Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro Misstates Law, Facts, in Chauvin Verdict

  • Fox News Continues Debasing their Credibility with Jeanine Pirro saying Derek Chauvin lacks a viable appeal
  • Judge Pirro misstates the law in a significant way, mixing together legal and evidentiary issues
  • Basic Supreme Court precedent suggests Chauvin has several paths open to a potential successful appeal, or at least one with a great deal of merit

OUR RATING: Major Negligence. MSNBC-level basic journalistic negligence

Indicted Outlet: Jeanine Pirro | Fox News Channel | Link | Archive

Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing George Floyd in Minneapolis, a death that sparked a summer of BLM-led riots across the country. 

Some of the most irresponsible journalism happens in the moments after a major news story happens, but also some of the most consequential. The things said, the narrative frames established, persist because they become the first ones heard. The first established narratives become difficult, if not impossible, to overcome regardless of how true or false they are.

Fox News’ legal expert, Jeanine Pirro, who is a former Judge and ought to know better, said the day of the jury’s conviction that defendant Derek Chauvin has no viable grounds for an appeal. Her exact quote, “this verdict will be held on appeal.” This is far from the case, a bad read on the situation, at odds with public facts already in the case, and Pirro should be ashamed of her egregious legal negligence here.

Major Violations:

  • Opinion as Fact
  • Superficial Investigation
  • Misusing a Word

Here’s what Pirro said:

“Clearly the verdict is supported by the facts… make no mistake, the facts are solid on this verdict, this verdict will be held on appeal.” [1]

Let’s first identify that any criminal trial relies on two important types of arguments: factual evidence, and matters of law. As a matter of law, for Officer Derek Chauvin to have murdered George Floyd, he would need to have had the intent to do so, meaning that to be convicted that issue would have to be proven beyond the standard of ‘reasonable doubt.’

Said another way: there must not be any reasonable doubt that Derek Chauvin had the intention to kill George Floyd. As a factual and evidentiary issue, then, the prosecution would seek to admit facts that showed such intent in order to satisfy that legal requirement. This is called “mens rea” evidence, evidence of a so-called “guilty mind,” and trial watchers say that the prosecution offered none to establish Chauvin’s guilty state of mind while Floyd died.

Criminal trials rely on pieces of evidence and facts to prove a series of legal issues.

What Judge Pirro is saying when she says ‘the facts are solid’ and that ‘the verdict will be held on appeal’ she is substantially misconstruing the two important pieces of a successful criminal trial. And in her wording she presents her opinion as fact, in saying that there is no viable appeal possible.

As a general rule, appellate courts, especially as they relate to questions about evidence, do not nitpick evidence on appeal. Instead, they prefer to focus on violations of law and procedure. So, if Chauvin were to file an appeal in this case, he would likely do it challenging an issue of law and not an evidentiary issue.

Meaning that Pirro’s quote makes no sense: solid facts for a conviction still might mean you have a potential successful appeal. 

An example would be the case of Sam Sheppard, sometimes claimed as the inspiration for the television series “The Fugitive” and the 1991 movie of the same name starring Harrison Ford. The question the court sought to examine was whether the ‘carnival atmosphere’ of the trial court’s criminal trial, which involved a great deal of prejudicial pretrial publicity, made it impossible for Sam Sheppard to get a fair trial. The Supreme Court case was styled as Sheppard v. Maxwell, (1966) [2]

The court was saying that regardless of whether Sheppard was guilty or not, he could not have been convicted because as a matter of law, his due process rights were invalidated because the trial court did not properly protect his ability to have a fair trial.

Due process is generally defined as “a course of formal proceedings (such as legal proceedings) carried out regularly and in accordance with established rules and principles” [3] [4]

Pirro apparently did either a superficial investigation into the facts of the Chauvin trial that might support any one of a number of possible appellate cases, or merely ignored them to vent her opinion. 

Jurors in the Chauvin trial had their biographical information published by the main Minneapolis news outlets to the extent that they could likely be individually identified. [5]

The judge refused to ‘sequester’ the jury, which means keep them held up in a hotel to avoid publicity and to instruct them not to read about the case. [6][7]

It was no secret today that the Minneapolis city government was planning for another BLM riot to rampage the city and create millions in death and destruction. [8]

Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld said he was glad Chauvin was guilty even though he wasn’t guilty, because that meant his neighborhood wouldn’t riot and his home and property would be safe. [9]

Certainly Derek Chauvin could make a similar claim to Sam Sheppard: that his trial court was a circus and he was denied due process. 

This is certainly a carnival atmosphere and a joke of due process of law. Chauvin could file an appeal on this basis and have it considered as a matter of law. Pirro is completely inappropriate, foolish, and idiotic to say that an appeal would be a sure loser.

The Chauvin trial judge himself admitted that an appeal might be proper [10][11] merely due to the political intervention of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who said:

“If nothing (happens), then we know … we’ve got to not only stay in the streets, that we’ve got to fight for justice. That I am very hopeful, and I hope that we’re going to get a verdict that is a guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don’t, we cannot go away,” [12]

Courts give wide deference to juries, their deliberations, and their decisions, but if a jury was improperly influenced by external factors, if the courtroom and its objective legal processes were frustrated by politics, media, and outside pressure, that is certainly grounds for a successful legal appeal. 

It’s certainly obvious that the entire government was preparing for, and worried about, an outcome that could have led to serious rioting and violence. There are even ‘celebratory’ rioting going on to celebrate Chauvin’s conviction. [13] Biden said he was praying for the “right result” because the evidence was “overwhelming.” [14] This is far from a normal trial, and it’s far from an atmosphere conducive to justice. 

This is all, also, not to get into the many factual and evidentiary problems with a Chauvin conviction, which could result in independent grounds for appeal depending on facts known today, but also facts that might arise later about how evidence was held or mishandled, and evidence that was suppressed. Almost always in a criminal conviction, there exists grounds for some appeal because of known or potential violations of a defendants’ rights.

Courts are very political creatures, they may look at the same riots and decide to punt Chauvin’s case on a technicality. It might be impossible for certain politically-disadvantaged defendants to receive any due process in this environment, but it is certainly not a sure thing that there is no basis for an appeal and a successful appeal, given the facts, would certainly be possible.

Jeanine Pirro is not just an attorney but a former judge and prosecutor, she knows better and should watch her words. Her statement and opinion is legal and journalistic negligence.

OUR RATING: Major Negligence. MSNBC-level basic journalistic negligence

CORRECTION: A prior version of this article misstated the first name of Officer Derek Chauvin, we regret the error.


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