By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Here’s Minneapolis PD’s press release from the George Floyd murder:
Of course, this was before they knew they’d been caught on a camera they didn’t control. It’s fiction. They left out the part where Officer Chauvin had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Or that he had it there for nine minutes. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along, right? Even worse, MPD paints themselves as the heroes of this story. “Even though we didn’t do anything wrong, we called for an investigation…”
Are the statements actually made in the press release true or false? Well, I suppose most are actually true. He did appear to be suffering medical distress. An ambulance was called (way too late), and no weapons were used assuming you don’t count Officer Chauvin’s knee.
Yet, the press release is a work of fiction because it omits critical and relevant aspects of the truth.
And this is how many, many police reports we review on a regular basis deceive as well. A DWI report might say things like, “suspect did not know his location, stumbled out of the car, and had red bloodshot eyes” where those things are apparent. But you’ll never see a report which says, “He knew where he was, exited the vehicle perfectly and his eyes looked normal” even if they are true too. Fiction.
A common example I give to client’s about why they should exercise the 5th Amendment is this:
- You: My friend and I went to the party. We didn’t see anyone there we really knew. It was very uncomfortable. I think we finished about half of a beer each and we decided to leave.
- Police Report: Suspect admitted entering the house.
Does the report say anything untrue? I suppose not. But its a lie.
The public gets a small taste with this news snippet of the perennial challenge of trying to take police reports at face value. You just can’t. Even when reports don’t exaggerate or don’t outright state mis-truths, then can still be extremely dishonest.
Part of the process of defending someone is filling in the gaps which comprise the truth.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is currently designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.