George Floyd Part 1: Criminal Investigations
There have been a lot of legal questions surrounding the George Floyd case. This series we hope to clarify some legal points about the incident. The laws are different in Minnesota and Massachusetts. In this series we will discuss how this process would play out under Massachusetts law and criminal procedure.
Let us start with the investigation:
3 big pieces of evidence:
The video. In the George Floyd case there was a long video of the incident. The video is a very important part the evidence and must be preserved in a certain way to make it usable at trial. The video needs to be preserved in a way to ensure that it will not be erased or damaged in any way. Aside from the actual film itself, the process in preserving the video is also important. At trial the prosecutor needs to show the chain of custody that the video went through to ensure that the video is genuine and has not been doctored in any way.
Witnesses. Speaking with witnesses at the scene is another large part of the investigation. In the video there seemed to be many people telling the police to stop what they were doing. If an investigation is done properly, the investigator needs to speak with each witness that was at the scene and get their story.
The autopsy report. The autopsy report in any murder case is a crucial part of the process. In order to prove a murder beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutor needs to an expert state the cause of death. The details in the report are very important and need to be thoroughly examined.
In any murder case there are a lot of evidence that is generated, reviewed and examined prior to the trial. The video, witnesses and autopsy report is just the beginning.
Conflict of interest
Who should be investigating the crime is also very important. In this case, police officers are charged with the crime. Therefore, if the same department is tasked with investigating their own colleagues and department that creates a conflict of interest.
Where there is a conflict of interest in Massachusetts where a particular police officer or department is implicated, the state police are usually brought in to perform an independent investigation. The federal government can also investigate a crime if there is federal jurisdiction which includes civil rights violations.
The state's highest prosecutor or the attorney general could also take over the investigation. The attorney general has jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute a case that happens anywhere in the state. If there are any concerns regarding conflict of interest, a special prosecutor can be hired from anywhere to deal with the case.
Internal affairs. Aside from the criminal prosecution, different departments could also start their own investigations on the case. Internal affairs are tasked with investigating police wrong doing. They are supposed to be an independent body that investigates and penalizes police officers. The internal affairs process usually happens in parallel to the criminal investigation.
The Floyd case will not be resolved over night. The criminal process is known to be slow. The first part of the process is the investigation and depending on the case it can be quick or it can last a long time.