WATCH: Judge Scolds Maxine Waters for ‘Abhorrent’ Comments, Says She ‘May Have Given’ Chauvin an Argument for Appeal
After the prosecutors and defense attorneys presented their closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial, the defense moved for a mistrial because of media coverage of the case and comments by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). Judge Peter Cahill acknowledged that Waters might have given the defense an argument to use for an appeal, and scolded her for making “disrespectful” and “abhorrent” comments on the case, but did not feel that the issue rose to the level that would require a mistrial.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that the high level of media attention was “so profound” and “so pervasive” that it was impossible for the jury to not have been tainted by it. The jury who will decide if Chauvin is criminally responsible for the death of George Floyd was not sequestered during the trial itself, and will only be sequestered now during their deliberations.
Nelson referenced Waters’ recent comments as she joined a protest in Minneapolis that if Chauvin was not convicted that they would have to “get more confrontational,” calling it “mind-boggling” that “we have U.S. Representatives threatening acts of violence in relation to this specific case.”
Nelson had not mentioned Waters by name, but Cahill was clear on the reference he was making. “Well, I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” the judge said, “but what’s the state’s position?”
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher replied that “vague statements” made out of court were not properly part of the record on appeal, and that if Nelson wanted to make this argument, “then there needs to be some sort of formal offer of proof with the exact quotes and the exact statement or some kind of a declaration.”
Frank added that the jury had been instructed throughout the jury selection process and the trial itself to avoid outside influences, and the law presumed that they were able to follow those instructions, barring specific evidence to the contrary.
Nelson replied that he was making his objection to preserve the issue for appeal, and that he was willing to supplement the record with specific media reports.
Cahill agreed that Nelson would be allowed to supplement the record, but added that he was “aware of the media reports,” and 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.”
“This goes back to what I’ve been saying from the beginning,” Cahill continued, clearly perturbed. “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.”
The jury had been told not to watch the news, he explained and he trusted that they were following those instructions and did not feel one congresswoman’s opinion was enough to taint the entire process.
“Anyway, so, motion for mistrial is denied.”
Watch the video above, via CNN.
Correction: This post initially misidentified Schleicher as Matthew Frank. It has been updated accordingly.
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