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Silverman: Cameras follow us all, and here’s why that’s a good thing

Everybody is filming everybody else, and GPS is tracking our movements. That's not all bad. Phone video helped convict Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's murder

My trip was spontaneous, born of spring fever and my regular post-Masters golf itch. Spring snow and cold had gotten old. I’d not departed Colorado since COVID. I wanted no part of Denver’s forecast last Monday afternoon. Where could I flee that was warm?

Aha!  Albuquerque was 70 degrees all week and just below the storm track. I worked through Monday lunch, then drove home, retrieved clubs, bicycle and some summery clothes. Fleeing down I-25, I heard closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial. 

The world was riveted. Not me. No way would Chauvin be acquitted. He murdered George Floyd on video. We watched it happen. Thanks to cameras in the courtroom, we witnessed Minnesota’s first ever televised trial

Craig Silverman

I sporadically followed via iPhone, laptop and TV. Suspense disappeared once Attorney General Keith Ellison decided not to charge Chauvin with first-degree murder. That prosecutorial discretion was understandable. Why even risk acquittal? Why raise community expectations? 

Chauvin’s murder convictions carry significant prison time. If his sentence is lenient, there will be public outcry. On the day of the murder, world-weary cop Chauvin likely anticipated Floyd would receive leniency in the courts for his fake $20 and resisting arrest. Chauvin became judge, jury and executioner. Street justice was administered.

Despite being threatened, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier bravely video-recorded Chauvin and the three other Minneapolis cops who let it happen. The upcoming Aug. 23 trial of former officers Lane, Kueng and Thao as Chauvin’s accomplices will be interesting. Let’s hope it’s also televised.

And why not? Isn’t everything on camera these days? The killing of Floyd was captured not just by Ms. Frazier, but by police body-worn cameras and multiple Minneapolis street cameras. Body-worn cameras are now mandated for all Colorado police. Modern smartphones contain sensational videorecorders. Everybody’s recording everybody else.

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Colorado pioneered television cameras in the courtroom in the Denver prosecution of John Gilbert Graham. That stone-cold murderer planted a bomb in his mother’s luggage and exploded a United Airlines plane over Longmont. Forty-four poor souls on that Denver to Portland flight were massacred on Nov. 1, 1955.  

In the spring of 1956, some of Graham’s trial was broadcast on Denver television. Hollywood was fascinated. With J. Edgar Hoover’s approval, Jimmy Stewart played the hero agent who solved America’s then worst-ever aviation crime. The 1959 movie was titled, The FBI Story. After losing his appeal in autumn 1956, Graham was executed on Jan. 11, 1957. 

Graham’s execution was not televised. Nor was it photographed despite the best efforts of legendary Denver photographer Morey Engle. In Mainliner Denver – the Bombing of Flight 629, author Andrew Field explains how Engle, who’d recently departed the Rocky Mountain News for freelance work, was offered $2,000 by Look Magazine for a photograph of Graham’s execution. Engle tried unsuccessfully to smuggle a Minos mini-camera hidden inside a box of Viceroy cigarettes inside the gas-chamber’s execution viewing room.

On his last day, Graham told Time Magazine, “As far as feeling remorse for those people, I don’t. I can’t help it. Everybody pays their way and takes their chances. That’s just the way it goes.” Chauvin exhibited similar cold fatalism as he murdered Floyd, and in the courtroom.

Countless corporate and government-controlled devices tracked my trip down I-25 and exit for Wi-Fi in Trinidad.  I got in more work on my laptop. Then I checked my Colorado sportsbook lines. Bet MGM’s Lion’s Boost parlay offered +325 for Nikola Jokic to score 30 points or more if the Nuggets won versus Memphis. I had to place that bet before leaving Colorado. Along with cameras, GPS follows us all. Technology has changed everything.

I crossed Raton Pass into the Land of Enchantment. Noticing a Holiday Inn Express to my right and realizing it was game time, I made a smart exit and checked in. On my laptop via streaming Wi-Fi, I witnessed the Joker score 47, leading the Nuggets to overtime victory. On my Domino’s iPhone app, I was able to order, pay and track delivery of my delicious dinner.  

When I woke, I felt smarter and did some excellent legal work on my laptop. It was snowing in Raton. But my smartphone still said 70 when queried about Albuquerque weather.  

Departing at checkout time, I wore shorts, golf shirt and a parka. Speeding south, the temperature elevated. So did the rhetoric on Sirius-streamed cable channels manufacturing suspense in the Chauvin trial. By the time I passed Santa Fe, the sun emerged, and the jury announced it had reached a verdict. 

My iPhone map led me to the UNM Championship Course pro shop. The expected Chauvin guilty verdicts were live on ESPN. The pro ignored the television and told me most putts break toward I-25 and south. Now that was valuable, unexpected news. I’d never been there before.

In 24 hours of travel, I’d been monitored by video, Wi-Fi and GPS, while simultaneously working as an attorney, tracking the Chauvin trial, the Nuggets, my wager and the weather. All of it happened along southbound I-25! It was 70 degrees. I had 18 holes to play.


Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA who also has worked in the media for decades. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun. He practices law at the Denver law firm of Springer & Steinberg, P.C. and is host of The Craig Silverman Show podcast.


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