Saturday, March 20, 2021

Restrictions on evidence in trial of Derek Chauvin

There is no way this guy will get a fair trial

A US judge says he won't delay or move the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd, but he will allow limited evidence from a 2019 arrest.

But the allowing of evidence from Mr Floyd's 2019 arrest is seen as a win for the defence

Derek Chauvin's lead lawyer, Eric Nelson, complained to the court that publicity around the trial had tainted the jury pool in and around Minneapolis.

He cited the city's announcement last week that it would pay Mr Floyd's relatives $US27 million ($35 million) to settle their wrongful-death lawsuit, filing a 3,972-page document filled with thousands of different unflattering news articles about the 45-year-old, who is charged with murder and manslaughter.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ruled against Mr Chauvin, saying that moving the trial or delaying it until next year would make it no easier to seat an impartial jury.

"I don't think there's any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity in this case," Mr Cahill said.

The judge, however, partially granted a separate request by Mr Chauvin to show the jury evidence of an earlier arrest of Mr Floyd.

That arrest, involving different officers, took place about a year before Floyd's death on May 25, 2020.

Mr Cahill and the lawyers in the case have questioned 61 potential jurors in court since last week to weigh their impartiality as Mr Chauvin, dressed in a suit and tie, took extensive notes on a yellow legal pad.

All of them said they were aware of the video showing Mr Chauvin, with his knee on Mr Floyd's neck as the 46-year-old black man begged for his life.

Almost all said they had seen at least some of the footage, which sparked global protests against police brutality and racism.

Twelve jurors and one alternate have been seated so far.

They are five white women, two white men, three black men, one black woman and two multiracial women, according to court records.

The judge said he would resume jury selection on Monday with the hope of finding two more alternates before opening arguments planned for March 29.

Two autopsy reports concluded that Mr Floyd's death was a homicide, caused in part by the way the arresting officers held him on the ground.

Both reports noted Mr Floyd had underlying health conditions, including hypertension, and the drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system.

Mr Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

One of Mr Chauvin's main defences will be to dispute the cause of death, arguing that it was actually an overdose of fentanyl, an opioid, that killed Mr Floyd.

Prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney-general's office have complained the allegation is seeking to smear Mr Floyd's character and that his high blood pressure and drug use were irrelevant to the question of whether Mr Chauvin used excessive force.

Mr Nelson said a recent search he conducted of the police car where Mr Chauvin and other officers were trying to place Mr Floyd discovered a pill containing fentanyl and methamphetamine on the back seat that bore traces of Mr Floyd's saliva.

He argued that the new evidence meant the judge should reconsider an earlier decision not to allow Mr Nelson to show jurors evidence about a prior arrest on May 6, 2019.

A panicked Mr Floyd swallowed opioid pills as different police officers, including one with a drawn gun, approached the car he was in as part of a narcotics investigation.

Mr Floyd and the officers ended up speaking calmly and he was later taken to a hospital for treatment.

Prosecutors fought the defence effort, writing in a court filing on Thursday.

"Mr Floyd's 2019 arrest simply sheds no light on when or how he consumed drugs nearly a year later. The new discovery of a pill in the squad car does not change anything," the prosecutors said.

On Friday, Mr Cahill ruled that very limited evidence from the 2019 arrest could be shown, only as much as sheds light on the dispute over the cause of Mr Floyd's death a year later.

"The whole point there is we have medical evidence of what happens when Mr Floyd is faced with virtually the same situation: confrontation by police at gunpoint, followed by a rapid ingestion of some drugs," Mr Cahill said in his ruling.


Atlanta Attack Wrongly Blamed on Guns, Racism

It appears that the suspect's motive was tied to sex addiction, not race.

The trouble with political narratives is that they often ignore or outright contradict the actual facts surrounding an event in order to advance an ideological agenda. It’s easy to do, and leftists have become masters in this art of public manipulation. As Barack Obama’s former chief of staff infamously espoused, “You don’t ever want a good crisis to go to waste.”

Well, not only did Obama embrace that mindset while in office — he repeatedly asserted the false narrative of a nationwide problem of systemically racist police after the death of Michael Brown — but he has continued this practice of assigning motive and blame even before the facts are known.

Following Tuesday’s murderous attacks in Atlanta that left eight people dead, primarily Asian Americans working in massage parlors, Obama quickly sought to fuel the dubious narrative Democrats created last year in which they ridiculously claimed that Donald Trump was responsible for fueling a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans because he highlighted the fact that the coronavirus originated in China. Furthermore, Obama also sought to weave in the Democrats’ long-running anti-gun agenda, asserting, “Even as we’ve battled the pandemic, we’ve continued to neglect the longer-lasting epidemic of gun violence in America. Although the shooter’s motive is not yet clear, the identity of the victims underscores an alarming rise in anti-Asian violence that must end.”

President-in-Waiting Kamala Harris also blatantly blamed racism. “I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she said. “Knowing the increasing level of hate crimes against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki piled on as well, saying there’s “no question” that Trump’s “damaging rhetoric” has led to “elevated threats against Asian Americans.” Numerous congressional Democrats followed suit.

Obama then brought it back to guns, which is where Harris and her “boss” will eventually take it: “[Tuesday’s] shootings are another tragic reminder that we have far more work to do to put in place commonsense gun safety laws and root out the pervasive patterns of hatred and violence in our society.” In other words, irrespective of the facts, the takeaway from this senseless violence is the need for more government redlining of Americans’ First and Second Amendment rights.

Was the murderous attack in Atlanta motivated by either “gun violence” or racism, as both Obama and the Leftmedia have asserted? That does not appear to be the case. The apprehended perpetrator, a 21-year-old white male, explained to law enforcement that his motive was “sex addiction.” Cherokee County Sheriff Captain Jay Baker stated, “He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as … a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.” It certainly doesn’t justify this horrific crime to note that there is sex-trafficking at these Asian brothels disguised as “massage parlors.” After all, the guy didn’t go after Asian restaurants.

In related news on the deaths of minorities, eight illegal immigrants were killed Monday when their human smugglers crashed while trying to evade police. Given that Joe Biden has encouraged and enabled the border crisis with his politicized and ill-conceived changes to immigration policy, does that mean their blood is on his hands?

As for these mass-shooting incidents, blindly assigning motive to an incident without investigating and learning all the facts is the epitome of foolishness. It’s a characterization of those who care little for the actual truth but who are obsessed with advancing their own self-importance and self-interests. Unfortunately, our government and the wider popular culture is plagued with these types of individuals. They both reflexively claim to identify the problems while at the same time offering the “only” solutions to these problems — solutions that inevitably require individuals to give up their freedom and self-reliance to a bunch of self-proclaimed “experts.”


An Army of Social Justice Warriors

Lowering standards for the sake of "equity" for women will harm military readiness.

“Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” was one of the 17 executive orders President Joe Biden’s handlers got him to sign on his first day in office. It states that “all persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.” In short, wholly irrespective of biological and chromosomal reality, the Biden administration and its supporters now consider “man” and “woman” to be interchangeable concepts. Yet if that’s the case, then why is the United States Army considering a reversal of its new “gender-neutral physical test” and including different evaluation categories for men and women?

“Research showed that the Army Combat Fitness Test [ACFT], which is the same for male and female soldiers, was leading to lower results for women with a knock-on effect for promotions,” reports The Telegraph. “An early Pentagon study showed that women were failing the ACFT at a rate of 65 per cent, while only 10 percent of men did.”

A report issued late last fall showed a similar discrepancy with 54% of women failing to make the grade, compared to only 7% of men, during the second quarter of 2020. “In the ACFT there are six events — the maximum deadlift, a standing power throw, hand-release push-ups, a sprint, drag and carry, leg tuck, and a two-mile run,” the report explained. “To pass the test those taking it must score at least 360 points out of a possible 600, and those who achieve higher scores are more likely to be promoted. However, average scores for women so far are said to have been 100 points lower.”

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, who served as Army secretary until 2019, was unmoved. “If you can’t pass the Army Combat Fitness Test, then there’s probably not a spot for you in the Army,” he said in 2018, after planning for the test was revealed.

Not quite. It’s becoming more and more apparent that the military’s once-primary mission — fighting and winning wars — is no longer its top priority. As The Washington Post explains, the test in its current form “has yielded a dramatic gender gap, raising questions about whether the service might unintentionally compound barriers for women trying to move up the ranks … in an institution already struggling to shed historical gender and racial disparities.”

Such “disparities” have been brought to the attention of Congress, which has now put a stop to the test’s implementation. Meanwhile, the Army is conducting an independent review to determine whether or not the test is “fair.”

Fair to whom? The current ACFT was developed over seven years and specifically designed to simulate aspects of combat, such as dodging enemy fire or dragging a wounded comrade across a field. Officials explain that 20 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan revealed inadequacies in the Army’s previous training regimen. Inadequacies that engendered frequent injuries.

Regardless, the political pressure is apparently on and the orchestrations to accommodate it will now include “gender-specific” evaluation categories aimed at ensuring the aforementioned equal levels of promotion between the sexes. These include separate percentile bands for men and women that would be gender-blind when soldiers go before a promotion board. “We are not going to artificially inflate the raw score for women, but we have to figure out a way to make it fair to both genders,” an unnamed Army official said.

Why? Didn’t Biden’s executive order eliminate “gender differences”? Weren’t those who complained that men identifying as women would dominate athletic events dismissed as bigoted or transphobic, while supporters insisted there should be no restrictions imposed on transgender athletes?

Isn’t ensuring the military maintains a single standard of lethality even more important than what happens in sports?

Apparently not. “The need to broaden the recruiting pool to meet the increasingly technical realities of war runs counter to the endless pursuit of fitness as a measure of readiness,” asserted Emma Moore, a Research Associate for the Military, Veterans, and Society program at the Center for a New American Security. Moore did acknowledge that physical fitness is important, but using such tests as a filter for retention and promotion “leads to repercussions that can arbitrarily hold women back.”

Captain Kristen Griest, the Army’s first female infantry officer, disagrees. “The drastically lower female standards of the old Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) not only jeopardized mission readiness in combat units but also reinforced the false notion that women are categorically incapable of performing the same job as men,” she writes.

It’s a false notion the Army apparently endorses: One of the expected changes in the test will be how core body strength is measured. Rather than hanging from a bar and tucking their legs to their chests, soldiers will be given the option of doing a two-minute plank exercise. That alternative was “temporarily” introduced last year in response to a high failure rate by women.

Now it appears the change will become permanent. “What we’re really trying to figure out is how do you incentivize excellence in improving physical fitness without adversely impacting any demographic negatively within the Army,” explained Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commanding general of the Army’s Center for Initial Military Training (CIMT), which designed the new test.

The military’s concern with “demographics” is quite revealing. It suggests that, much like other aspects of America culture, merit will be replaced by “equity.”

Hence, style becomes as important as substance. As President Biden explained, “We’re making good progress designing body armor that fits women properly; tailoring combat uniforms for women; creating maternity flight suits; updating — updating requirements for their hairstyles.” Biden also signed another executive order approving “sex reassignment” surgery for active-duty personnel.

Again, what does any of this have to do with military preparedness? For even asking the question, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson was excoriated by a cadre of military personnel who took him to task for daring to state that “the U.S. military exists to fight and win wars” and that it is “not an NGO, it is not a vehicle for achieving equity, it’s not a social experiment, it’s definitely not an employment agency.”

The military’s response? “I want to be very clear right up front, that the diversity of our military is one of our greatest strengths,” insisted Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby.

The DOD also posted a tweet, stating, “Women were limited to supporting roles in the military early on. Since then, women have made great strides to shatter glass ceilings within the military.”

Perhaps shattering glass ceilings — as opposed to shattering enemies — is the best we can expect going forward.

Along with rigid ideological conformity: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a February 5 memo directing commanders to institute a one-day stand-down within 60 days to address “extremism” within the ranks.

Make that some extremism. “The prevalence of extremist and white supremacist ties among service members and veterans was expected to be an urgent issue for President Biden and Austin, who is the first Black man to lead the Pentagon,” NPR reported.

Extremist and white supremacist ties as defined by whom? For a military intent on turning genuine warriors into social justice warriors, the answer is irrelevant.


Germany’s authoritarian war on rising opposition party

Germany’s biggest opposition party, the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), is due to be placed under state surveillance by the secret service. The Bundesverfassungsschutz (the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or BfV) announced last week that it intends to collect data on party members, tap their phones and monitor their movements. The surveillance is supposed to establish whether the AfD should be classified as a right-wing extremist party.

For the AfD, this is a serious problem. There will be two important state elections later this month – in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland Palatinate – and the General Election is in September. The party has filed a lawsuit against the decision – and for now the courts have suspended the surveillance until the legal challenge concludes.

But even the state’s intention to surveil the AfD is deeply troubling. Anyone who publicly supports the party could risk serious personal consequences. In Germany, members and sympathisers of extremist parties can be dismissed by their employer. Public-sector workers – civil servants, teachers, police officers and others – will be especially exposed. The message of last week’s announcement is clear: anyone who wants to join the party or actively support its election campaign should think twice. The same applies to anyone who might want to invite an AfD member for a public debate. The BfV’s announcement will have an extraordinarily chilling effect on German politics.

To understand how this is possible, we have to go back to the time after the Second World War, when the Federal Republic of Germany was conceived as a ‘wehrhafte Demokratie’ (defensive democracy). Democracy, it is argued, must be protected from those who aim to weaken it from within. The justification for this principle was of course the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s and Hitler’s seizure of power, which many commentators still erroneously claim happened through ‘democratic means’. (This interpretation ignores quite a few historical facts.)

From the beginning, the BfV – established in 1950 by the three American, British and French-allied High Commissioners – was an important pillar of Germany’s defensive democracy. Since 1955, the service has been under the control of Germany’s Ministry of the Interior.

The AfD is by no means the first political party or organisation to have been targeted by the BfV. In the early 1980s, the Green Party – which back then was a radical, anti-establishment party, unlike today – was observed by the BfV. Following German reunification, the PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism), and its successor, Die Linke (Left Party), attracted the BfV’s attention.

It was only in 2013 that Germany’s highest court banned the BfV from observing Bodo Ramelow. Ramolow – a leading Left Party politician, who has served as the mayor of Berlin and is currently the state premier of Thuringia – is now, ironically, seen as a bulwark against the AfD.

Until very recently, the BfV was widely regarded with suspicion – at least by all those committed to freedom and democracy. For instance, prominent civil-rights lawyer and Green Party politician Christian Ströbele has repeatedly called for its abolition.

But now much of the opposition to the BfD has become contradictory. When, for example, it was revealed last year that the BfV was observing Ende Gelände, a radical climate action group, the youth organisations of three parties – the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party and the Left Party – called for its abolition. But their argument was not a defence of political freedom. Instead, all three organisations complained that the BfV was concentrating on the wrong people. A secret service that could not distinguish between right-wing extremists and environmentalists was useless,l and unable truly to fight against nascent fascism, they argued.

As is so often the case these days, when political freedoms are at stake, it is apparently only the freedoms of those we like that count. The change in the perception of the BfV is striking: an organisation which was once widely despised has become the friend and protector of parts of the establishment, including the political left, which now huddles behind it against a common enemy: the AfD.

When it was announced that the AfD would be placed under surveillance, there was mainly silence from the left. Those who said anything actually applauded the move. A Green Party spokesman, for instance, said it was understandable, given Germany’s historical experience of right-wing extremism.

One reason for this change in attitudes is that the BfV has picked up some of the rhetoric that the old left has itself been using for years. For instance, the first line on its homepage declares ‘racism and xenophobia’ to be a security threat.

The BfV justifies its surveillance of the AfD on the grounds that the party has not managed to rid itself of the far-right elements within its structure. The AfD is a pretty right-wing party. Its leadership has done much to pander to historical revisionists, radical nativists and neo-fascists. From its founding days, it has sucked up to right-wing activists and voters who switched to it from other, smaller neo-Nazi parties.

In 2018, AfD parliamentary leader Alexander Gauland (a former member of Angela Merkel’s CDU) said that though Germany had to take responsibility for its past, the Nazi era was nothing but ‘a speck of bird shit’ in its long, ‘1,000-year history’.

In 2015, a right-wing AfD subgroup – der Flügel (the Wing) – was founded. It published a declaration which called the AfD a movement of ‘unser Volk’ (our people), struggling against the erosion of German identity. With the onset of the refugee crisis, this group gained in influence. An attempt by the AfD leadership in 2018 to expel its spokesperson, Bernd Höcke, failed. Höcke, whose speeches are peppered with right-wing innuendos (such as ‘the country should act like a wolf and not like a sheep’) is still a leading member of the AfD in Thuringia. Now the supporters of the Wing are said to number around 7,000 (out of a total of 32,000 party members).

But whatever AfD politicians and members have said, the BfV should not be monitoring an opposition party: this is a mechanism which allows those in power to try to control their opponents and preserve the status quo. The BfV isn’t a neutral institution, floating above social and political conflicts. Its current supervisor — interior minister Horst Seehofer — is a member of the CDU / CSU government, which has come under a lot of pressure from the AfD. In the 2017 General Election, his party lost over a million voters to the AfD – more than to any other party.

What’s more, the CDU leadership has been struggling to stem its decline and heal its divisions, which have come to the fore thanks to Angela Merkel’s imminent departure as German chancellor. In 2020, the party plunged into a deep crisis, after local CDU delegates in Thuringia teamed up with the AfD to vote for a new state premier. Many of the CDU’s more conservative party members wouldn’t mind cooperating with the AfD – a demand the leadership has fiercely rejected, for fear of losing its more pro-Merkel voters. Surely you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect that the observation of the AfD comes at a convenient moment for the ruling party?

It is not just the CDU which would like to send the AfD packing. Many in the establishment are hoping that the BfV will finally bring an end to what they see as the populist scourge in German politics. Once the BfV has declared the AfD an extremist party, this will deter a significant number of voters, it is argued. But really it should be the voters who decide whether a party is too extreme to merit a place in parliament, not the secret service. And it is not threats of surveillance that will ‘protect’ democracy, but free and open debate.

The surveillance of the AfD is dangerously authoritarian. It won’t solve the real problem the German elites are grappling with; it will do nothing to win back the trust of the many millions of voters who have turned their backs on the established parties.




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