Somerby's beef? He apparently thinks Velshi should be presenting someone who will advocate for Chauvin, but his show, unlike our justice system, is NOT adversarial, nor is it in business to defend the criminally charged. There is no requirement that Velshi or any of his guests present "both sides" of any situation. This particular guest is more than qualified to evaluate the work of both sides in this trial and she did so. Somerby doesn't like it that she didn't support Chauvin, so he attempts to disqualify her because she is one person with two forms of expertise, not two separate people holding two different opinions.

    This is an example of how far-fetched and reaching Somerby is in his daily complaints. But it also shows how his own bias in favor of Chauvin distorts his reasoning and his own discussion of this case. Somerby is again shilling for the right while pretending that his beef is a matter of fairness instead of a dislike of what is being said about this cop who abused power and killed a man.

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  5. "Incredibly, Tewolde went on to identify a claim being made by the defense which might have some actual merit. After that, "former federal corruption prosecutor" Paul Butler did in fact provide the source for Velshi's surprising tease. "

    What, then, is Somerby's beef? Why is he complaining (and yes, his whining tone is one of complaint? Velshi fulfilled his promise and Somerby still gripes. Why?

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  6. "we're even going to wait to hear what the defense has to say when it gets to make its case."

    Somerby repeats his misunderstanding that the defense has to "make its case." The defense only has to create doubt about the prosecution's case. There is no requirement that it build its own case at all. That's why it is important to evaluate the prosecution's case so thoroughly. Reasonable doubt is about whether the prosecution made an effective case, not about the defense case (which often serves only to raise alternative possibilities and muddy the waters).

    One cannot lecture the press as if one were an expert on such matters while making such huge blunders in understanding how trials work. Somerby is a fool and he has nothing to say today, except to complain because others think Chauvin is guilty. There isn't even a technicality in today's diatribe.

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  7. Isn’t it interesting that the USA’s for-profit billionaire-owned mass media are stoking a race war for fun and profit? This is exactly what Charles Manson hoped to do with his 1969 murder spree. Is the obsessive drive for corporate profits at any cost really any different than Manson’s mindset? Chuck was fifty years too early, if he had gone to business school he would be a respected media mogul today with a Hamptons-based lifestyle. It’s a wonderful life to have enormous media power to stoke fear and hate and then sit back and rake in the profits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Expecting corporations to do what is right, on their own, is comical.

      Delete
    2. Gloucon, I suppose you can argue that the media is “stoking a race war.”

      But there are genuine feelings out there that aren’t tied to the media. For example, most liberal blogs and commenters I read are quite critical of the corporate media, but they realize that there is a genuine stoking, if not of a “war” at least of racial animosity that stems from the Republican Party, and that BLM is a genuine grassroots reaction to police violence that didn’t come from the media. Perhaps the mainstream media is merely reflecting this division, not stoking it.

      The media has power, but it isn’t all powerful. Especially today when there are far more media outlets than just the giant legacy ones.

      Delete
    3. Charles Manson did try to deflect suspicion onto the Black Panthers and stoke racial animosity, but the murders were committed for personal reasons:

      "Why Did the Manson Family Kill Sharon Tate? ... At the time, prosecutors said that Manson, who wanted to be a rock star, ordered the murders of Tate and four others because the previous owner of the house at which the deaths occurred — Terry Melcher, a music producer — had refused to make a record with Manson."

      From time.com, Charles Manson's Own Story

      Also this:

      "Aug 7, 2019 — Throughout the summer of 1969, Manson had been hinting to his followers that if black Americans didn't start Helter Skelter, the Family should help it along. But Manson also wanted to distract the law from other crimes."

      https://www.vox.com/2019/8/7/20695284/charles-manson-family-what-is-helter-skelter-explained

      Delete
  8. I well remember Bob's coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. Bob's fact-based posts made it clear that the actual evidence presented to the jury made a strong case for self-defense. Thanks to Bob, I was not surprised when the jury acquitted Zimmerman.

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    Replies
    1. Bob's got his fingers on the pulse of white America, no doubt.

      Delete
  9. BTW this lawyer-blogger has good insights into how the trial is progressing. See https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2021/04/the-chauvin-trial-so-far.php

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    1. There is enough Republican propaganda coming from this site without you adding more, David.

      Delete
    2. Here is what you get from David's link, although it is at Powerline, which should be enough warning:

      "George Floyd’s girlfriend was a key witness. The state tried to present her as a let’s-go-for-a-walk-in-the-park flower child, but it soon became evident on cross-examination that she and Floyd were drug addicts. This was the first time the jury learned that Floyd’s death may have been caused by a fentanyl overdose, not by police officers kneeling on him."

      What purports to be analysis is actually just an arguing of the defense's position.

      Delete
    3. As I see it, the PowerLine article answers the question addressed by Bob: In what way was this the defense's best day yet?

      @3:56 and @4:01 - You object to the linked PowerLine article. I invite you to tell us what was wrong with it.

      Delete
    4. @4:01 here -- I considered it excessively partisan

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    5. I read it.
      Powerline is saying that Derek Chauvin couldn't have possibly felt threatened by a guy dying from an overdose in front of him.
      Unfortunately, Powerline never mentions the mythical "good guy with a gun" wasn't present to stop Chauvin and his thug friends.

      Delete
  10. “This was the first time the jury learned that Floyd’s death may have been caused by a fentanyl overdose....” Wow, Dave, only a complete moron could look at that videotape and believe that Floyd had a respiratory arrest due to a narcotic overdose. Do you have even the slightest idea of what that might look like? A clue: it does not look like someone begging for his life.

    ReplyDelete
  11. But just keep reading Powerline for an unbiased scientific appraisal of the situation. There is simply no fixing people like you.

    ReplyDelete
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