Protesters continue to march demanding "justice for George Floyd," and many media outlets seem to continue with the same outcry. However, I would put forward that Floyd has already received the justice they are demanding.
Justice should not be defined as the accused being convicted. Justice should be defined by the actions taken in response to what occurred. Floyd died during the process of being arrested in what appeared to be an excessive use of force by police. The police chief decided, within days, that the officers had acted outside of the proper protocol and fired them. Law enforcement and prosecutors investigated the actions, concluded there was sufficient reason to believe that a crime had been committed and brought charges against all the officers. And today a jury has been empaneled and the trial is underway.
I do not know if the accused is guilty of committing a crime or not. I have not seen all the evidence, and I have not been instructed on the law, so I am not able to make a valid determination. The jury will be in that position, and regardless of its decision, George Floyd has received the justice that any of us would deserve.
Gary Shelton, Prior Lake
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Derek Chauvin's attorney launched his defense with the stunningly spurious claim that "there are always two sides to a story." While that may be true for some stories, the overarching statement falsely implies guilt on both sides of crimes. It's ridiculous and insulting, as anyone who's ever been raped or abducted, robbed at gunpoint or had their car stolen will tell you.
Leslie Martin, Mendota Heights
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I am white and instantly saw the dog-whistling racial bias the Chauvin defense attorney evoked when he pressed Donald Williams II about being "angry" ("Social media erupts over 'angry Black man' exchange during trial," March 31). This was but one instance when the defense has interjected racial stereotypes and biases into the case. The incidents and approach have been clear to many and didn't strike "a nerve among [just] some Black Minnesotans and on social media," as your article states.
I'm appalled that Judge Peter Cahill has failed to stop this. Trial examples mostly involve racialized ideas that Black men are by nature dangerous and irrational and police (assumed to be white) were in a setting where they had to be on guard in aggressively defensive ways because it was a "dark" place (on a beautiful, sunlit, May evening). The prosecutors have found themselves needing to use code and subtle redirect tactics to expose only some of the falsehoods and dog whistles or be silenced and accused of interjecting race into the trial.
The many instances of the unrestrained defense tactic demonstrate the failure of the court to create a truly race-neutral trial for all citizens and how commonplace this in the American judicial system. This will continue until the judicial system rids itself of the structural racism that Cahill has been allowing. That could be helped by mainstream media reporting this activity as it happens rather than focusing on one of many instances of it in an article that states only "some Black Minnesotans" found it "struck a nerve."
Matt Rohn, Northfield, Minn.
'Working well since 1789'? Um, no.
Leaving election laws to the states "has been working well since 1789," according to Kim Crockett, the author of the commentary "States should make voting rules, not D.C." (Opinion Exchange, March 31.) I would imagine were Rep. John Lewis still alive he would strongly disagree — and remind us of the brutal beating he suffered as a young man on the Edmund Pettus Bridge for asking for the right to vote. As would Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers, other civil rights leaders. These are the names history has elevated. We do not know all the names of the Black voters the Georgia Legislature and governor have targeted with a voter suppression law so severe it even makes giving a glass of water to a person standing in line to vote a crime.
Given Crockett's role in an organization whose leadership is white and says its primary focus is on "election integrity," why did the Star Tribune allow the author to call herself a voting rights advocate? The real voting rights advocates are cheering on the For the People Act and are urging Sen. Amy Klobuchar to fight hard for the rights of all voters.
Deborah Schlick, St. Paul
SEXUAL ASSAULT RULING
Changing law is out of court's hands
On March 24, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued the unanimous decision, authored by Associate Justice Paul Thissen, in State of Minnesota v. Khalil, in which the court determined that for purposes of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct the statutory definition of "mentally incapacitated" in Minnesota Statute Section 609.341, subdivision 7 (2020) did not include circumstances where an individual voluntarily ingested alcohol and became intoxicated before being sexually assaulted. In reaching its decision, the court referred to the plain language of the statute, which provides, "mental incapacity means that a person under the influence of alcohol, a narcotic, anesthetic, or any other substance, administered to that person without the person's agreement, lacks the judgment to give a reasoned consent to sexual conduct or sexual penetration." The court's decision resulted in the reversal of the third-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction of defendant Khalil and the case was remanded back to the district court for a new trial.
In the days since the ruling was issued, some have claimed that the Supreme Court in general and Thissen in particular determined that sexual assault of an intoxicated person is not illegal. These claims misstate and misinterpret the court's decision. The Khalil decision was limited to the interpretation of the term "mentally incapacitated" as defined by Minnesota Statute Section 609.341, subdivision 7 (2020).
The power to change the language of the statute, including how the term "mental incapacity" is defined, is within the authority of the Minnesota Legislature and not the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Dyan J. Ebert, St. Cloud
The writer is president of the Minnesota State Bar Association.
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On July 22, 2018, the Star Tribune published the first installment of its "Denied Justice" series "When rape is reported and nothing happens." The report revealed fundamental flaws in Minnesota's legal system. One particularly alarming loophole means rapists can't be charged with rape if their victim chooses to drink before the rape happens.
The Star Tribune series motivated some Minnesota legislators to put forth a bill in 2019 that would make it possible to charge a rapist with felony rape in cases where the victim voluntarily became drunk before the attack. Instead of getting behind this legislation, the Legislature decided to convene a study group to research the issue. The working group was able to present its findings in early February 2021, about a month after the 2021 legislative session started.
Legislation now exists that would protect inebriated people from being raped (HF 707 and SF 1683), but the chances of it actually passing during this session, a budget session, are slim. In the House 35 legislators have signed on to the bill, in the Senate, one. People can easily track the action/inaction of these bills online.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month; it's possible that lawmakers will move these bills forward ... or not. It's possible that on July 22, 2021, three years after the Star Tribune's series came out, people who poured themselves one too many glasses of wine will still have little legal recourse if they are raped. This is particularly alarming as we are in a pandemic, one that has hit women particularly hard, and one in which drug and alcohol use are up. So let's make April the month to call legislators and track the action/inaction on these bills. Will something get done this year? Or will legislators take a "meh" attitude toward raping intoxicated people during a pandemic?
Julie Risser, Edina
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