Dear President Biden,
For days now I’ve been thinking about the eggshell skull rule (or the brittle bone rule) and how one of Nelson’s many lame-ass defense arguments on behalf of his client, Derek Chauvin, is that it wasn’t Chauvin’s knee grinding down on George’s neck (spine, windpipe, carotid artery) for 9 minutes and 29 seconds that killed him, but rather it was George’s heart condition and the drugs in his system. The eggshell skull rule stipulates the following:
“The eggshell skull rule, also known as the thin skull rule, says that the frailty, weakness, sensitivity, or feebleness of a victim cannot be used as a defense in a personal injury claim.”
I do see that the rule is meant to be used in civil cases where injury is being claimed and not in criminal cases, but it still stands to reason that if you punch out an elderly person with osteoporosis and kill them, you should still be held accountable for the killing even if the same punch to a healthy young person would not have killed them.
So for George, what if his heart condition or the drugs in his system were factors in his death? Could anyone reasonably argue that he would likely have died at that same day and time without Chauvin grinding his neck and face into the pavement for over 9 minutes? Even if those human frailties were part of the equation, they did not cause his death at age 46 on that day at that time in that place.
According to Nelson, the fact that George was a big man who was suspected of having taken some drugs and who was agitated in response to police pointing guns at him and dragging him out of his car is supposed to give Chauvin a pass on his use of deadly force, and gee, too bad for George that he had a heart condition. His particular vulnerabilities (which didn’t kill him) are being used by the defense not only in an attempt to instill some doubt, but also to shovel blame onto the victim.
And, I purposely left out that George was a big Black man.
Imagine for a minute that instead of being a big Black man, George had been a big White man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, was seen quickly swallowing something, and acting freaked out by police ordering him out of his car?
First, I doubt guns would have been drawn. Second, I doubt he would have been dragged forcibly from his car. Third, there’s no way in hell he would have been handcuffed and slammed the ground. Fourth, there’s even more no way in hell that Chauvin would have rammed his knee into his neck at all, let alone for over 9 minutes. Fifth, even had something happened such that White George wasn’t breathing at some point in the interaction, aid would have been rendered immediately. Finally, had White George died in police custody after having been kneed to death, would there be an attempt to blame his death on a heart condition or drugs?
What happened to Black George and how the defense has attempted to frame it both came about precisely because he was Black.
Nelson is “just doing his job” but the unspoken racist tropes are coming through loud and clear.
Paul Butler warned this morning in the WP that the prosecution cannot make the mistake of making Chauvin’s brutal treatment of George be about race. To do so would leave any conviction vulnerable to appeal because there was no overt behavior on Chauvin’s part indicating that he was torturing George because he was Black and he can’t be held responsible for systemic racism. I get it, Butler’s right. But I still think you better have some good contingency plans in place if Chauvin isn’t found guilty of murder.
May we all be safe.
May we all be willing to admit that this is really not too much to ask.
May those of us who are White stop with the hypocrisy around virtually everything to do with race.
May those of us who are White finally accept that our White privilege is lethal.