After closing arguments in the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin concluded on Monday, Hennepin County, Minnesota District Judge Peter Cahill denied a defense motion that he declare a mistrial because of comments made by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) over the weekend.
Waters told a gaggle of reporters that if Chauvin is acquitted of the 2020 slaying of George Floyd that protests must continue – even intensify – until the criminal justice system stops killing unarmed Black civilians. Or, at the very least, holds cops accountable for using deadly force when it is not necessary.
“We’re looking for a guilty verdict. We’re looking for a guilty verdict, and we’re looking to see if all of the talk that took place and has been taking place after what happened to George Floyd. If nothing does not happen then we know that we’ve not only got to stay in the street but we’ve got to fight for justice,” Waters said.
“We’ve got to stay on the street, we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to be more confrontational, we’ve got to make sure they know we mean business,” she added.
Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that Waters’ remarks were unfairly prejudicial and had the potential to unfairly influence the jury, whose sequestered deliberations began on Monday.
Cahill disagreed because the facts of the case were not disputed:
I’m aware of the media reports. I’m aware that Congresswoman Waters was talking specifically about this trial and about the unacceptability of anything less than a murder conviction and talking about being confrontational, but can you submit the press articles about that.
This goes back to what I’ve been saying from the beginning. I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that’s disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function. I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful and in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution, to respect a co-equal branch of government.
Their failure to do so I think is abhorrent, but I don’t think it’s prejudiced us with additional material that would prejudice this jury. They have been told not to watch the news. I trust they are following those instructions and that there is not in any way a prejudice beyond the articles that we’re talking specifically about the facts of this case. A Congresswoman’s opinion really doesn’t matter a whole lot.
Anyway, so, motion for mistrial is denied.
Chauvin’s fate – and justice for Floyd – now rests in the hands of twelve jurors.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.