News Release

“Bad Apple” Argument Obscures Systemic Nature of Racist Police Violence

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal@gmail.com
Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, just wrote the piece “Calling Chauvin a ‘Bad Apple’ Denies Systemic Nature of Racist Police Violence, which states: “As the murder trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd proceeds, the prosecution will try to portray the defendant as a ‘bad apple.’ In his opening statement, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell alerted the jurors that they would hear police officials testify Chauvin used excessive force in violation of departmental policy to apply restraints only as necessary to bring a person under control. However, this argument obfuscates the racist violence inherent in the U.S. system of policing. …

“Black people who are unarmed or not attacking police are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white people, the Brookings Institution found. … More than 75 percent of the time, chokeholds are applied on men of color. …

“Prosecutors were compelled to bring charges against Chauvin because the whole world had seen him kill Floyd. After massive protests erupted following the horrifying video of Chauvin’s torture of Floyd — now known to have lasted nine minutes and 29 seconds — the MPD [Minnesota Police Department] fired Chauvin and prosecutors charged him with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. They later added a charge of second-degree murder.

“But what would have happened if eyewitnesses had not recorded Floyd’s death? Would Chauvin have been fired and charged with murder? …

“For nine minutes and 29 seconds, Chauvin continued to choke Floyd as several bystanders watched, many visibly recording the killing. Chauvin didn’t try to hide what he was doing. As eyewitness Genevieve Hansen testified, Chauvin looked ‘comfortable’ with his weight on Floyd’s neck.”