I think we might have been too quick getting rid of some features of medieval jurisprudence. How so? Well, Derek Chauvin’s defence is claiming it wasn’t Chauvin’s knee on his neck that killed George Floyd, it was the drugs in his system. Well, let’s test it. There are no drugs in Chauvin’s system. Let’s handcuff Chauvin, put him in precisely the position on the ground in which Floyd had been put, and then get someone the same weight as Chauvin to put his weight on Chauvin’s neck for nine and half minutes. If he survives he’s innocent and walks away a free man. If he doesn’t – and though the punishment may be a tad over the top – at least we’ll know he was guilty.
I know, I know. You’re going to claim the number of variables make it impossible to replicate them all. So even if Chauvin survives what I’m suggesting, he still could have murdered Floyd. But if a man like Chauvin – a man without any underlying conditions – doesn’t survive nine and half minutes with someone’s knee on his neck, it’s unlikely anyone would survive it, in which case it would not be unreasonable for the jury to conclude that it was Chauvin’s knee on his neck that killed Floyd.
Should we worry that bringing back trial by ordeal in this case will lead to implementing similar tests for witches? For people accused of harbouring unconscious racial biases? The list could go on and on. Well, let’s cross those bridges when we come to them.