Prayer and Meditation for Walter Mondale by Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen

At the May 1, 2022 memorial service for Walter Mondale, Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, the Senior Pastor at Mondale’s Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian, delivered the following prayer and Meditation.

Prayer

“Let us pray:”

 “Gracious God, we gather in this Easter season to give you thanks and   praise for the life and witness of Walter F. Mondale. In remembering him and his legacy of public service, help us recall the source of the values that guided him. You summon us to seek justice, to uphold the full humanity of all, to ensure equal access – and to do so with kindness and humility. Your servant Fritz embraced those gospel ideals.”

“As we face the mystery of death help us, we pray, to see the light of eternity, the light that now shines on Fritz, Joan, and Eleanor. With the power of a love that knows no bounds, hold them close, and comfort and encourage all who continue to struggle for the world you desire for the human community.”

 “ In your name we pray. Amen.”

 Meditation

“Fritz Mondale was born into a home steeped in biblical wisdom and solid, southern Minnesota common sense. Theodore, his Methodist-pastor father, would have trained for the ministry in the time when the social gospel was ascendant. The values of doing good and making the world a better place for all were taught in the Mondale household and in Sunday School by Fritz’s mother, Claribel, who also played the piano at church.”

“’I believe I attended more church services,’ Fritz once said, ‘Sang in more weddings and funerals, attended more Sunday Schools, than any public official in the history of southern Minnesota.’”

“His family drew from the well of Methodist teaching that linked passion, discipline, intellect, and concern for ‘the least of these.’ It was a potent combination of a heart aflame with rigorous commitment to serve the most vulnerable in society. That theological context formed young Fritz, and it would define his character all his life.”

“’My faith and my family have been my greatest blessings in my life,’ he said in a speech not long ago.  ‘I was taught that ours was a faith of decency and social justice, based on the great commandment to love your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Like many of us in the Protestant world, Fritz did not wear religion on his sleeve. In fact, he was suspicious of anyone who did. His was a Beatitudes-based faith, drawing on the simple teaching of Jesus: ‘Blessed are those who are meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who are poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who make peace, for they will be called children of God.’”

“Fritz found the holy in what Wendell Berry calls ‘the peace of wild things,’ whether at their cabin in the St. Croix Valley or fishing up north. His work in protecting rivers was driven by home-grown Minnesota commitment to stewardship of the earth. ‘Wilderness is a spiritual necessity,’ Sigurd Olson said in words that Fritz lived, ‘A means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.’ An usher at church this morning told me how grateful he and his fishing buddies are for what Fritz did to protect the rivers of this land. He said he never got a chance to thank him in person. So, on his and his buddies’ behalf, Thank you, Fritz.”  (Olson, The Spiritual Aspects of Wilderness (1961))

“Every time Fritz referred to his upbringing – which he did regularly – it was his way of remembering what had shaped his life and formed the person he became.”

“The Mondales were faithful members of the church I serve, Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis. Joan’s father was a Presbyterian chaplain at Macalester College, which Fritz attended before the U of M. He met Joan on a blind date at Macalester. It was the start of their beautiful life together.”

“The nation saw and admired Fritz’ public service; I did, too, and as his pastor I also saw the husband and father who deeply loved his family. The loss of Eleanor tore open his heart, and Joan’s death took part of his life, as well. Millions of Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of whom are women. As Joan declined, Fritz tenderly cared for her right to the end, rarely leaving her side.”

“Toward the end of his life, he said he looked forward to being with them both again. Fritz trusted in the power of God’s love in this life and the next. He was not concerned about the state of his soul.”

“Shortly after his 90th birthday party, held here at the University, I had lunch with him. As I sometimes do with older parishioners, I asked if he ever thought about the end of life. He glanced around the noisy place, leaned forward, and said quietly, ‘In the strict confidentiality of this room, I will tell you that I will be the first person to live forever. I’ve made the arrangements.’”

“I thanked him for letting me in on the secret.”

“’Actually,’ he said, ‘I understand it happens to everyone at some point. Do you think Carter will come?’”

“President Carter has sent words we will hear later, but he was able to be here for Joan’s memorial service in Westminster’s sanctuary and gave a moving tribute to her and to the life partnership she had with Fritz.”

“Walter Mondale may not have been concerned about the state of his soul, but he was concerned about the state of his nation, especially in recent years.”

“The rise of the religious Right as a powerful force in American politics was a source of considerable consternation to him. ‘Tell me what’s going on with these fundamentalist preachers,’ he would say to me – as if I knew.”

“Fritz understood neither the Christianity they espoused nor the politics they practiced. Both were utterly foreign to his way of living out a quiet faith through public policy aimed squarely at justice for those on the receiving end of the cruelties of history. His Christianity was kind and humble. It confounded him when fellow believers were neither.”

“Once when we were at a meal in a restaurant word got out in the kitchen that the vice-president was eating there.  The kitchen door opened and one-by-one the dishwashers and bussers, all of them immigrants, came out to shake his hand and thank him for his service to the nation. Fritz treated each one with respect and dignity.”

“On his office desk, Fritz had taped some lines from Psalm 15. The Hebrew poet provided the scriptural framing of the politics he practiced. As I read these words, contrast them with much of what passes for political leadership today (present company excepted):

Lord, who can be trusted with power, and who may act in your place? Those with a passion for justice, who speak the truth from their hearts; who have let go of selfish interests and grown beyond their own lives; who see the wretched as their family and the poor as their flesh and blood. They alone are impartial and worthy of the people’s trust. Their compassion lights up the whole earth, and their kindness endures forever.”

“Theodore and Claribel’s son, born 94 years ago, grew up and entered political life and served his beloved Minnesota and our nation for decades, never wandering far from his roots.”

Thanks be to God for the life of Fritz Mondale.

“Thanks be to God for love that cannot be taken from us.

 “Thanks be to God.

  “Amen.”

Background on Westminster Presbyterian Church[1]

Westminster was founded in Minneapolis in 1857 by eight people of Scotch, Irish, and Welsh heritage and moved to its current location at 12th Street and Nicollet Avenue in 1883 and its current Sanctuary at that location in 1897. Its latest expansion was in 2018, when a modern two-story  40,000 square-foot wing was added with church bells crafted in France. (Here are photographs of the church.)

With over 3,000 members today, Westminster is “an engaged, urban partner sharing good news with a world in need of God’s peace, love, and justice [as a] vibrant, open-minded congregation.” It “is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds deepen their faith and make a difference in the world.” It “offers ministries in adult, children, and youth education; music and the arts; and social justice, with a highly engaged congregation that welcomes and cares deeply for all people within and beyond its walls.”

Westminster is “an open and affirming congregation” that “because of our commitment to the love and justice of Jesus Christ, . . .fully welcomes persons of all sexual orientations and gender expressions and identities.” It “was involved in the movement to change the Presbyterian Church’s ordination standards to allow any church member to freely serve and be elected as a minster, elder, or deacon. Our church was a leader in the movement for marriage equality in the State of Minnesota and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Prior to the legalization of marriage equality, Westminster’s pastors celebrated the love and commitment of same-sex couples, and continue now to happily officiate at weddings recognized by the State of Minnesota.”

Westminster has “heightened awareness of the systemic and critical issues affecting our community, brought to greater attention in recent years, most especially in response to the murder of George Floyd. Through [adult education] we will learn about long-standing needs, and become more prepared to support all members of our community. In arriving at this theme, we are guided by the beliefs we share with congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA), “God sends the Church to work for justice in the world: exercising its power for the common good…seeking dignity and freedom for all people” (Book of Order, W-5.0304). And with this theme we are reconnecting with Westminster’s hope for a just (Micah 6:8), loving (I Corinthians 16:14), joyful (Galatians 5:22), sustainable (Psalm 8), and peaceful (John 14:27) community.”

Since 1980 the church has sponsored the Westminster Town Hall Forum, which is broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, to discuss “key issues of our day in an ethical perspective.” Speakers have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Thomas Friedman, Cornel West, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, David McCullough, Marcus Borg, Marian Wright Edelman, Barbara Brown Taylor, David Brooks, Salman Rushdie, Gwen Ifill, and Bryan Stevenson.

Westminster’s Global Partners Ministry Team nurtures the church’s long-standing relationships with faith communities in Cameroon, Cuba, and Palestine (West Bank). The team plans opportunities for Westminster members to visit sister congregations and related Christian organizations in these communities to share friendship, prayer, worship, and community service. These global partnerships have resulted not only in treasured congregational relationships, but also in deepening of our shared faith.

Most recently Westminster with the assistance of the Minnesota Council of Churches has become a co-sponsor of an Afghan family.

Rev. Hart-Andersen is a member of the Downtown Interfaith Senior Clergy of Minneapolis along with religious leaders of faith traditions that include Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Humanism. One example of their work was the prompt condemnation of the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd.

Rev. Hart-Andersen has been Westminster’s Senior Pastor since 1999 and “is passionate about Westminster’s mission to be fully engaged in the life of the city and in transforming lives and systems in pursuit of the love and justice of Jesus Christ. ‘Westminster is a community thoroughly engaged in living faithfully in complex times. I am grateful that the church is willing to learn and change, to grow and take risks, all in an effort to fulfill the gospel mandate to ‘love God and neighbor.’”

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[1] Westminster Presbyterian Church, History; Westminster, What we believe; Westminster. Social Justice Forum; Westminster Town Hall Forum; Westminster Global Partners Ministry TeamMinneapolis Religious Leaders Condemn Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (June 8, 2020); Westminster, Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen. This blogger is a Westminster member and non-ruling elder who has been involved in leading our Global Partners Ministry Team and has been on  mission trips to Cuba and Cameroon and is now involved in our co-sponsorship of an Afghan family. (See these posts about religion, Cuba and Cameroon.)

 

 

 

Presidential Historian Jon Meacham’s Remarks About Walter Mondale at His Memorial Service

At the May 1st Memorial Service for former Vice President Walter Mondale, Presidential Historian Jon Meacham delivered the following remarks.[1]

“The story begins the year before he was even old enough to vote. It was a late July afternoon in 1948, and Fritz Mondale, then all of 20, had been put in charge of the Second Congressional District for Hubert Humphrey’s U.S. Senate campaign. No one knew what second prize was. The annual Martin County Farm Bureau Federation picnic at Fox Lake Park needed a speaker, and Mr. Mondale arranged for Humphrey to headline the event.”

“The political climate was charged and complicated in that American summer. There was anxiety at home, communist aggression abroad, as a Democratic president sought to govern a fractious party and a divided country. As Mark Twain once said, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Seen as too liberal by the right and too conservative by the left, Harry Truman would say he didn’t give Republicans hell; he just told them the truth and they thought it was hell.”

“In his own party President Truman faced opposition over his desegregation of the military and his push for civil rights. Only weeks before the Martin County picnic, Mayor Humphrey’s civil rights speech at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia had helped send Dixiecrats, segregationist Dixiecrats, out of the hall and back into the Old Confederacy.”

“But far from the Olympian drama of Philadelphia, in Martin County, after the 4-H club band had played, Humphrey took the stage. He was passionate and funny. He said, ‘Kick the rascals out, and vote the new rascals in.’ Afterward Humphrey thanked his young ally, telling Mr. Mondale: ‘Your work is needed. We have so much to do.’”

“Mr. Mondale was over the moon. ‘After that day,’ he recalled, ‘I think I never stopped.’”

“’I think I never stopped.’ And we live in a better, nobler, more perfect Union because Walter Frederick Mondale never stopped.”

“Now, for the politicians in the room — and there might be one or two of you who snuck through customs — an election result: In 1948, Humphrey carried Mondale’s territory, the very Republican Second District, by 8,500 votes. It was Mr. Mondale’s first victory, and it was a sweet one, second only perhaps to his seven dates-in-six-months courtship of Joan Adams.”

“The son of a Methodist minister and farmer, as a child Walter Mondale absorbed a gospel that he never stopped seeking to put into practice: That we are summoned to love our neighbors as ourselves, to lift up the most vulnerable among us — to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to strengthen the weak.”

“There’s nothing more important — nothing more American — than that: To enlist in the perennial battle to make real the founding ideal of this nation, that we are in fact created equal.”

“Now, we can, and we will, and we do disagree about the means of governance. But at our best, Americans have agreed on the end of our common project: To give everyone, in Lincoln’s phrase, ‘an open field and a fair chance.’”

“Walter Mondale devoted his life to that cause. He never stopped seeking a fuller, freer, fairer America. And his years in the arena are testament to a truth of human experience: That the polls and the passions of the moment are just that — of the moment. Headlines come and go; history endures. The tumult of politics rage; true service stands long after the furies of the moment have passed.”

“Walter Mondale understood something fundamental: That we are at our best not when we build walls, but when we build bridges; not when we point fingers, but when we lend a hand; not when we fear, but when we hope. And from age to age, history honors those who put ‘We the People’ above the will to power; the rule of law above the reign of party; and difficult truths above self-serving fictions.”

“Now, the Mondales were a stoic people. His father, Theodore, fought a stutter, struggled to farm, went to seminary, and raised a son, Fritz, who knew hardship but lived in hope.”

“It was a hope that drove him all his life. He was born a year before the stock market crash. His childhood was shaped by the Great Depression. He believed in hard work — he liked to say that he was the only pea-lice inspector to ever become Vice President of the United States. I didn’t check it, but I think he’s on safe ground. Some might have preferred it. He served in the U.S. Army, went to law school on the GI Bill, and always gave back to the country that had made his life possible.”

“Now, he was often caricatured, as you all know, as a big-government liberal. But he’s better understood as a Cold War liberal — a man devoted, at home and abroad, to freedom and to fairness.”

“Freedom and fairness: Bear those words in mind. For they are the words that shaped Walter Mondale’s consequential life — and Lord knows they are the words that must guide us still.”

“In the struggle between democracy and dictatorship in the 20th century, Fritz Mondale cast his lot with neither the utopians of the left nor the reactionaries of the right. He stood, instead, for the centrality of the individual, for the sanctity of liberty, and for the pursuit of possibility against the totalitarian impulse.”

“As attorney general of Minnesota he was instrumental in the Gideon case that gave indigent defendants the right to counsel. He brokered the deal that would end segregation forever in the Democratic Party, long the bastion of Jim Crow.”

“And then, he came to the Senate. In the mid-1960s, in the seat that Hubert Humphrey had won the year of that Farm Bureau picnic, Sen. Mondale sensed a vital intersection of forces. To him, as he put it, it was ‘as if we took the intellectual heritage of Franklin Roosevelt, the moral inspiration of John Kennedy, and a decade of pent-up demand for social change and converted them into social reality.’ As a senator he was a crucial voice for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He led the battle for fair housing in 1968, mastering the Senate in that essential hour.”

“And he never stopped. His causes included Title IX to open opportunities for women. Head Start and elementary and secondary education. Filibuster reform. Nutrition and antipoverty programs. Workers’ rights. Environmental protections. Consumer protections. Early attention to the crisis of climate change. The domestic side of the Church Committee, which revealed the FBI’s wiretapping and harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. The transformation of the vice-presidency in the Carter years. A challenge to apartheid that ignited the chain of events that led to the release of Nelson Mandela. And the nomination of a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, to run with him on a national ticket.”

“Walter Mondale was a giant of the Senate, a formidable vice president, and a truth-telling presidential nominee of his party who never stopped standing by principle.”

“To be sure, it was not always the smoothest of rides. Fritz Mondale knew the vicissitudes of politics as well as any American ever has. When he explored a run for president in 1976, he recalled that ‘after a year I was running six points behind ‘I Don’t Know’ … and I wanted to challenge him to a debate.’ Mr. Mondale would tell the story of Sam Donaldson’s asking Ronald Reagan in 1984, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ And Reagan: ‘Minnesota.’ When Mondale went to ask George McGovern when did it stop hurting to lose the presidency, Sen. McGovern said, ‘I don’t know. I’ll tell you when it happens.’”

“Walter Mondale loved his family. He loved fishing, Shakespeare, Dairy Queen, the United States Senate, Hubert Humphrey, cigars and the state of Minnesota.”

“And most of all he loved America — its complexities and its hopes, its promise and its possibilities. He thought of himself as a public servant, as a citizen with an obligation to the common good. To him, government was not the enemy, or the problem, but rather a manifestation of love of neighbor and of country.”

“On the night of his defeat in 1984 he spoke not only to the moment, as painful as it was, but to history, saying: ‘Let us continue to seek an America that is just and fair. That has been my fight … I’m confident that history will judge us honorably.’”

“And so it has.”

“One of Mr. Mondale’s favorite verses of scripture tells us much. ‘I have fought the good fight,’ St. Paul said; ‘I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’” [2 Timothy 4:7]

The first part of that chapter of Second Timothy is quoted less often, but is worth remembering. ‘Preach the word,’ the apostle wrote; ‘be prepared in season and out of season.’” [2 Timothy 4: 1-2]

“In season and out of season — justice knows no season. Truth knows no season. Freedom knows no season. Fairness knows no season. Walter Mondale knew that. He lived by that. And today we salute him for that.”

“There are children in America today who will not go hungry because of Fritz Mondale. There are Black people in America today who can vote, and work, and live more freely and fairly because of Fritz Mondale. There are women in America today who see no limit to their dreams because of Fritz Mondale. There are safer cars in America, there are rivers of clean water in America, there are enclaves of untouched wildlife in America today because of Fritz Mondale.”

“He never stopped believing in this country. He never stopped fighting for its people. And thankfully, he never stopped defending democracy.”

“He never stopped. And nor, in his memory, must we.”

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[1] Read presidential historian Jon Mecham’s remarks at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022). Professor Meacham is the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in American Presidency at Vanderbilt University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former U.S. Presidents’ Statements at Walter Mondale Memorial Service

At the May 1, 2022, memorial service for Walter Mondale, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama submitted letters of tribute for Mr. Mondale that were read. Here are excerpts from those letters (substituting Carter’s April 19, 2021, letter on Mondale’s passing due to this blogger’s inability to find the complete one for the memorial service).[1]

President Jimmy Carter

“Today [April 19, 2021] I mourn the passing of my dear friend Walter Mondale, who I consider the best vice president in our country’s history. During our administration, Fritz used his political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driving force that had never been seen before and still exists today. He was an invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world. Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior.”

In his statement that was read at the memorial service, Carter said Mondale’s “ideas and energy changed the office he held forever, and his intelligence, experience, humor and determination made me better at mine.”

President Bill Clinton

“Throughout his long life, Fritz never stopped believing in the power of public service to make a difference in people’s lives. As Minnesota Attorney General, Senator, Vice President, Democratic nominee for President, Ambassador, and private citizen, he put his deep policy knowledge, tireless work ethic, and uncommon decency and kindness to work — to expand civil rights and defend civil liberties; create more educational and economic opportunities for all Americans; and fulfill our Founders’ charge to form a more perfect union. And he did it all, in sunshine and storms, with humility, grace, and a wonderful sense of humor.”

“I will always be grateful for the more than 40 years of friendship he gave Hillary and me, and his fine service as both Ambassador to Japan and Special Envoy to Indonesia when I was President. Although those were the last public offices he held, his public service continued for another two decades, always fighting for the causes he loved and the country he believed in, and having a good time doing it.”

“As you gather to celebrate Fritz’s remarkable life, I’m thinking of his joyful spiritual reunion with Joan and Eleanor, and his characteristic conviction that surely there is something he can do to make the universe better. My heart goes out to Ted, William, his entire family, and all the people who were blessed by his friendship, inspired by his service, and enriched by his example.”

President Barack Obama

“I’m honored to pay tribute to Fritz, a man who dedicated his life to making government work for the American people.”

“In championing causes like fair housing and women’s rights, he helped put the promise of America within reach for more people. And he changed the role of vice president, so President Biden could be the last in the room for decisions during my administration — something I will always be grateful for.”

“Fritz’s lifetime of service was an incredible gift to our country. As we reflect on his legacy, may we all strive to embody his integrity, his humility, and his unwavering drive to do right by Minnesotans and people everywhere.”

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[1] Excerpts from speeches and letters read at Walter Mondale’s memorial, StarTribune (May 1, 2022); Leaders, family and friends remember ‘Fritz’ Mondale, StarTribune (May 1, 2022); Statement from Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on the Passing of Walter Mondale, The Carter Center (Apr. 19, 2021).

 

President Biden’s Eulogy of Walter Mondale

On May 1, 2022, President Joe Biden traveled to Minneapolis to deliver his eulogy of Walter Mondale at the latter’s memorial service. Here are the highlights of the President’s remarks. [1]

“I’m moved to be with you here today  . . .[to] honor one of the great giants in American history.  And that’s not hyperbole.  Fritz was a giant in American political history.”

“I speak of a friend of five decades, about . . . the light of [our] friendship and what it meant to me personally, to my family.”

“Fritz and I first met in one of the darkest moments of my life. [After I had been elected for the first time to the U.S. Senate in 1972 and before I was sworn in,] I was at the U.S. Senate on December 18th to hire staff when I received a phone call from my fire department in Delaware [and was told,] ‘You got to come home.  There’s been an accident. . . .Your wife and daughter are dead, and your two boys may not make it.’  Fritz and Joan . . . embraced me and came to the hospital to see my boys.  They [and others] helped me find my purpose in a sea of darkness and pain. [They urged me to stay in the Senate for at least six months and then decide whether to stay in the Senate or not.]”

“My life changed again five years later.  No man deserves one great love in his life, let alone two, but I met and married Jill Biden.  I had to ask her five times. But being a spouse of a Senator who was relatively well known, because of the celebrity of how I got there and the accident, and inheriting two beautiful young boys wasn’t easy.”

“Once again, Fritz and Joan were there spreading the light.  Joan was one of the first people to reach out to Jill, and it meant the world to us.”

“Fritz was a master legislator who shone a light on those who needed it most.  The desire to lift up others stemmed from his youth, from his service as a corporal in the U.S. Army, and those early days organizing for Hubert Humphrey in parts of Minnesota that Democrats didn’t win.”

“Fritz learned early the power of bringing people together.  And I know for Fritz, no moment was brighter than when he joined forces with an African American senator from Massachusetts, Senator Edward Brooke, and they passed the Fair Housing Act. When the Act passed, Fritz spoke on the Senate floor [and said,] ‘The words ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ will mean more to millions of our fellow Americans [today with this legislation]. That was Fritz spreading . . . the light of our country, to families who had never truly known its warmth.”

“At every stage of our lives, at every inflection point, Fritz and Joan . . . were there for Jill and me and my family —on a personal level.”

“In 2008 Barack Obama called me after it was clear he was the de facto nominee and said he’d liked me to join him on the ticket, at least consider it; could he do a background check on me.  And I said, ‘No thanks, Barack.’ [But he said,] ‘there’s only one other person I’m considering.’  I said, ‘Barack, I don’t want to be Vice President.’  He said, ‘Why?’  I said, ‘Because [the VP is] basically just standby equipment. I can help you a lot more as a senator.  I’ll do everything I can.  I’ll campaign throughout the country for you.’”

Barack responded, ‘Look, would you go home and talk it over with your family?  Just talk it over.’”

“So I did.  I called Jill from the train on my cell phone. And when I got home, .. . the first person I called was Fritz before the family gathered in the back porch.  And I asked, ‘Fritz, what should I do?’  And he went into great detail. As a matter of fact, he sent me a long memorandum he prepared for President Carter when they were deciding how their relationship would work. He told me, in essence, that the vice presidency holds no inherent power.  None.  Zero.  The Vice President is merely — and it’s true — a reflection of your relationship with the President of the United States.”

“About seven years ago, I joined Fritz at a forum in his honor at George Washington University.  Fritz recounted that his greatest strength wasn’t his expertise in a particular policy area; it was the genuine personal relationship he built with President Jimmy Carter — a relationship built on real affection and trust.They sat down for lunch together every week.  Fritz said to me, ‘Make sure you get a commitment from Barack: Once a week, you have lunch to discuss whatever is on either of your minds.’”

“He was the first Vice President to have an office in the West Wing, just a few steps away from the Oval Office.”

“That was the true strength of the vice presidency, he said, a strength that Barack and I replicated in our time in office and what Kamala and I are doing today.  And she sends her regards to the whole family.  She called me before I got in the plane.”

“It was Fritz who lit the way.  [At] his core, Fritz embraced everybody with a belief that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity — everybody.  Dignity.  Not just the right to vote, dignity.”

“He was loved by the American people because he reflected the goodness of the American people, especially the people of Minnesota. You know, every senator wears on his or her sleeve the state they serve.  But the love Fritz had for the people of Minnesota ran deeper than that.  He loved you all, and you loved him back — it was obvious — because Fritz reflected the very best qualities of this state: the warmth and optimism that you reflect.”

“At every turn, Fritz reflected the light of this nation, who we are and what we can be.  He called me [after] I had said [at my] inauguration that we’re the most unique nation in all of history.  We’re the only nation founded on an idea.  Every other nation in the world is based on geography, ethnicity, religion, race.  We’re founded on an idea.  ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.’  And it goes on.”

“Fritz believed that in his gut.  I watched him every day for over 35 years in the Senate and when he was Vice President.  He united people, sharing the same light, the same hopes.  Even when we disagree, he thought that was important.”

“I’ll never forget, on a personal level, what it meant to have a friend like Fritz.  Less than four years after losing Eleanor to brain cancer and just a year after losing Joan, Fritz was there to help me again when Jill and I lost our son Beau to brain cancer after a year in Iraq.”

“I’ll never forget how Fritz reflected so much love and light into our family — again, at our darkest moments — nor will I forget coming here to Minneapolis eight years ago to say goodbye to Joan.”

“Most of you remember that Fritz went to the Mayo Clinic for quadruple bypass the very next day.  He had delayed the surgery so he could be with all of us to reflect her light.  And he put off treating his own heart because, as all you know, his heart belonged to Joan.”

“As I’ve said many times — I say to the family, seeing your mom and dad together reminded me of that great line from Christopher Marlowe’s poem: ‘Come live with me and be my love, and we shall all the pleasures prove.’ You can tell when a couple has been together a long time.  So each looks at the other with love — deep love.”

“It’s been said that memory is the power to gather roses in winter.  Well, Ted and William, your dad blessed you with an endless garden of those memories and, most of all, the memory of two extraordinary loves: a love of more than 58 years he spent together with your mom, and a love of 51 years with your sister, Eleanor. In his farewell letter, Fritz wrote that he was eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor, two unbreakable loves.”

“Jill Biden wanted to do a garden at the Vice President’s Residence so that every family that ever had lived there would have stones [engraved with the names of] the couple and their children. When I called Fritz to tell him about it, he came over to the [White House]. He asked if he could go inside.  I said, ‘Of course.’  He wanted to walk up to the third floor. [There he] stopped in front of a door and opened it and just stared.  After  a few minutes, he came down and said, ‘That was Eleanor’s room.  I so miss her.’”

“Well, they’re all together now, for all time.”

“Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.’ There is no doubt that the institution of the Senate and the institution of the Vice President reflect the profound legacy of Fritz Mondale. But it’s not a lengthened shadow; it’s his light.  And it’s up to each of us now to reflect that light that Fritz was all about, to reflect Fritz’s goodness and grace, the way he made people feel no matter who you were.”

“Just imagine what our nation could achieve if we followed Fritz’s example of honor, decency, integrity, literally just the service to the common good.  There would be nothing — nothing, nothing, nothing beyond our reach.”

“I hope we all can be Fritz’s mirror, continue to spread his light.  Because you know he was one of the finest men you’ve ever known, one of the most decent people I ever dealt with, and one of the toughest, smartest men I’ve ever worked with.”

“You were lucky to have had him.  Look at things, he was lucky to have had you.”

“God bless you, my dear friend.  Among the greatest of all Americans.”

“The highest compliment, my Grandfather Finnegan used to say, you can give a man or a woman — he was a good man.”

“Fritz Mondale was a good man.”

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

[1] Remarks by President Biden at the Memorial Service of Vice President Walter Mondale, White House (May 2, 2022); Memorial Service for Walter Mondale, dwkcommentaries.com (May 4, 2020).

 

Memorial Service for Walter Mondale 

On May 1, 2022, a memorial service for Walter “Fritz” Mondale was held at the University of Minnesota’s Northrup Auditorium. He had died on April 19, 2021, but a service at that time was not possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and his son, Ted, said his father “didn’t want to lie in state; he didn’t want to be in Washington, he wanted to be here with you” because “you reflected what he would care about and who he is.”[1]

Remarks at the Service

Remarks at this service were provided by U.S. President Joe Biden, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Minnesota’s U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel, Larry Jacobs (the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota), Jon Meacham (the Robert M. Rogers Chair in the American Presidency at Vanderbilt University), Josie Johnson (Minnesota civil rights icon), Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen (senior pastor at Mondale’s Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian) and Mondale’s sons, Ted and William. (Some of these comments will be contained in subsequent posts.)

Similar comments were voiced by others in the Washington Post.[2]

The Song “Tomorrow”[3]

The song “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie,” one of Mondale’s favorite songs, was sung at the memorial service by 14-year-old Lillian Hochman from Hopkins, Minnesota. She had met Mondale when she was in preschool with his granddaughter and subsequently joined her family for weekend breakfasts with Mondale while he followed her budding stage career with Minneapolis’ Children’s Theater Company. Although he was out of town when she performed in “Annie” in 2017, he told her that the show was his favorite.

Lillian is pretty sure she knows why this song was a favorite for Mondale. She said the title character in the show sings this song to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, promising that despite the Great Depression, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” The song is “really about bringing hope to a nation and to the president, which I think is one reason for it’s [being Mondale’s] favorite song and show.”

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

[1] Bierschbach & Nelson, Leaders, family and friends remember “Fritz” Mondale, StarTribune (May 1, 2022); Vice President Walter F. Mondale ’56 Eulogized at Memorial Service at Northrup, University of Minnesota (May 1, 2022); Remarks by President Biden at the Memorial Service of Vice President Walter Mondale, White House (May 2, 2022); Baker, Biden Extols Mondale as ‘One of the Great Giants of American History,’ N.Y. Times (May 1, 2022); Regan & Viser, Biden pays tribute to friend and mentor Walter Mondale, Wash. Post (May 1, 2020); Mena, Biden Honors Walter Mondale at Memorial, W.S.J. (May 1, 2022); Klobuchar Delivers Remarks At Memorial Service for Former Vice President Walter Mondale (May 1, 2022); Excerpts from speeches and letters read at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022); Read presidential historian Jon Mecham’s remarks at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022).

[2] Mannes, Analysis: Her’s what Kamala Harris owes to Walter Mondale, Wash. Post (April 25, 2021); Balz, Mondale lost the presidency but permanently changed the office of vice presidency, Wash. Post (April 19, 2021); Tumulty, Opinion: Walter Mondale reinvented the vice presidency. Both Biden and Harris should thank him for it, Wash. Post (April 19, 2021).

[3] Hewitt, ‘Annie’ star sang tribute to family friend Walter Mondale at memorial, StarTribune (May 2, 2022).

 

 

 

 

Chauvin Appellate Brief Regarding State Court Conviction for Murder of George Floyd

On April 25, 2022, attorneys for Derek Chauvin submitted a brief in support of his appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals from his conviction and sentencing by the state District Court for his involvement in the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin’s Brief for the Appeal[1]

Here are the principal points of Chauvin’s brief:

  • The pervasive prejudicial publicity, jurors’ concerns for their safety if they did not convict Chauvin and physical threats to the courthouse required the court to change venue, continue the trial, or fully sequester the jury and its failure to do so violated Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 25.02 and the U.S. Constitution’s 6th and 14th
  • More specifically, the pretrial publicity surrounding the case, which was pervasive and overwhelmingly hostile to Chauvin and law enforcement in general, combined with the riots, the threat of violence from a possible acquittal, the City of Minneapolis’ announcement of its $27 million settlement of claims by the Floyd family in the middle of jury voir dire, jurors’ express concerns for their own personal safety and at least two jurors expressing negative views of the Minneapolis Police Department, the media’s spying on the attorneys and disclosing courthouse security measures required the court to change venue, continue the trial or fully sequester the jury, and its failure to do so violated Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 25.02 and the U.S. Constitution’s 6th and 14th Amendments.
  • The third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, for which he was convicted, must be dismissed because his actions were directed only against one person—George Floyd—and because the Minnesota Supreme Court has decided that such a charge requires actions against more than one person.
  • The second-degree felony-murder charge against Chauvin was invalid because as a police officer he was authorized to “touch” or “assault” Floyd as he resisted arrest and because the court did not instruct the jury that the reasonable use of force by a police officer must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.
  • The trial court also erred by allowing cumulative evidence by seven expert witnesses on their opinions on the reasonable use of force by Chauvin.
  • The court improperly excluded evidence of MPD training materials showing a police officer placing his or her knees on a suspect’s back.
  • The court erroneously excluded testimony by Morries Hall, a passenger in Floyd’s car, on Floyd’s ingestion of fentanyl and being in a state of excited delirium.
  • The court erroneously failed to take actions to correct prosecutorial misconduct regarding failure to timely disclose certain evidence.
  • The court erroneously failed to make a record of defense counsel’s “sidebar” arguments.
  • The court erroneously used Chauvin’s alleged abuse of a position of authority as an aggravating sentencing factor to justify an upward departure from the presumptive sentencing range.

We now await the prosecution’s responses to these arguments.

Chauvin’s Guilty Plea to Federal Criminal Charges Over Floyd’s Death[2]

Presumably the prosecution will find counter arguments in Chauvin’s December 15, 2001, guilty plea in federal court to two counts of depriving Mr. Floyd of his federally-protected civil rights by pinning his knee against Mr. Floyd’s neck  and by failing to provide medical care for him on May 25, 2020, ultimately causing his death.

In the Plea Agreement and Sentencing Stipulations in that federal case, which Chauvin signed and stipulated that he “fully understands the nature and elements of the crimes with which he has been charged  [in that federal case]” and “admits that the following facts are true, and that those facts establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt [to those charges].”

  • Chauvin “held his left knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck, back, and shoulder, and his right knee on Mr. Floyd’s back and arm. As Mr. Floyd lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting, [Chauvin] kept his knees on Floyd’s neck and body, even after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive. This offense resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of, George Floyd.”
  • “On May 25, 2020, [Chauvin] was on duty and acting under color of law as a patrol officer for the [MPD]. Through his experience as an MPD patrol officer, [Chauvin] was familiar with MPD policies and training regarding the authorized use of force, including the requirement that an officer use force only in proportion to a subject’s resistance and the requirement that an officer stop using force when a subject is not resisting. . . . [Chauvin] was also aware of MPD policy and training that once an arrestee is in custody, the arrestee is the officer’s responsibility to protect, and accordingly, officers are required to provide emergency medical aid to an arrestee who needs it, including CPR immediately if there is not pulse and other basic first aid, even while awaiting Emergency Medical Services (EMSA). Finally, [Chauvin] was trained that if an arrestee is in the prone position, that position may make it more difficult to breathe, and thus, officers should move that arrestee to a side recovery or seated position.”
  • “After an attempt to seat Mr. Floyd in a squad car, [Chauvin] and Officers Kueng and Lane maneuvered Mr. Floyd, who was handcuffed and requesting to be placed on the ground, out of the vehicle and face-down on the street. Mr. Floyd remained restrained, prone and handcuffed on the ground for approximately ten minutes. During this entire period, [Chauvin] held his left knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, back, and shoulder area and his right knee on Mr. Floyd’s left arm and upper back.”
  • “After the initial restraint, Mr. Floyd stopped resisting officers. [Chauvin] admits that no later than the time the officers decided not to apply the hobble to Mr. Floyd, [Chauvin’s] continued use of force became objectively unreasonable and excessive based on a totality of the circumstances. After that point, [Chauvin] continued his unreasonable restraint of Mr. Floyd until after the paramedics arrived.”
  • “[Chauvin] admits that in using this unreasonable and excessive force, he acted willfully and in callous and wanton disregard of the consequences to Mr. Floyd’s life. [Chauvin] knew that what he was doing was wrong, in part, because it was contrary to his training as an MPD officer. [Chauvin] chose to continue his use of force even though he knew from MPD policy and training that once Mr. Floyd was compliant, [Chauvin] should have gotten off of him and moved him into a side recovery or seated position.”
  • “[Chauvin] also knew there was no legal justification to continue his use of force because he was aware that Mr. Floyd not only stopped resisting, but also stopped talking, stopped moving, stopped breathing, and lost consciousness and a pulse. [Chauvin] chose to continue applying force even though he knew Mr. Floyd’s condition progressively worsened. [Chauvin] also heard Mr. Floyd repeatedly explain that he could not breathe, was in pain, and wanted help.”
  • “[Chauvin] knew that what he was doing was wrong-that continued force was no longer appropriate and that it posed significant risks to Mr. Floyd’s life based on what he observed and heard about Mr. Floyd.”
  • “[Chauvin] also willfully violated Mr. Floyd’s constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which includes an arrestee’s right to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. [Chauvin] admits that he failed to render medical aid to Mr. Floyd, as he was capable of doing, and trained and required to do.”
  • “At the time [Chauvin] failed to render medical aid to Mr. Floyd, [he] saw Mr. Floyd lying on the ground, in serious medical need, and eventually unconscious and pulseless, and recognized Mr. Floyd was in clear need of medical aid. At no point during the entire period that Mr. Floyd was on the ground did [Chauvin] or anyone else move Floyd onto his side, start CPR, or provide medical aid of any kind to Mr. Floyd. [Chauvin’s] failure to render medical aid resulted in Mr. Floyd’s bodily injury and death.”
  • “[Chauvin] agrees that the appropriate base offense level is second-degree murder because he used unreasonable and excessive force that resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death, and he acted willfully and in callous and wanton disregard of the consequences to Mr. Floyd’s life. [Chauvin] admits that his willful use of unreasonable force resulted in Mr. Floyd’s bodily injury and death because his actions impaired Mr. Floyd’s ability to obtain and maintain sufficient oxygen to sustain Mr. Floyd’s life.”

Conclusion

Given these express written admissions by Chauvin, why is it necessary for the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and Chauvin’s attorneys to go through the intensive and costly process of examining the various issues in Chauvin’s appeal of his state court conviction and sentencing?

This blog welcomes comments expressing why such efforts are necessary.

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

[1] Appellant’s Brief, State v. Chauvin, Minn. Ct. Appeals, No. A21-1228 (April 25, 2022); Assoc. Press, Chauvin appeals murder conviction for killing George Floyd, StarTribune (April 28, 2022); Chappell, Derek Chauvin appeals his conviction for George Floyd’s murder, MPRNews (April 27, 2022); Scully, Derek Chauvin asks court to  overturn conviction in George Floyd killing, The Hill (April 27, 2022); Wolfe & Rose, Derek Chauvin appeals his murder conviction in death of George Floyd, CNN.con (April 27, 2022).

[2] Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Federal Criminal Charges Over Killing George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 16, 2021); Plea Agreement and Sentencing Guidelines (pp. 2-6), U.S. v. Chauvin, U.S. Dist. Ct., D. MN (Case No. 21-CR-108 (PAM-TNL) (Dec. 15, 2021). The federal court’s Docket Sheet for this case has the following entries, but the referenced documents are currently not available to the public: (a) 4/1/22 entry for erroneous filing of transcript of 12/15/21 Change of Plea Hearing; (b)  4/5/22 entry for filing of corrected version of that transcript; and (c) 4/27/22 entry for Preliminary Presentence Report on Chauvin.

 

 

Hennepin County District Court Enters Order Regarding Trial of Three Former Minneapolis Policemen Over Killing of George Floyd 

On April 25, 2022, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill issued the Trial Scheduling and Management Order and Memorandum Opinion regarding the June 13, 2022, commencement of the trial of three former Minneapolis policemen (Tou Thao, Thomas Kiernan Lane and J. Alexander Kueng) over the killing of George Floyd on May–, 2020.[1]

Trial Management Order

  1. Specified information about any expert witnesses not previously disclosed shall be submitted by May 1, 2022.
  2. Motions in limine shall be submitted by May 13, 2022, with supporting memoranda by May 20 and responsive memoranda by June 3.
  3. Trial witness lists shall be submitted by May 13, 2022.
  4. Trial exhibit lists and proposed jury instructions shall be submitted by June 10, 2022.
  5. Trial will commence at 9:00 a.m. on June 13, 2022, in Hennepin County Courtroom C-1856.
  6. Limits at trial on the number and conduct of the parties’ attorneys or support staff were specified.
  7. Limits at trial on the number and conduct of spectators at trial for the Media Coalition and the George Floyd and defendants’ families were specified.
  8. Hearing on motions in limine or administrative matters will be heard on June 13, 2022, and, if necessary, on subsequent days.
  9. Jury selection will begin on June 14, 2022.
  10. Jurors and potential jurors shall be partially sequestered.
  11. Opening statements and presentation of evidence will begin on July 5, 2022.
  12. Witnesses, prior to testifying, shall be sequestered.
  13. Audio and video recording and livestreaming of the trial will not be allowed except as expressly permitted by Minn. R. Gen. P. 4.02(d).
  14. At least three overflow courtrooms with audio and video feed from the trial courtroom will be provided for family members of George Floyd and the defendants, the media and the public.

The Court’s Memorandum Opinion

The last 27 pages of this Court document set forth the legal bases for the following conclusions:

  • The Minnesota Rules of Practice Do Not Currently Authorize Livestreaming of Trials Over the Objection of a Party;
  • The Unusual and Compelling Circumstances of the Covid-19 Pandemic at the Time of the Chauvin Trial Have Substantially Abated and the Supreme Court Rules in Force in the First Half of 2021 Mandating Social Distancing, Mask Wearing, and Other Precautionary Measures Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic Are No Longer in Force, Obviating Resort to Rule 1.02;
  • This Court Now Is Precluded by Rule 4.02(d) from Ordering Livestreaming of the Trial Over Objections of the Defendants; and
  • Partial Jury Sequestration Is Appropriate.

Reactions [2] 

An attorney for the Media Coalition, which wanted livestreaming of the trial, said that this order was “deeply disappointing [because] thousands of people interested in this important trial won’t be able to watch it. The court’s decision is based on its view that, with the world returning to normal after the pandemic, it must revert to Supreme Court rules that require everyone involved to consent to cameras before they are allowed. The defendants don’t consent. Our Supreme Court needs to change the rule. They are working on it. I wish they could have worked faster.”

Minnesota Assistant Attorney General, Matthew Frank, in a motion before the issuance of this order, said that prohibiting a livestream after allowing one during Chauvin’s trial could harm public confidence in the process. “In the public’s mind, this trial and Chauvin are linked. If this court eliminates audio-visual coverage at this late hour, the broader public may receive the unintended message that they no longer have the right to observe proceedings.”

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

[1] Trial Scheduling and Management Order and Memorandum Opinion, State v. Thao, Lane & Kueng, Hennepin County District Court files 27-CR-20-12949, 27-CR-20-12951, 27-CR-20-12953 (April 25, 2022).

[2] Mannix, Judge: Trial of 3 ex-Minneapolis police officers in George Floyd death won’t be livestreamed, StarTribune (April 26, 2022); Karnowski (AP), Trial of 3 ex-officers in Floyd death won’t be livestreamed, StarTribune (April 26, 2022).

U.S. State Department’s Latest Report on Cameroon Human Rights

On April 12, 2022, the U.S. State Department released its 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights. This report is the latest annual report for nearly five decades that “strive[s] to provide a factual and objective record on the status of human rights worldwide.” The 2021 report covers 198 countries and territories. [1]

Cameroon Human Rights[2]

Here is the outline of the details on the status of various human rights in each of the 198 countries and territories, including Cameroon:

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

  1. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
  2. Disappearance
  3. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading treatment or Punishment
  4. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
  5. Denial of Fair Public Trial
  6. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, Or Correspondence

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

  1. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media
  2. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
  3. Freedom of Religion
  4. Freedom of Movement and the Right To Leave the Country
  5. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced People
  6. Protection of Refugees

Section 3.  Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Section 4.  Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Section 5.  Governmental Posture Towards International and           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Section 6.  Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Section 7. Worker Rights

Executive Summary of Cameroon Human Rights

The report on Cameroon begins with the following Executive Summary.

“Cameroon is a republic dominated by a strong presidency. The president retains power over the legislative and judicial branches of government. The ruling political party, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, has remained in power since its creation in 1985. The country held legislative elections in February 2020 that were marked by irregularities. The ruling party won 152 of 180 National Assembly seats. Paul Biya has served as president since 1982. He was last reelected in 2018 in an election marked by irregularities.”

“The national police and the national gendarmerie are responsible for internal security. The former reports to the General Delegation of National Security and the latter to the Secretariat of State for Defense in charge of the Gendarmerie. The army shares some domestic security responsibilities; it reports to the minister delegate at the presidency in charge of defense. The Rapid Intervention Battalion reports directly to the president. Civilian and military authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.”

“Casualties rose in the Anglophone crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. Anglophone separatists used improvised explosive devices with greater success. ISIS-West Africa increased attacks in the Far North Region. The government continued to crack down on the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement, and in December several of its members were sentenced to prison for terms ranging from one to seven years following protests in 2020.”

“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government and nonstate armed groups; forced disappearances by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government and nonstate armed groups; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious abuses in a conflict, including abductions and unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers by nonstate armed groups; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; serious restrictions on freedom of movement; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; lack of investigations and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence or use of laws criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct between adults.”

“Although the government took some steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or corruption, it did not do so systematically and rarely held public proceedings. Impunity remained a serious problem.”

“Armed separatists, Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa, and criminal gangs also committed human rights abuses, some of which were investigated by the government.”

Conclusion[3]

Commenting on this report, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said governments around the world, including Russia and China, grew more repressive last year. One example was the increasingly brazen way governments were “reaching across borders to threaten and attack critics” while some governments such as Cuba, Egypt and Russia were quick to lock up critics at home. Blinken also noted there had been “a serious erosion of human rights” in Afghanistan.

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

[1] U.S. State Dep’t, 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights (April 12, 2022).

[2] U.S. State Dep’t, 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cameroon (April 12, 2022).

[3] Crowley, U.S. Report Describes a Global Retreat on Human Rights and Democracy, N.Y. Times (April 12, 2022);U.S. State DRyan, Human rights and democracy eroding worldwide, U.S. finds, Wash. Post (April 12, 2022).

 

U.S. State Department’s Latest Report on Cuban Human Rights

On April 12, 2022, the U.S. State Department released its 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights. This report is the latest annual report that for nearly five decades has striven “to provide a factual and objective record on the status of human rights worldwide.” The 2021 report covers 198 countries and territories. [1]

Cuban Human Rights[2]

Here is the outline of the details on the status of various human rights in each of the 198 countries and territories, including Cuba:

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

  1. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
  2. Disappearance
  3. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading treatment or Punishment
  4. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
  5. Denial of Fair Public Trial
  6. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, Or Correspondence

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

  1. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media
  2. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
  3. Freedom of Religion
  4. Freedom of Movement and the Right To Leave the Country
  5. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced People
  6. Protection of Refugees

Section 3.  Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Section 4.  Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Section 5.  Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Section 6.  Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Section 7. Worker Rights

Executive Summary of Cuban Human Rights

The report on Cuba begins with the following Executive Summary.

“Cuba is an authoritarian state. The 2019 constitution codifies that Cuba remains a one-party system in which the Communist Party is the only legal political party. On April 19, President Miguel Diaz-Canel replaced former president Raul Castro as first secretary of the Communist Party, the highest political entity of the state by law. Elections were neither free nor fair nor competitive.”

“The Ministry of Interior controls police, internal security forces, and the prison system. The ministry’s National Revolutionary Police are the primary law enforcement organization. Specialized units of the ministry’s state security branch are responsible for monitoring, infiltrating, and suppressing independent political activity. The national leadership, including members of the military, maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses, and the number of political prisoners increased dramatically, with many held in pretrial detention under extremely harsh and degrading conditions.”

“On January 28, security forces violently arrested more than 20 artists and journalist peacefully protesting in front of the Ministry of Culture for the release of detained artists. On July 11, spontaneous peaceful protests broke out across the island. In the largest and most widespread demonstrations in decades, tens of thousands of citizens across the country poured into the streets to demand an end to repression as well as to criticize the government’s failure to meet their basic needs and its poor response to COVID-19. Social media posts helped spread news of the protests among citizens. Security forces responded with tear gas, beatings, and arrests. First Secretary of the Communist Party and President Miguel Diaz-Canel went on national television to call on “all revolutionaries and communists to confront these protests,” a reference to Article Four of the 2019 constitution, which gives citizens the right to “combat through any means, including armed combat” any who “intend to topple the political, social, and economic order established by this constitution.” Many of those arrested reported cruel and degrading treatment in prison. In October authorities denied permission for a protest planned for November 15 and threatened organizers. The government conducted summary trials for some protesters; sought long prison sentences, some up to 30 years, in hundreds of cases; and held other protesters in extended pretrial detention. Some activists chose to go into exile, and the government forced others to do so.”

“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings, by the government; forced disappearance by the government; torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of political dissidents, detainees, and prisoners by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests and detentions; political prisoners; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; reprisals against family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media including violence or threats of violence against journalists, censorship, and criminal libel laws used against persons who criticized government leadership; serious restrictions on internet freedom; severe restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly and denial of freedom of association, including refusal to recognize independent associations; severe restrictions on religious freedom; restrictions on internal and external freedom of movement; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections, including serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; a lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons, including forced labor; and outlawing of independent trade unions.”

“Government officials, at the direction of their superiors, committed most human rights abuses. As a matter of policy, officials failed to investigate or prosecute those who committed these abuses. Impunity for the perpetrators remained widespread, as was impunity for official corruption.”

Conclusion[3]

Commenting on this report, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said governments around the world, including Russia and China, grew more repressive last year. One example was the increasingly brazen way governments were “reaching across borders to threaten and attack critics” while some governments such as Cuba, Egypt and Russia were quick to lock up critics at home. Blinken also noted there had been “a serious erosion of human rights” in Afghanistan.

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

[1] U.S. State Dep’t, 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights (April 12, 2022).

[2] U.S. State Dep’t, 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cuba (April 12, 2022).

[3] Crowley, U.S. Report Describes a Global Retreat on Human Rights and Democracy, N.Y. Times (April 12, 2022).; Ryan, Human rights and democracy eroding worldwide, U.S. finds, Wash. Post (April 12, 2022).

 

Federal Criminal Trial for Killing George Floyd: Jury Deliberations and Verdict

On February 23, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson gave the Court’s instructions to the jury, and the jury engaged in their deliberations for the rest of the day and most of the next day. On the afternoon of February 24, the jury rendered its verdict. [1]

                                                     Jury Instructions

The Judge told the jurors they must view the evidence in light of what a “reasonable officer at the scene” would have done “without the benefit of 20-20 hindsight” and then “determine whether the decision to use force on Floyd was reasonable under the circumstances that were tense and rapidly evolving.” 

Moreover, “it violates the Constitution for a police officer to fail to intervene if he had knowledge of the force and an ability to do so.” 

On each count, if the jurors find an officer guilty, they must determine whether the officer’s actions caused Floyd’s death. (If the jury so finds, longer sentences would be permissible.)

                                                        Jury Verdict [2]

On the afternoon of February 24, after total deliberations of 13 hours over two days, the jury rendered its verdict that all three defendants were guilty of all charges.

                                            Reactions to the Verdict [3]

Afterwards, Assistant U.S. Attorney LeeAnn Bell said, “[A]s one of the brave bystanders said, ‘George Floyd was a human being.’ He deserved to be treated as such.”

George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, said, “This is something we want everybody to remember: If you kill somebody, you’re going to get time.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison stated, “Once again, the principle that no one is above the law and no one is beneath it has been upheld. The verdicts vindicate the principle that officers have a duty  and a responsibility to intervene and recognize when a fellow officer is using excessive force.”

Christy E. Lopez, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert on police training, commented that this verdict “could significantly change law enforcement culture, compelling agencies to make sure that officers are properly trained and are upholding their duties. It shifts the entire narrative from misconduct being about just acts of commission to misconduct also being about acts of omission.” [4]

Other experts noted that “this case focused on a more widespread problem than a single officer’s act of violence: the tendency of officers to stand by when they witness a fellow officer committing a crime.”

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[1] Olson & Mannix, Jury wraps first day of deliberating federal civil rights case against 3 ex-Minneapolis officers in George Floyd death, StarTribune (Feb. 23, 2022); Bogel-Burroughs, Jurors to Weigh Fate of Officers Who Restrained George Floyd as He Died, N.Y. Times (Feb. 22, 2022).

[2]Olson & Mannix, Ex-Minneapolis officers guilty on all civil rights charges related to George Floyd’s death, StarTribune (Feb. 24, 2022); Former Minneapolis Police Officers Found Guilty of Violating George Floyd’s Civil Rights, W.S.J. (Feb. 24, 2022); Former Minneapolis officers found guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, Wash. Post (Feb. 24, 2022).

[3] Walsh, Reaction to guilty verdicts ranges from proper police accountability to worries of chilling effect on cops, StarTribune (Feb. 24, 2022); Arango, Bogel-Burroughs & Senter, 3 Former Officers Are Convicted of Violating George Floyd’s Civil Rights, N.Y. Times (Feb. 24, 2022).

[4] See Importance of Pending Federal Criminal Case Over Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 24, 2022)(discussion of Professor Lopez’ work on police training), https://dwkcommentaries.com/2022/01/24/importance-of-pending-federal-criminal-case-over-killing-of-george-floyd/