Analysis: Something unusual is happening in Derek Chauvin’s trial

The second week of evidence against Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murdering Floyd, has moved on from wrenching eyewitness accounts of the Minnesota man’s death, which sparked a worldwide racial reckoning. Prosecutors are now narrowing in on Chauvin’s conduct in subduing Floyd, making a case that he acted outside reasonable police procedure.

The defense will argue that a combination of Floyd’s health conditions that Chauvin could not have known about means there is reasonable doubt about whether he ultimately caused Floyd’s death. But a succession of police officers have said Chauvin’s actions were unnecessary, as prosecutors try to convince the jury that he acted with malice.

Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who leads the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide unit, said Chauvin’s use of force while Floyd was already pinned down and handcuffed was “totally unnecessary.” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that officers are not trained to kneel on the necks of suspects. Sgt. Jody Stiger, an LAPD use of force expert, said Chauvin had employed “excessive” force. Another police officer, Nicole Mackenzie, said officers are required to provide medical help and to call emergency services for suspects who appear in distress.

Prosecutors have of course selected witnesses who bolster their case. But most of the officers who testified came across as sympathetic, subtly embroidering the wider arguments about police brutality in America. It’s impossible for an outsider to know what’s really going on: Is one officer being thrown overboard to shield the Minneapolis Police Department from wider claims of endemic brutality and misconduct? Or are witnesses revealing a rogue colleague whose actions left an unfair impression of the force and the police more generally?

In either case, it is highly unusual to see a parade of US police officers testify so uniformly against one of their own. More often, they close ranks.

Farewell to all that

Most of today’s surviving social networks have evolved to wield actual influence in the real world. Redditors manipulate the stock market. Facebook may sway how people vote. Twitter is a megaphone for the powerful. But over more than 15 years, Yahoo Answers never did make much impact offline, perhaps limited by its founding concept: a place for people who want answers not from actual sources of information like encyclopedias, phone books or newspapers — but from other lost souls.

The site became notorious for questions hinting at alarming personal circumstances and gross misconceptions, from the iconic urgent query “how is babby formed? How girl get pragnent?” to “how is cheese formed in a cow?” More recently, a rich vein of rhetorical political “questions” posted by trolls or conspiracy theorists has also emerged, eclipsing the more innocent era of debating how to remove spaghetti stains from underwear.

Yahoo Answers closes on May 4. Until then, the site’s ceaseless questions and responses offer a glimpse of the unfiltered American psyche as it fumbles, divided, with the news of the day. Take a look.

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