Pandemic Journal (# 38): Gratitude for Peaceful Presidential Transition

On January 17, this Journal prayed for a peaceful Presidential Transition and Nation after the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the January 13th impeachment of Donald Trump. [1]

Now gratitude is in order for the January 20th peaceful inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris and the first days of their administration.

The Inauguration[2]

 As required by Article II, Section I, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Biden stated,  “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Then as President, Biden delivered a moving inaugural address that provided, in part, the following:

“We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

“So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.”

“We look ahead in our uniquely American way – restless, bold, optimistic – and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.”

The “American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On ‘We the People’ who seek a more perfect Union. This is a great nation and we are a good people. Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go.”

“We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility. Much to repair. Much to restore. Much to heal. Much to build. And much to gain.”

“Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now. A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”

“To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity. I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the common foes we face: Anger, resentment, hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence. Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.”

“Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, and demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial. Victory is never assured.”

“History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.”

“And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, and to drive us from this sacred ground. That did not happen. It will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”

“The world is watching today. So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example. We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.”

“Before God and all of you I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution. I will defend our democracy. I will defend America. I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities. Not of personal interest, but of the public good. And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. An American story of decency and dignity. Of love and of healing. Of greatness and of goodness.”

“So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time. Sustained by faith. Driven by conviction. And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.”

The First Days of the Biden Presidency[3]

On the first days of the Biden Administration, he signed 30 executive orders, presidential memoranda and agency directives primarily focused on addressing the Pandemic as well as some of the  following topics:

  • Reinstated U.S. ties with the World Health Organization;
  • Reinstated U.S. into the Paris climate accords;
  • Revoked plan to exclude noncitizens from 2020 census;
  • Bolstered the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and called for Congress to enact legislation to make it permanent;
  • Ended aggressive efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants;
  • Ended ban on travel to the U.S. from predominantly Muslim and African countries;
  • Halted construction of U.S. border wall with Mexico;
  • Revoked permit for Keystone XL pipeline;
  • Terminated the recently created 1776 Commission and its report on U.S. history;
  • Extended federal moratorium on housing evictions;
  • Paused federal student loan interest and principal payments;

Other Comments on the Inaugural[4]

Beautiful singing at the Inaugural was provided by Lady Gaga (“National Anthem”), Jennifer Lopez (“This Land Is Your Land” and “American the Beautiful”) and Garth Brooks (“Amazing Grace”).

The amazing star of the program was Amanda Gorman, a beautiful, miling 22-year -old,  the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate and Harvard graduate from Los Angeles in a stunning yellow coat and red hat reciting her poem “The Hill We Climb” that went as follows:

  • “When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
    The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
    We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
    We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
    and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
    And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.”
  • “Somehow we do it.
    Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,
    but simply unfinished.
    We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.”
  • And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine,
    but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
    We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
    To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.
    And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.”
  • “We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
    We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
    We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
    Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
    That even as we grieved, we grew.
    That even as we hurt, we hoped.
    That even as we tired, we tried.
    That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
    Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.”
  • “Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.
    If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
    That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.”
  • “It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
    It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
    We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.
    Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
    This effort very nearly succeeded.
    But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
    it can never be permanently defeated.”
  • “In this truth, in this faith, we trust,
    for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
    This is the era of just redemption.
    We feared it at its inception.
    We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour,
    but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
    So while once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ now we assert, ‘How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’”
  • “We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:
    A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
    We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.
    Our blunders become their burdens.
    But one thing is certain:
    If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.”
  • “So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
    With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
    We will rise from the golden hills of the west.
    We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
    We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
    We will rise from the sun-baked south.
    We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.”
  • “In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country,
    our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
    When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
    The new dawn blooms as we free it.
    For there is always light,
    if only we’re brave enough to see it.
    If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

The Benediction

The Inaugural was concluded by a moving benediction from Rev. Silvester Beaman, a pastor at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware and a longtime friend of the President.

==============================

[1] Pandemic Journal (# 37): Praying for a Peaceful Presidential Transition and Nation, dwkcommentareis.com (Jan. 17, 2021) .

[2]  White House, Inaugural Address by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (Jan. 20, 2021); Sanger, A Call for Unity to a Nation Facing a Pandemic and Division, N.Y. Times (Jan. 20, 2021); Lleibovich, Washington Breathes an Uneasy ‘Sign of Relief,  N.Y. Times (Jan. 20, 2021).

[3] Sullivan, Hickey & O’Key, Here are 30 executive orders and actions Biden signed in his first three days, CNN,com (Jan. 22, 2021); Kavi, Biden’s 17 Executive Orders and Other Directives in Detail, N.Y. Times (Jan. 20, 2021).

[4] Watch Lady Gaga Perform The National Anthem At Biden’s Inauguration YouTube (Jan. 20, 2021); Garth Brooks sings ‘Amazing Grace’ for Biden Inaugural, YouTube (Jan. 20, 2021); Pareles, At Biden’s Inaugural Events, the Music was Earnestly Reassuring, N.Y. Times (Jan. 21, 2021); The Hill We Climb: the Amanda Gorman poem that stole the inauguration show, Guardian (Jan. 20, 2021); Gabbart, “An Inspiration to us all’: Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem stirs hope and awe, Guardian (Jan. 20, 2021); Rash, Amanda Gorman composes a poetic inauguration, StarTribune (Jan. 22, 2021); Bykowicz, Poet Amanda Gorman Has Star Turn Reading ‘ The Hill We Climb’ at Biden Inauguration, W.S.J. (Jan. 20, 2021); Alter, Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, asks, ‘Where can we find light’ in Inauguration Day recitation, N.Y. Times (Jan. 20, 2021); Wang & Merry, Amanda Gorman reads poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ at Biden inauguration, Wash. Post (Jan. 20, 2021).

Prosecution Requests One Trial this August in George Floyd Criminal Cases  

On January 19 the State of Minnesota asked Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill to establish one trial of all four defendants, but starting in August (not March 8).[1]

This request asks the Court to rescind last week’s order establishing two trials in these cases: Derek Chauvin to start March 8 and the other three defendants –Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thau—to start August 23. This prior conclusion was based upon a request from the Court’s Chief Judge and upon the following finding by Judge Cahill: “The physical limitations of courtroom C-1856, the largest courtroom in the Hennepin County Government Center, make it impossible to comply with Covid-19 restrictions in a joint trial involving all four defendants beginning March 8, 2021, given the number of lawyers and support personnel the parties have now advised the Court are expected to be present during trial.”[2]

The State’s request for only one trial in August was supported by an affidavit from Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, that made  the following points:

  • After asserting many medical facts about the COVID-19 coronavirus, Osterholm stated, “In light of the increased transmissibility of the new variant [of the virus], the fact that the vaccine will not yet be available to most of the public in March 2021, the length of the trial, and the number of people expected to be present at the trial, it is extremely likely that one or more of the dozens of participants in this trial—lawyers, witnesses, jurors or court staff—will contract the coronavirus during a trial held in March 2021.. . . In the event that a trial participant contracts the coronavirus during the trial, it often will not be sufficient simply to quarantine that individual and proceed with the trial. . . . In the event the Court holds a trial in this case in March 2021, the high risk of a potential superspreader event .  . . could significantly increase the burdens on the health care system at a time when cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are likely to be on the rise. From a public health perspective, it is therefore extremely unwise to hold a trial in this case in March 2021.” (Paras. 47, 48, 50.)
  • In addition, “Holding two separate trials in this case also endangers public health. From a public health perspective, it is far more dangerous to hold multiple trials—one in March 2021, and one in August 2021—that it would be to hold a single trial in the summer of 2021.”  (Para. 51.)

Conclusion

 Now we wait to see the reactions from the four defendants and Judge Cahill.

It is still surprising to this blogger that no one has mentioned that if Chauvin is first tried by himself and obtains a jury verdict of acquittal, there should be no need for a trial of the other three defendants who are accused of aiding and abetting Chauvin’s actions that a jury had determined to be non-criminal.

==========================================

[1] Simons, Citing ‘serious threat to public health,’ prosecutors ask judge to reconsider holding two trials in George Floyd’s death, StarTribune (Jan. 19, 2021); State’s Motion for Reconsideration of January 11 Order Regarding Trial Continuance and Severance, State v. Chauvin,  Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Jan. 19, 2021); Affidavit of Michael T. Osterholm,  Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Jan. 19, 2021).

[2]  Chauvin To Be Tried Separately in George Floyd Criminal Cases, dwkcommentaries. com (Jan. 12, 2021).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Complications in Derek Chauvin’s Divorce Case

As noted in previous posts, soon after the May 25th killing of George Floyd, Derek Chauvin’s wife, Kelle Chauvin, filed a divorce petition in Stillwater (Washington County), Minnesota where they lived and last November the local judge rejected the couple’s proposed financial settlement after noting “The court has a duty to ensure that marriage dissolution agreements are fair and equitable” and “One badge of fraud is a party’s transfer of substantially all of his or her assets.”[1]

Last week the couple filed a public version of their divorce agreement which would award Derek Chauvin $ 420,768 while his wife would receive $703,718.[2]

A Minnesota divorce attorney who is not involved in this case, Jack DeWalt, observed, “Overall, this division continues the underlying concern of the divorce being utilized as a vehicle to shift assets out of Mr. Chauvin’s name as a means to protect the underlying assets from civil litigation [related to the death of Mr. Floyd], and thereby using the dissolution process to preserve assets rather than to effectuate a full and fair settlement in a divorce.”

The couple also face state criminal felony charges in that state court  for failure to report $464,433 in joint income dating back to 2014.

=======================

[1] Derek Chauvin’s Wife’s Divorce Petition Raises Questions, dwkcommentaries.com (July 8, 2020); State Court Rejects Chauvin Divorce Settlement, dwkcommentaries.com (Nov. 20, 2020).

[2] Xiong, Derek Chauvin’s estranged wife would receive most of their assets in proposed divorce settlement, Star Tribune (Jan. 19, 2021); Xiong, Judge orders Derek and Kellie Chauvin to file public documents in divorce case, StarTribune (Jan. 13, 2021).

Pandemic Journal (# 37): Praying for a Peaceful Presidential Transition and Nation

My last Pandemic Journal of January 2, recorded being pleasedthat Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the U.S. presidential and vice presidential election in early November with the largest number of popular votes in U.S. history, 81,283,485, which was 7,059,741 more than those for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. The Electoral College [vote on December 14] was 306 to 232. Nevertheless, the country has been subjected to the unjustified outrage of Trump and some Republicans with ridiculous lawsuits challenging the results in some states, all scornfully dismissed, many by Trump-appointed federal judges. Next week, on January 6 there will be a joint session of the Congress to tabulate the results of the Electoral College, which some Republicans are planning to use to mount other ridiculous challenges, which should fail, thereby making it almost official for the January 20th inauguration of Biden and Harris. But even that important cause for celebration is subject to the risk of armed violence instigated by Trump supporters at the urging of Trump himself.” [1]

Unfortunately that fear was corroborated by Trump’s January 6th inciting his supporters’ insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that caused five deaths, the threatening the lives and safety of Senators. Representatives, staffers and others and interrupting the Congress’ confirmation of the results of the Electoral College.  The Congress, however, in the early morning of January 7th was able to resume its constitutional responsibility to confirm the Electoral College votes for Biden and Harris. [2]

A week later, the House on January 13th voted  232 (including 10 Republicans) to 197 to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection, contrary to his constitutional obligation. Now we pray for the Senate’s upcoming trial and conviction of Trump, including a bar on his ever again holding public office. [3]

Now we also await the January 20th inauguration of Biden and Harris on the western porch of the U.S. Capitol while the Capitol grounds are blocked off to the public and surrounded by U.S. National Guard forces. There also have been threatened demonstrations by Trump supporters around the country, including the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. We pray that there will no violence on this important day at the U.S. Capitol and around the country and that Trump before he leaves office will not issue additional pardons, including to himself and members of his family.[4]

In the meantime, my spirits were lifted this morning by attending via ZOOM a joint worship service of my church, Westminster Presbyterian, and our partner, Liberty Community Church, the first and only African American led Presbyterian congregation in Minnesota. The moving sermon, “Living the Dream,” by Rev. Gregory J. Bentley was filmed and recorded at his church, Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama; he also served last year as Co-Moderator of the 224th General Assembly of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA).[5]

The music at the worship service also was inspiring. The Offertory, “Raise Up,” and the Postlude, “Diamonds of the Soul,”were composed and sung by Joe Davis, Westminster’s Artist-in-Residence, along with Imani Waters, vocalist, and Nil Adjetey Mensah, bass. [6]

At the service we joined in singing  three  African-American spirituals: “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning,” “Guide My Feet” and “We Shall Overcome.” The last  had especial meaning because of its use during the Civil  Rights movement of the 1960s and its reminders that once again we need faith and persistence to overcome today’s problems. Here are its lyrics:

  • “We shall overcome,; we shall overcome; we shall overcome some day.”
  • “We’ll walk hind in hand; we’ll walk hand in hand; we’ll walk hand in hand someday.”
  • “We are not afraid’ we are not afraid; we are not afraid today.”
  • “God will see us through; god will see us through; God will see us through today.”

The Refrain, of course, is the following: “O, deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome some day!”

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[1]  Pandemic Journal (# 36): Perspectives on the Years 2020  and 2021, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 2, 2021).

[2] E.g., 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, Wikipedia; Fandos & Cochrane, After Pro-Trump Mob Storms Capitol, Congress Confirms Biden’s Win, N.Y. Times (Jan. 7, 2021).

[3] E.g., Second impeachment of Donald Trump, Wikipedia.

[4] E.g., Feuer & Benner, Inaugural Security Is Fortified in D.C. as Military and Police Links Are Eyed in Riot, N.Y. Times (Jan.  14, 2021); McDonald, Rhyne & Laffin, Capitol Under Lockdown Ahead of Inauguration (Video), N.Y. Times (Jan. 17, 2021); Schmidt & Vogel, Prospect of Pardons in Final Days Fuels Market to Buy Access to Trump, N.Y. Times (Jan.17, 2021).

[5] A recording of the ZOOM service and the its bulletin are available online.

[6] Pandemic Journal (#29): Current Reflections on COVID-19 Pandemic, dwkcommentaries.com (Sept. 20, 2020) (account of Joe Davis at an earlier Westminster worship service).

 

Defendants Identify Expert Witnesses in George Floyd Criminal Cases   

On January 14 and 15 the four defendants in the George Floyd criminal cases filed expert witness disclosure statements.

Derek Chauvin’s Disclosures[1]

A. MEDICAL/SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS:

  1. Forensic Pathology:

Primary Examiner: David R. Fowler, MB, ChB. M.Med. Path.

Peer Reviewers: William R. Oliver, M.D., M.S., M.P.A.; Brian L. Peterson, M.D.; Ljubisa Jovan Dragovic, M.D., F.C.A.P., F.A.A.F.S; Kanthi DeAlwis, M.D.; and Kimberly Ann Collins, M.D.

  1. Forensic Toxicology

Primary Examiner: Gary W. Kunsman, PH.D., F-ABFT.

Peer Reviewers: Aahraf Mozayani, PHARM.D., PH.D., F-ABFT; Lionel Raymon, PHARM. D., PH.D.; and Sara J. Schreiber, MS.

  1. Forensic Psychiatry: Dr. Michael Welner.
  2. Emergency Medicine: Dr. Kai Sturmann.

B. USE OF FORCE AND/OR MPD POLICY AND PROCEDURE EXPERT

Barry Brodd, Bozeman, MT.

Other Defendants’ Expert Disclosures

On  January 14 and 15 the three other defendants made their initial expert disclosures. Since their trial is not scheduled to start until August, they made indirect references to experts in the Chauvin case plus the following:

  • Alexander Kueng and Tou Thau: Use of Force and/or Minneapolis Police Procedure (Steve Ijames) and Medical/Scientific (Dr. David R. Fowler).[2]
  • Thomas Lane: Use of Force and Related Policies, Training, Intervention, Detention and Arrests (Greg Meyer).[3]

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[1] Initial Expert Disclosures, State v. Chauvin, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Jan. 15, 2021); [Chauvin Expert Witnesses’]  Curriculum Vitae, State v. Chauvin, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Jan. 15, 2021).

[2] Defendant’s Initial Expert Disclosure, State v. Kueng, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12953 (Hennepin County District Court Jan. 14.  2021); Attachment to Defendant’s Initial Expert Disclosure, State v. Kueng, Court File No.27-CR-20-12953 ((Hennepin County District Court Jan. 14,  2021); Defendant’s Initial Expert Disclosure, State v. Thao, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12949 (Hennepin County District Court Jan. 15, 2021).

[3] Expert Witness Notice, State v. Lane, Court File No.  12951 (Hennepin County District Court Jan. 14,  2021). Greg Meyer is a retired Los Angeles police captain who testified for the defense in the 1994 civil trial for money damages over the killing of Rodney King and who is a critic of bans on police use of chokeholds. (Xiong, L.A. police captain who testified in Rodney King case will serve as expert witness in George Floyd trial, StarTribune (Jan. 14, 2021).)

Chauvin To Be Tried Separately in George Floyd Criminal Cases

On January 11, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill decided that Defendant Derek Chauvin will be tried separately starting March 8. Assuming that Chauvin is convicted of second degree murder and/or second degree manslaughter, the other three defendants, all accused of aiding and abetting those crimes–Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Keung and  Tou Thau—will be tried starting August 23.[1]

The Court’s Order[2]

Findings of Fact

“The State did not engage in any intentional violation of discovery rules. Any duplication of documents or disorganization of documents is attributable to the source” of the documents. (Para. 1.)

The State had difficulties obtaining a FBI report of its interview of Dr. Andrew Baker, but after obtaining that report the State delayed disclosing it to defense counsel for eight or nine days, which was material and inexcusable. The appropriate sanction is to expand the expert disclosure deadlines for the defense. (Para. 2.)

Chief Judge Barnette, after being advised that at least two defense counsel would need additional space in the courtroom for support staff, inspected Judge Cahill’s courtroom and concluded that it would not be “an adequate venue when enforcing social distancing.” Therefore, Judge Barnette asked Judge Cahill to consider “having less than all four defendants stand trial on March 8.” (Para. 5.)

“The physical limitations of courtroom C-1856, that largest . . .in the Hennepin County Government Center make it impossible to comply with COVIS-19 physical restrictions in a joint trial involving all four defendants beginning March 8.” (Para/ 6.)

Order

The State’s motion to continue the trial . . . due to COVID-19 concerns is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.”(a) The Chauvin case shall take place as previously scheduled on March 8. The court’s previous order for joinder of all four defendants in one trial  is amended to sever Chauvin’s case. (b) The other defendants remain joined for trial to commence on August 23. (Para. 1.)

Jury selection in the Chauvin case will take place March 8-26 with Chauvin having 15 preemptory challenges and the State 5. In the other trial each of the three defendants shall have five preemptory challenges and the Stata 9. (Para. 2.)

The amended order of December 17 shall be amended to allow the State to “disclose expert reports and findings and complete written summaries of the subject matter for each expert’s testimony by March 1. (Para. 5.)

Chauvin’s motion for a copy of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigative file with date stamps is granted if such a file exists.” (Para. 7.)

 Unresolved Issues[3]

Also pending before the Court, but not resolved by the above order were Kueng’s motion to change venue and challenges to the Court’s Questionnaire to prospective jurors.

================================

[1] Fortiti, Officer with knee to George Floyd’s neck will be tried alone, Wash. Post (Jan. 12, 2021); Bailey, Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death to be tried separately, Wash. Post (Jan. 12, 2021); Walsh, Derek Chauvin will be tried separately in death of George Floyd, StarTribune (Jan. 12, 2021).

[2] Order Regarding Discovery, Expert Witness Deadlines, and Trial Continuance, State v. Chauvin, Dist. Ct. File 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Jan. 11, 2021).

[3] Pending Issues in George Floyd Criminal Cases, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 1, 2021).

 

 

“The U.S. needs a democracy overhaul” 

This was the first sentence of the Washington Post’s headline for its January 2 editorial. As a blogger who has frequently lamented the continued existence of the Electoral College, the overrepresentation in Congress of states with relatively fewer people, gerrymandering and other efforts by some states to restrict and discourage voting (especially of minority citizens) and the ongoing Republican effort to overturn last year’s presidential election that gave Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over seven million more votes than Trump and Pence, I was thrilled with this editorial, which is reprinted below.

Washington Post Editorial[i]

“SINCE LOSING reelection, President Trump has failed to overturn the results. But his post-election tantrum, not to mention his behavior before now, has magnified legitimate concerns about weaknesses in the nation’s democratic institutions. Mr. Trump lost the electoral college by a secure margin. What if he hadn’t? What will happen when a wanton president, an out-of-control state legislature or a hyper-partisan congressional majority sees a riper opportunity, based on a cockamamie legal theory or bad-faith execution of its duties, to reject the will of the voters?”

“In short, Mr. Trump and a disturbing number of Republican officials have made obsolete the old assumptions that each major party will play fair, that electoral results will reflect the will of the majority and that each side will willingly turn over power when defeated at the polls. The nation needs a top-to-bottom review of how it conducts elections, counts votes and assures the public of the democracy’s health, so that it resists those who want to restrict voting, trash legitimate ballots and leverage positions of trust to upend valid results. Among President-elect Joe Biden’s first acts should be to convene a high-level commission to recommend a democracy overhaul.”

“The review must be wide-ranging, beginning with the electoral college itself. The commission should examine ways to reduce the chance that a candidate can win the presidency without winning a majority of popular votes, or for a tied electoral college vote to be decided by the House. Maybe the cleanest way is simply to abolish the electoral college in favor of a straight national popular vote. Or maybe there is another idea — such as proportional allocation of electoral college votes between the top two candidates in each state — that makes more sense.”

“The commission should look at encouraging more voter participation. That could mean universal voter registration, which would make the process less arduous but potentially more secure, or making Election Day a holiday. Or perhaps mail-in balloting should be expanded, along with ditching signature-matching for more sophisticated methods of verifying voters’ identities. The commission could even review how mandatory voting has worked in places such as Australia.”

“A clearheaded review of ballot security could recommend smart ways to prevent fraud and promote voter confidence, while nixing measures that are more burdensome than helpful, such as strict voter-ID laws.”

“Some states and cities are experimenting with ranked-choice voting, which deserves more attention. This promising reform could eliminate the threat of third-party spoilers throwing elections to candidates most voters dislike.”

“Voters must be assured that their ballots are secure from malicious actors and administration incompetence alike. That means stronger national standards — and federal money — for voting equipment, staff and support, including stipulations on using statistically sound methods to audit vote counts. Simple changes — such as paying poll workers more, training them better, opening better-organized polling places more often and for longer, keeping better records, buying better machines — can make substantial differences in voters’ experience.”

“Americans should also have confidence that partisan officials will not be able to reject voting results. Internationally, the United States is unusual in that its chief voting administrators — state secretaries of state — are partisan elected officials. Mr. Trump has raised the specter of state legislatures assigning electoral college votes to their favored candidates or of partisan-influenced state canvassing boards failing to certify legitimate vote totals. The commission must find ways to reduce the possibility of partisan interference in the democratic process. For example, secretaries of state might be barred from running for higher office for a certain number of years or go through an accreditation process.”

“Finally, Americans should never again have to dig up rickety old laws to determine whether arcane electoral college counting procedures might offer federal lawmakers a route to overturning a presidential election by congressional vote. The commission should recommend a thorough update of the 1887 Electoral Count Act that eliminates the possibility that a partisan Congress could reject properly certified electoral votes, as Mr. Trump would like to see happen on Jan. 6.”

“There is much more that a democracy commission could consider. The nation’s democratic system, wounded and exposed from a rough 2020, cannot limp into 2024 in comparable or worse shape. Many of the questions raised in the past several weeks are not ones most Americans previously imagined they needed to contemplate. But they are now arguably the most important issues facing the country as it reckons with the Trump era.”

Conclusion

The editorial concludes with hyperlinked citations to several of the Post’s articles and editorials related to this editorial.

I thank the Post for this timely and meaningful editorial.

===========================

[i]  Editorial, The U.S. needs a democracy overhaul. Here’s what Biden’s first step should be, Wash. Post (Jan. 3, 2021).

 

Pandemic Journal (# 36): Perspectives on the Years 2020 and 2021

Everyone in the world has spent the year 2020 battling the coronavirus (COVID-19) in one way or another. The statistics: The World, Cases,  83.7 million; Deaths, 1.8 million. The U.S., 20.1 million and 347,248. Minnesota, 415,361 and 5,382.[1]

The good news near the end of the year was a U.S. federal agency approving two anti-coronavirus vaccines, each of which has been tested at 95% effective: Pfizer-BioMTech and Moderna  And the U.K. government recently has approved another vaccine, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca whle China reportedly has developed another vaccine.[2]

The U.S., however, has been experiencing difficulties in distributing the vaccines to the states, because the federal government does not have a national health system or a program or system for the states to decide on what groups of individuals will receive the vaccines first and how the vaccines will be administered to individuals. Another difficulty is the Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at extremely low temperatures, which is impossible wherever special freezers are not available to store this vaccine. [3]

The New York Times editorial on December 31 harshly criticized the first two weeks of the vaccination campaign. “So far, things are going poorly. . . . Untold numbers of vaccine doses will expire before they can be injected into American arms, while communities around the country are reporting more corpses than their mortuaries can handle.. . . Of the 14 million vaccine doses that have been produced and delivered to hospitals and health departments across the country, just an estimated three million people have been vaccinated. The rest of the lifesaving doses, presumably, remain stored in deep freezers — where several million of them could well expire before they can be put to use.” The editorial continued:

  • “That’s an astonishing failure — one that stands out in a year of astonishing failures. The situation is made grimmer by how familiar the underlying narrative is: Poor coordination at the federal level, combined with a lack of funding and support for state and local entities, has resulted in a string of avoidable missteps and needless delays. We have been here before, in other words. With testing. With shutdowns. With contact tracing. With genomic surveillance.”
  • “The root problem is clear. Officials have long prioritized medicine (in this instance, developing the coronavirus vaccines) while neglecting public health (i.e., developing programs to vaccinate people). It’s much easier to get people excited about miracle shots, produced in record time, than about a dramatic expansion of cold storage, or establishment of vaccine clinics, or adequate training of doctors and nurses. But it takes all of these to stop a pandemic.”

Nevertheless, my wife and I are in general good health bolstered by being careful mask-wearers, avoiders of social gatherings and washing our hands after going out to buy groceries or downstairs in our condo building to take out recycling and compost and pick up the mail. In addition, we qualify for one of the groups that are supposed to be designated for early administration of the vaccine—those 75 years old and older. Therefore, we are not personally distressed by the current COVID and vaccine situation.

Therefore, we  are grateful and hopeful that in 2021 the U.S. will significantly improve its distribution and administration of the vaccines, that we will obtain our vaccinations, that the economy will reopen and expand, thereby bringing many unemployed workers back to work and eliminating or dampening worries about being or becoming homeless.

We also have to admit it is frustrating to be unable to go out and spend time with family and friends, to go to concerts and plays and to eat at restaurants, many of which are going out of business. (A small caveat. the Minnesota Orchestra is recording concerts by smaller contingents in an empty Orchestra Hall that are telecast on Friday nights on public television in the state. The smaller orchestra and groups also play many works that are new and not in the usual repertoire. We have enjoyed those concerts. One of these pieces that I especially enjoyed was a rare percussion trio, and listening to the piece made me think of a friend, Jeffrey Gram, who was a music professor for percussion and now frequently plays drums and other percussion instruments at our church, Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian.)

One cannot forget that we were most pleased that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the U.S. presidential and vice presidential election in early November with the largest number of popular votes in U.S. history, 81,283,485, which was 7,059,741 more than those for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. The Electoral College was 306 to 232. Nevertheless, the country has been subjected to the unjustified outrage of Trump and some Republicans with ridiculous lawsuits challenging the results in some states, all scornfully dismissed, many by Trump-appointed federal judges. Next week, on January 6 there will be a joint session of the Congress to tabulate the results of the Electoral College, which some Republicans are planning to use to mount other ridiculous challenges, which should fail, thereby making it almost official for the January 20th inauguration of Biden and Harris. But even that important cause for celebration is subject to the risk of armed violence instigated by Trump supporters at the urging of Trump himself.[4]

In the meantime, on January 5th the State of Georgia has an unusual election of two U.S. Senators. The incumbents are Republicans—Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The Democratic challengers are Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. This  election is enormously important. If both Democrats are elected, the Senate will be equally divided between the two parties and Vice President Harris as the presiding officer of that body will be able to break tie votes in favor of the Biden-Harris Administration. If, however, at least one of the Republican candidates is elected, the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate under the “leadership” of Senator Mitch McConnell (Rep., KY) and be able to thwart many of the Biden Administration measures. Even here, Trump is voicing unfounded claims that this Georgia election is ‘illegal and invalid.” Needless to say, the two of us are pulling for the Democratic candidates.[5]

====================================

[1] Coronavirus World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak, N.Y. Times (Jan. 1, 2021); Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count, N.Y. times (Jan. 1, 2021);Track Coronavirus Cases Important to You: Minnesota, N.Y, Times (Jan. 1, 2021).

[2] Thomas, LaFraniere, Weiland, Goodnough & Haberman, F.D.A. Clears Pfizer Vaccine, and Millions of Doses Will Be Shipped Right Away, N.Y. Times (Dec. 11, 2020); Grady, Goodnough & Weiland, F.D.A. Authorizes Moderna Vaccine, Adding Millions of Doses to U.S. Supply, N.Y. Times (Dec. 18, 2020); Mueller & Robbins, U.K. Authorizes Covid-19 Vaccine From Oxford and AstraZeneca., N.Y. Times (Dec. 30, 2020); Wu, AstraZeneca and Sinpharm clear regulatory hurdles in a week of vaccine milestones, N.Y. Times (Dec. 31, 2020).

[3]  Stolberg & LaFraniere, Biden Promises 100 Million vaccine Shots in 100 Days, but Shortage Worries Rise, N.Y.Times (Dec. 8, 2020); Mohamed, Chokshi, Thomas, Goodnough, Hoffman & Kwal, Vaccine distribution is about to begin in the virus-ravaged U.S., N.Y. Times (Dec. 13, 2020); Calvan & Kunzelman, Race to vaccinate millions in US off to a slow, messy start, Assoc. Press (Dec. 31, 2020); Editorial, We Came All this Way to Let Vaccines Go Bad in the Freezer? N.Y. Times (Dec. 31, 2020); Hopkins & Camo-Flores, Covid-ap Vaccine’s Slow Rollout Could Portend More Problems, W.S.J. (Jan. 1, 2021).

[4] Assoc. Press, 2020 US election results; Barrett, Judge dismisses Gohmert lawsuit seeking to stymie Biden electoral college count, Wash. Post (Jan. 1, 2021); King, Fourteen days that will test our democracy, Wash. Post (Jan. 1, 2021);  Fausset,Trump Calls Georgia Senate Races ‘Illegal and Invalid,’ N. Y. Times (Jan. 1, 2020); Mascaro & Jalonick (Assoc. Press), GOP torn over Trump’s Electoral College challenge, StarTribune (Jan. 2, 2021); Wright, The Plague Year, The New Yorker (Jan.4 & 11, 2021) (the caption of the lengthy article says it covers, “The mistakes and the struggles behind an American tragedy”)..

[5] E.g., Herndon & Fausset, Early Voting Numbers in Georgia Senate Races Put G.O.P. on Edge, N.Y. Times (Dec. 30, 2020); Latest Polls Of The Georgia Senate Runoffs, Wash. Post (Dec. 31, 2020); Philips, What you need to know about the Georgia Senate runoff elections, Wash. Post (Jan. 1, 2021).

Pending Issues in George Floyd Criminal Cases

There have been four recent developments in the Floyd criminal cases. First, Defendant J. Alexander Kueng has reiterated his motion to change venue in the context of determining prejudice of potential jurors in Hennepin County. Second, the State has asked for a continuance of the trial, prompting an objection from Defendant Thomas Lane. Third, the State also has requested changes of expert discovery deadlines.

The fourth is a strange order in the Thao case only by the Chief Judge of District Court, Toddrick Barnette, denying the In-Person Hearing Request (by Judge Cahill?) for the January 7 hearing before Judge Cahill. Thus, presumably there will be a remote hearing on that date before Judge Cahill. [1]

Change Venue? [2]

Setting the Stage

On December 30, Defendant J. Alexander Kueng submitted his third brief for his motion to change venue. The brief in support of the motion, however, focuses on the Court’s December 8th Questionnaire and refers to documents that are not on the publicly available website for documents in the case.

The argument starts with the Scheduling Order, dated June 30, that states: “The parties shall meet and seek agreement on a proposed jury questionnaire and forward a draft of the proposed questionnaire to chambers by November 1, 2020. Parties my supplement the proposed questionnaire with individual questions upon which the parties did not agree. (Para. 2 (F) (emphasis in original).)

The argument then states, “On December 1, 2020, the defense and the state submitted questionnaires respectfully. See Exhibits 1 and 2 respectively.” (Emphasis in original).) No explanation is provided as to why these submissions were not made by November 1 as the Scheduling Order provided or whether the Court had extended the deadline to December 1.

The argument concludes, “on December 8, 2020, the parties were provided the ‘final form of the Juror Questionnaire’ via email from chambers. See (Exhibit 3-Index # 238). In the same message the parties were informed that the questionnaire had already been sent to prospective jurors or would be shortly. ‘Neither party was given the opportunity to review the questionnaire in advance or provide argument.” (This email from the Judge’s chambers also is not in the record available to the public, and a prior post noted that it was strange that the parties had not previously seen or approved this Questionnaire and that it was ambiguous as to whether it already had been sent to potential jurors.)

The Merits of the Attack on the Questionnaire

The sole legal authority cited by Kueng is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 968 F.3d 24 (First Cir. July 31, 2020), a case involving appellate reversal of the conviction of the younger of two brothers who detonated two homemade bombs at the 2013 Boson Marathon that killed three people and injured hundreds more. The ground for this decision was the trial judge’s failure to conduct an adequate voire dire of potential jurors in this case when public “reporting of the events here– in the traditional press and on different social-media platforms –stands unrivaled in American legal history (at least as of today).” Indeed, “[r]eports and images of their brutality flashed across the TV, computer, and smartphone screens of a terrified public—around the clock, often in real time. One could not turn on the radio either without hearing about these stunningly sad events.”

This court (U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals) already had addressed these issues in such cases of extensive pretrial publicity in Patricia v. United States, 402 F.2d 314, 318 (1st Cir. 1968). That case involved an organized-crime prosecution where the press called one of the defendants ‘Boss of the New England ‘Cosa Nostra’ and how an attorney for a government witness nearly died in a car-bomb incident.

In that and similar cases of pretrial publicity in its jurisdiction, the First Circuit directed that “on request of counsel, . . . the [trial judge] should proceed to examine each prospective juror apart from other jurors and prospective jurors, with a view to eliciting the kind and degree of his exposure to the case or to the parties, the effect of such exposure on his present state of mind, and the extent to which such state of mind is immutable or subject to change form evidence.”

The First Circuit emphasized, “Decisions about prospective jurors’ impartiality are for the judge, not the potential jurors themselves . . . .[a]nd that is because prospective jurors ‘may have an interest in concealing [ their] own bias’’ or ‘may be unaware of it.”

The trial judge in the Tsarnaev case, however, failed to meet this standard ‘by not asking potential jurors what they had read and heard about the case. Instead, the trial judge merely asked them whether they could decide this case based on the evidence and thereby made them the ‘judges of their own impartiality.’

In short, said the First Circuit, “a judge cannot delegate to potential jurors the work of judging their own impartiality.”

It also should be noted that at trial, the younger brother (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) through his attorneys “conceded that he did everything the government alleged, but he insisted that Tamerlan [his now deceased older brother] was the radicalizing catalyst, essentially intimidating him in to acting as he had.” . . . Apparently unconvinced, a jury convicted him of all charges and recommended a death sentence on several of the death-eligible counts—a sentence that the district judge imposed (among other sentences).”

Postpone Trial? [3]

On December 31, the State filed a motion for continuance of the start of the trial from March 8 to June 7,2021. It states, “Although the State stands ready to try this case on the current trial date of March 8, it believes that a three-month continuance [to June 7] is in the best interests of public health.” This “high-profile trial is unique, and it pose unique public health risks.” The large number of people who will be directly involved plus possible public demonstrations all create the risk of community spread. Another complication is the upcoming COVID-19 public vaccination program, which could disrupt trial partipants and which may reduce the health risks of such a continuance.

On December 31, Defendant Thomas Lane had filed an objection to such a continuance merely stating that the “State and its expert, although all powerful, cannot see into the future.”

Earlier this month, Derek Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, filed a motion for a trial delay and told the StarTribune he had no objection to the State’s motion while the lawyers for Kueng and Thao had no definitive response regarding the State’s motion.

Change Discovery Deadlines? [4]

On December 24, the State asked for an amendment of the Scheduling Order of December 17 to establish new deadlines for submission of experts reports and rebuttal reports. Here are the new deadlines proposed by the State:

• February 1 for “all parties’ expert reports;”
• February 19, for expert rebuttal reports;
• February 26, for all motions in limine regarding expert reports and testimony;

The State argued that the Court’s original Scheduling Order of October 8 “provided deadlines that balanced the rights and obligations of the parties with respect to expected expert witnesses.” However, without notice to the parties, the Court on December 17 “significantly altered the existing expert witness deadlines only for the Defendants, thereby depriving the State of adequate advance notice of Defendants’ expert disclosures, impairing the State’s ability to obtain its expert reports and prepare for trial, and giving the Defendants substantially more time than the State to obtain expert reports.”

The State also requested an order requiring each Defendant to file a written waiver of their right to be present if they elect to not appear at the January 11 hearing. According to the State, a “criminal defendant has a right to be present at critical stages of the criminal proceedings” and a waiver of that right must be made personally by the defendant.

All of the above dates for expert disclosures may be affected if the court grants the State’s motion for a postponement of the start of trial.

Conclusion

As a retired attorney without criminal law experience, I think the Tsarnaev case raises serious questions about the legitimacy of Judge Cahill’s handling of the Questionnaire to the potential jurors, including at least the following: the phrasing of some of the questions; distributing it to a pool of potential jurors apparently without prior disclosure to the parties and obtaining their comments; and distributing it to an undisclosed number of potential jurors around four months before the commencement of trial.

Getting these issues straightened out along with resolving the other issues raised by the parties discussed above also suggests that the trial should be delayed.

As always, I invite other reactions to these issues by adding comments to this post.
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[1] Order re Pandemic In-Person Hearing Request, State v. Thao, Hennepin County District Court, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12949 (Dec. 30, 2020).

[2] [Kueng’s] Third Supplemental Memorandum Notice of Motion and Motion To Change Venue, State v. Kueng, Hennepin County District Court, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12953 (Dec. 30, 2020). See also Court’s Questionnaire for Prospective Jurors in George Floyd Criminal Cases, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 23, 2020),

[3] State’s Motion for Continuance of Trial, State v. Chauvin, Hennepin County District Court,, Court file NO. 27-CR-20-12646 (Dec.31, 2020); Affidavit of Ezekiel Jonathan Emanuel, State v. Chauvin, Hennepin County District Court,, Court file NO. 27-CR-20-12646 (Dec.31, 2020), [State’s] Memorandum in Support of Motion for Continuance of Trial, State v. Chauvin, Hennepin County District Court, Court file NO. 27-CR-20-12646 (Dec.31, 2020), State v. Chauvin, Hennepin County District Court,, Court file NO. 27-CR-20-12646 (Dec.31, 2020); [Chauvin] Defendant’s Notice of Motion and Motion for Continuance, State v. Chauvin, Hennepin County District Court,, Court file NO. 27-CR-20-12646 (Dec. 14, 2020), Thomas Lane’s Objection to State’s Motion To Continue, State v. Lane, Hennepin County District Court, Court file NO. 27-CR-20-12951 (Dec. 31 2020); Walsh, Citing COVID, prosecutors seek 3-month delay in ex-officers’ trial over George Floyd death, StarTribune (Dec. 31, 2020). Earlier Defendant Thao had filed a motion for trial delay due to the State’s alleged failure to provide timely disclosure of evidence, especially documents about an interview of Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker on July 8, and on December 18, the State denied those allegations. (Simons, Prosecutors in Floyd case deny defense claims that they delayed sharing evidence, StarTribune (Dec. 19, 2020).)

[4] State’s Motion To Amend December 17 Scheduling Order on Expert Disclosures, State v. Chauvin, Hennepin County District Court,, Court file NO. 27-CR-20-12646 (Dec. 24, 2020); State’s Memorandum in Support of Motion To Amend December 17 Scheduling Order on Expert Disclosures, State v. Chauvin, Hennepin County District Court,, Court file NO. 27-CR-20-12646 (Dec. 24, 2020). See also Court Issues Order on Expert Disclosures in George Floyd Criminal Cases, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 18, 2020).

Comment: Hearing in George Floyd Criminal Cases Considers Delay in Trial and Prosecution’s Alleged Abuse of Discovery Obligations  

On January 7, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill held a hearing on motions to postpone the trial and to impose sanctions on the prosecution for alleged failure timely to provide certain reports.

The Judge said he thought the prosecution had acted in good faith, but should have immediately stamped the report regarding an interview of the Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner, sent it through the scanner and transmitted it to defense counsel.

The Judge did not rule on the motions to delay the trial (or any other pending motion), but said that delaying the Floyd trial because of COVID-19 concerns would simply put participants in other cases at risk because “Somebody is going to be in [his] courtroom . . .come March 8.”

========================

Xiong, Prosecutors in George Floyd case mishandled sharing evidence, defense attorneys continue to allege, Star Tribune (Jan. 7, 2021), https://www.startribune.com/prosecutors-in-george-floyd-case-mishandled-sharing-evidence-defense-attorneys-continue-to-allege/600007945; Bailey, Judge in George Floyd case hears motions to delay March trial, Wash. Post (Jan. 7, 2021), https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/judge-in-george-floyd-case-hears-motions-to-delay-march-trial/2021/01/07/adb081dc-513c-11eb-bda4-615aaefd0555_story.html.

Pandemic Journal (# 35): Year-End Activities During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

The current Coronavirus Pandemic in the midst of our end-of-year celebrations has prompted Jacey Fortin to contrast some of the records of the 1918 year-end events in the midst of the 1918 influenza pandemic. [1]

She reports, “the winter holidays in 1918 were marked by grievous loss. They came during a relative lull after the deadliest wave, in the fall. Another, smaller surge would peak shortly after New Year’s Day.”

According to J. Alexander Navarro, a medical historian and editor of the Influzena Encyclopdia, by the end of the year 1918, “Hundreds of thousands of people lost loves ones. But by the time of Thanksgiving, there really wasn’t much debate about whether or not they should get together. So they did, often with an empty chair at the table.”

Fortin uses family letters from that time to shed light on how ordinary people were reacting to that pandemic.

In January 1919 in rural Iowa Rebecca Tinti wrote to family members that not long before Christmas she had visited a neighbor farm family of eight, seven of whom were very ill with the flu, to help the only healthy member of the family, their seven-year-old daughter, to care for the others. “The mister had been waiting on the rest till he had a relapse and kept on getting worse, till he died a week later. I stayed till the funeral, which was the day before Christmas.”

A relative of Rebecca, John Tinti, in a February 1919 letter said, “I was for three weeks busy doing the neighbor’s chores and burying the dead. I helped lay away more people this winter than I ever did in my whole life. It sure was awful.”

Another of Rebecca’s relatives, Margaret Hamilton, wrote in March 1919, “My heart almost refused to work and my lips and nails were a purplish black. Sure almost went over [died].”

Another letter, this one from Caroline Schumacher of Carroll, Iowa on December 29, 1918, said, “I suppose you’ve seen that the town is quarantined. Don’t know how much longer [the church] will be closed yet. It is terrible when there is no church. It doesn’t seem like Christmas at all.”

This correspondence of Rebecca Tinti is now in the custody of her goddaughter’s daughter, Ms. Ruth Lux of Lidderdale, Iowa. This past April Ms. Lux visited Rebecca’s grave site and said Rebecca was “the Florence Nightingale of Adair County “ Iowa.
==========================

[1[ Fortin, Holidays in a Pandemic? Here’s What Happened in 1918, N.Y. Times (Dec. 9, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/09/us/pandemic-holiday-christmas.html?searchResultPosition=4; See also the following posts and comments to dwkcommentaries.com: Pandemic Journal (# 3): 1918 Flu (Mar. 27, 2020), https://dwkcommentaries.com/2020/03/27/living-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-3/; Comment: Naming of the 1918 Flu (# #)(Mar. 28, 2020), https://dwkcommentaries.com/2020/03/27/living-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-3/; Comment: Other Thoughts on the 1918 Flu (Apr. 22, 2020), https://dwkcommentaries.com/2020/03/27/living-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-3/; Pandemic Journal (#22): Other Reflections on the Flu Pandemic of 1918) (May 17, 2020) ;https://dwkcommentaries.com/2020/06/17/minnesota-romance-in-the-midst-of-the-1918-flu; Minnesota Romance in the Midst of the 1918 Flu (June 17, 2020), https://dwkcommentaries.com/2020/06/17/minnesota-romance-in-the-midst-of-the-1918-flu; Pandemic Journal (#28): The 1918 Flu Never Went Away (Sept. 7, 2020), https://dwkcommentaries.com/2020/09/07/pandemic-journal-28-the-1918-flu-never-went-away/.