Man oh man. Maxine Waters getting Derek Chauvin sprung from prison was a plot twist I did not see coming.
But as you’ll see, the judge has a point. Hopefully the jury’s following the rules about not reading the news while the trial’s going on. But if, by accident, one or more of them stumbled across an account of Waters urging protesters to be “more confrontational” if Chauvin is acquitted, well, what conclusion might they reasonably draw from that?
They have to convict him or else Minneapolis will burn. A member of Congress is telling them so. Can’t have a fair trial when that’s the case, can you?
Actually, you can, Judge Cahill goes on to say. He denied Chauvin’s motion for a mistrial, reasoning that he trusts that the jurors are insulating themselves from media right now and probably haven’t heard of Waters’s comments — and even if they have, she’s just one congresswoman. (When a president, Richard Nixon, pronounced Charles Manson guilty while his trial was ongoing in 1970, the remark nearly resulted in a mistrial.) The judge just sat through several weeks of emotional testimony, knows how hard it would be to find and empanel a new jury untainted by bias at a second trial, and doubtless knows full well what the public reaction would be were he to declare a mistrial at this late stage of the proceeding. No way is he pulling the plug now.
But an appellate court might, he allows. The higher courts won’t be as invested as he is in believing that a trial over which he presided was completely fair.
Except … the appellate judges aren’t going to want to spring Chauvin either if he’s convicted, right? Again, they know the price civil society will pay if he’s freed on a technicality, especially if a prominent African-American congresswoman is blamed for that technicality.
Ultimately, I think, the best argument against the idea that Waters prejudiced the jurors is the fact that they, the judge, the appellate courts, and everyone else in the state of Minnesota already fully understood that things will get, shall we say, “more confrontational” if Chauvin’s acquitted. All she did was acknowledge a universally recognized reality. How prejudicial can it be to say “the sky is blue”? Two clips for you here.
Chauvin trial judge Cahill is visibly upset by elected officials like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) sharing their opinions on the Floyd trial, but he believes it's not enough to constitute a mistrial. pic.twitter.com/G5kHpTXpU0
— The Recount (@therecount) April 19, 2021