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CBS 6 legal analyst on Chauvin murder conviction: 'The system worked'

Posted at 6:59 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 18:59:49-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Legal analyst Todd Stone joined CBS 6's in-depth coverage into the Derek Chauvin trial.

The following is a lightly edited transcript of his conversation with Bill Fitzgerald and Candace Burns:

Candace Burns
The jury came up with their verdict pretty quickly. Was it a surprise to you their decision?

Todd Stone
No, it really wasn't. I think that the jury was out a very appropriate length of time, eight to 10 hours. And their verdict is supported by the evidence in the case, it seems like they're a very diligent jury, and they did exactly what they're supposed to do. And they ignored race, when you know, that's the big message out there right now. But their job was to ignore race and render their verdict based on the evidence in the courtroom. And it looks like they did exactly that the system worked.

Bill Fitzgerald
And given the rarity of convictions against police officers. Todd, are you saying that they could also kind of ignore the badge, so to speak and actually find somebody culpable who happened to be a police officer?

Todd Stone
Well, yeah, I mean, they knew he was a police officer here, obviously. The prosecutor has certain elements of each offense that they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And, you know, those things factor in. I think that the prosecution's theme of you know, this is a pro-police prosecution was very important for the jury to hear and for the public to hear. Because, you know, there's just been so much political talk out there. I think the fact that the jury ignored the racial issues is what's really important here.

Candace Burns
Tom, from your standpoint, how significant is this historic verdict today?

Todd Stone
Well, it's very significant, unfortunately. And I say that because I think we've set the bar really low. You know, let's keep in mind this, there's nothing to do with race and the elements of these offenses. This is a murder. It's a plain flat-out murder. You saw the evidence, it was televised, you know, the jury did what they're supposed to do, they applied the facts of this case to the law and found him guilty. That's what the evidence suggested they should do. So they ignored all the talk and, you know, all the racial tensions, and they did their job, and they did it in an appropriate amount of time. If they had come back in 30 minutes and said, you know, guilty or not guilty and say, Well, how could they even have time to read the jury instructions? Well, you know, they were out for eight to 10 hours. That's plenty of time, they seemed like they were very diligent and it matches the facts of the case in the law

Bill Fitzgerald
Is there any overlap in those three charges? Is it unusual to have sort of two murder convictions and a manslaughter conviction? Aren't they kind of all built almost like the Russian dolls into each other is that they're all three separate charges?

Todd Stone
Right. So it gives the prosecution an ability to have a different theory of the case to argue a couple of different theories of the case to the jury. But Chauvin can only be found guilty of one of them, which would be the highest level offense, which is the second-degree murder. And that's a maximum of 40 years in prison. So that's what the judge will be deciding at sentencing.

Candace Burns
What do you think this means for the officers who who still have to go on trial, the other officers?

Todd Stone
The prosecutor did what I think most prosecutors would do, and that is try this case first and see how it works out before you make decisions on the other cases. You know, it's going to show them that look, we mean business with this. We believe this was a criminal offense of murder and the jury has agreed unanimously that there's evidence beyond reasonable doubt. So yeah, they have to be more concerned, I'm sure that they would have preferred to have a not guilty verdict, because that would have probably in their to their benefit.

Bill Fitzgerald
We understand one of the aggravating factors might be the fact that minors were actually present during the commission of this what turned out to be murder.

Todd Stone
So the guidelines the way they do it in Minnesota, the guidelines would suggest the sentence between 11 and 15 years to serve. But if there are particular aggravating factors like committing the offense in front of juveniles, there's one called particular cruelty. So if the court finds any of those factors, then my understanding is that the court concerns Chauvin above that guideline range up to the statutory maximum of 40 years.

Candace Burns
Thank you so much, Todd Stone for joining us and answering our question. We will continue to bring you complete in-depth coverage throughout the newscast of this breaking story. You can also find all of our updates on WTVR.com and the free CBS 6 News app.