As Minneapolis and cities across the nation braced for unrest, the judge in the trial of officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd said Monday that remarks by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., over the weekend may be a ground for a mistrial upon appeal.
“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Hennepin County Judge Peter A. Cahill told defense counsel Eric Nelson.
Cahill, in a session after the jury had been dismissed for its deliberations, denied Nelson’s motion for the judge immediately to declare a mistrial. But he said he was aware of Waters’ remarks.
“I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function,” the judge said.
But in his denial of the mistrial motion, Cahill argued he had no “particular evidence that this jury was influenced in any way.”
Waters was attending an anti-police rally in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center on Saturday night when a reporter asked her asked what would happen if Chauvin isn’t found guilty of murdering George Floyd.
“We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business,” Waters said.
“We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”
Waters said she was “hopeful” Chauvin would be convicted of murder. Gut if he isn’t, she said, “we cannot go away.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN on Monday that Waters doesn’t need to apologize for her remarks, insisting they didn’t incite violence.
Asked whether Waters’ comments incite violence, Pelosi said: “No absolutely not”
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) April 19, 2021
Cahill said the failure of a public official to respect the separation of powers is “abhorrent, but I don’t think it has 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,” he said.
Cahill said that in the end, “a congresswoman’s opinion really doesn’t matter a whole lot.”
Nelson contended the jury should have been sequestered from the outset of the trial, arguing that despite being told to ignore the news, there’s a high probability jury members would be exposed to coverage of a case in which “the media attention is profound.”
The defense attorney also noted that the Chauvin case has made its way into two fictional television dramas in which characters express their opinions.
And Nelson noted that one of the jurors lives in Brooklyn Center, where protests erupted one week ago in response to the fatal shooting by a white officer of a 20-year-old black man who was resisting arrest, Daunte Walker.
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