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Posted: September 4th, 2023

The use of social science evidence in the trial of George Floyd

Throughout the term, you learned about different types of social science evidence, their use in criminal trials, and the implications thereof. For your final project, you are required to research a public trial from recent years. (e.g. Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, Trayvon Martin, Kaycee Anthony, George Floyd) Review videos and/or articles regarding expert witness testimony that was used during the trial. Identify social science evidence that was used during the trial or that should have been used during the trial. Prepare a power point presentation that discusses the use of social science evidence during the trial.

(Reading/Skimming chapter 8 “Pretrial Publicity, Cameras in the Courtroom, and Social Media Effects on the Fair Trial” may be helpful to you in the completion of this assignment, although it is not necessary)

Your assignment should consist of no less than 7 and no more than 10 substantive slides. Use the following questions to guide the composition of your presentation.

1. Case name, relevant facts, charge/issue, ultimate verdict

2. What types of social science evidence was used, if any?

3. If no social science evidence was used, what type of evidence should have been used?

4. From what you’ve learned, are there any admissibility concerns? Why or why not?

5. What are the ultimate implications of the use of this type of evidence in criminal trials? Should it be used in the future or should it be banned? Why or why not?

6. What effect(s) would the use of this evidence have on a jury? (Would it inflame their sympathies? Would it play into any racial/gender/cultural biases?)

7. What effect(s) does the media play in the ultimate outcome of the case?

8. Discuss anything else you feel is germane to your particular case.

You do not have to answer all of these questions with your presentation; they are simply here to help guide you.

You will be graded, as always, on how well analyzed your presentation is.

_______________
A PowerPoint presentation Guide on the use of social science evidence in the trial of George Floyd:

Case name, relevant facts, charge/issue, ultimate verdict
Case name: State of Minnesota v. Derek Chauvin
Relevant facts: On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a Black man, was arrested by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, while Floyd repeatedly said that he could not breathe. Floyd died at the scene.
Charge/issue: Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The issue was whether Chauvin’s use of force was justified.
Ultimate verdict: Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges.
What types of social science evidence was used, if any?
The prosecution presented expert testimony from a psychologist who testified about the effects of trauma and stress on the human body. The psychologist testified that Floyd’s experience of being pinned to the ground with a knee on his neck would have caused him to experience significant stress and trauma, which could have contributed to his death.
The defense did not present any social science evidence.
If no social science evidence was used, what type of evidence should have been used?
The defense could have presented expert testimony from a medical examiner who could have testified about the cause of Floyd’s death. The defense could also have presented expert testimony from a law enforcement expert who could have testified about the use of force by police officers.
From what you’ve learned, are there any admissibility concerns? Why or why not?
There are some admissibility concerns with the use of social science evidence in criminal trials. For example, social science evidence is often based on studies that have been conducted on small samples of people, and it can be difficult to generalize the results of these studies to the general population. Additionally, social science evidence can be complex and difficult for jurors to understand.
What are the ultimate implications of the use of this type of evidence in criminal trials? Should it be used in the future or should it be banned? Why or why not?
The use of social science evidence in criminal trials can have a number of implications. For example, it can help to educate jurors about the effects of trauma and stress on the human body, and it can help to challenge stereotypes and biases. However, the use of social science evidence can also be problematic, as it can be difficult to understand and can be open to interpretation. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use social science evidence in a criminal trial is up to the judge.
What effect(s) would the use of this evidence have on a jury? (Would it inflame their sympathies? Would it play into any racial/gender/cultural biases?)
The use of social science evidence could have a number of effects on a jury. For example, it could inflame their sympathies, and it could play into any racial/gender/cultural biases that they may have. Additionally, the use of social science evidence could be confusing and could lead to jurors making decisions based on emotion rather than logic.
What effect(s) does the media play in the ultimate outcome of the case?
The media can play a significant role in the outcome of a criminal trial. For example, the media can influence public opinion, which can then influence the way that jurors think about the case. Additionally, the media can provide information about the case that is not available to the jury, which can give the jurors an unfair advantage.
Discuss anything else you feel is germane to your particular case.
The case of George Floyd is a complex case with a number of important legal and social issues. The use of social science evidence in the trial is just one of the many factors that will be considered by the jury when they make their decision.

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