As the Derek Chauvin trial enters its second week, viewers have seen witnesses for the prosecution testify that the former police offer’s restraint of the victim, George Floyd, did not follow standard police tactics or training. In Chauvin’s defense, lead attorney Eric J. Nelson has attempted to bolster his argument that his client may have found it difficult to provide medical assistance or to remove his knee which he held on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes because of the crowd around him.
Still, with Floyd being heard saying that he could not breathe and even crying out to his deceased mother, and with several onlookers pleading that Chauvin remove his knee, it’s hard to imagine that a more humane solution could not have been employed by him and his fellow officers.
Legal experts believe that the trial will continue for at least another several weeks. In the meantime, the grim scene of Floyd’s slow death, allegedly due to asphyxiation, has been rebroadcast – in part and in its totality – numerous times.
And unfortunately, it’s not just grown folks who are watching the murder scene. With most schools still providing instruction virtually and with YouTube and other social media platforms making the trial easily accessible, perhaps the real question remains not how many people will see what Chauvin did but how few?
Viewer interest in television coverage of the trial has been high based on ratings data from Nielsen with one cable channel, HLN, broadcasting its entirety since the proceedings started on March 29. In fact, HLN, which averaged 470,000 viewers for the one-hour slot beginning at 3 p.m. on Monday, reported its
highest daytime ratings since 2013 when viewers watched the trial of George Zimmerman – the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager.
“The numbers show that there is a high level of interest,” said Ken Jautz, an executive vice president of CNN, who oversees HLN, in an interview. “This trial raises so many prominent and searing societal issues – issues of policing practices and how law enforcement treats people of color.”
MSNBC reports that on March 29, 929,000 viewers watched the trial as it began just after 10:30 a.m. By Friday, the fifth day, MSNBC viewership figures for the morning portion had risen to 1.2 million viewers.
Still, the figures are nothing close to interest to the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial during which around 50 million people watched the trial’s conclusion from their homes – a number that may have been <a href=”https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1995-10-05-9510050286-story.html” target=”blank”>three times that size</a> if the number of people watching it at work, at school or in airports or restaurants had been factored in.
But when the Chauvin trial is over and the jury has rendered its verdict, how will children interpret what they have seen? Will they fear or will they admire the police – men and women who are sworn to “protect and serve” all citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity?
Of course, there’s at least one other possibility. Children, having seen so many examples of “man’s inhumanity to man” committed by the police, may fall victim to complete apathy.
In other words, they may no longer find a reason to care at all.
And that is what we fear most of all.