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Legal commentary offers insights into Chauvin trial strategy & tactics

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Even those who binge-watched the high-profile trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin are unlikely to have absorbed its nuances and unusual legal issues.

Legal Talk Today took a reflective approach to its coverage as the trial progressed and to the guilty-on-all-counts verdict rendered April 23, 11 months after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd during an arrest attempt.

The serial coverage is a departure from Legal Talk Today’s thrice-weekly format. Host Laurence Colletti explained that given the importance of the case, he wanted to provide listeners with deeper insights into the legal issues involved.

“Because of the highly publicized nature of this case in both the news and social media, I wanted to provide no-spin coverage of the trial by paying attention to the process of law, evidence presented, and the work of the attorneys involved,” Colletti said. “Despite the widespread narratives about the outcome, criminal convictions in our country are designed to be difficult for the prosecution, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is imperative to remember that, so justice can be done.”

Prof. David Schultz, who teaches criminal justice and politics at Hamline University and the University of Minnesota School of Law, provided commentary on the legal strategies and explained Minnesota criminal law and procedure vagaries. 

In the first episode, host Laurence Colletti and Schultz discuss the case’s timeline, the potential impact of televising the case, and who paid for former officer Chauvin’s defense.

In this episode, Prof. Schultz outlines the criminal charges and standard of proof required for a conviction. He and Colletti also discuss Minnesota’s unique “spark of life” evidence law.

Episode three covers the emotional witness testimony and overarching issues of police mistrust.

Episode four considers the implications of those who may or may not testify and covers topics including the use of force.

In episode five, Schultz and Colletti review prosecution and defense trial strategies and presentation styles.

Discussion of legal tactics continues in episode six, which also addresses any potential impact relating to the mid-trial death of Daunte Wright in a nearby Minneapolis suburb.

In the final episode of the series, Schultz explains the guilty verdicts, what could happen at the scheduled June 25 sentencing, and potential avenues of appeal. 

He and Colletti also discuss what may come from the summer trials of three other officers implicated in Floyd’s May 25, 2020 murder.

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To keep up with timely insights on the law, legal innovation, and law practice, visit Legal Talk Network. Or subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thumbnail photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash.

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Molly McDonough, a longtime legal affairs journalist, is a producer for the current events show "Legal Talk Today." She also is a media and content strategist with McDonough Media LLC. McDonough previously served as editor and publisher of the ABA’s flagship magazine, the "ABA Journal." She writes about access to justice at "A Just Society."