The judge in the Chauvin trial stated Monday that inflammatory remarks by Representative Maxine Waters could lead to the trial being “overturned” on appeal. Waters had called for demonstrators to “get more confrontational” and protest in the streets if no guilty verdict was reached in the case.
Waters delivered the comments over the weekend ahead of closing arguments in the high-profile case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who’s been charged with the murder of George Floyd. Chauvin faces three criminal counts, including second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
The defense in the Chauvin case raised an objection that Waters’s comments could be prejudicial to the jury and grounds for a mistrial. In response to the defense attorney’s argument, Judge Peter Cahill said, “I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
“We have U.S. representatives threatening acts of violence in relation to this specific case, it’s mind boggling,” defense attorney Eric Nelson said to Cahill.
“I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a way that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch in our function,” Cahill continued. He said that while elected officials are allowed to give their opinions, he wished they would do so in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution and respectful to a co-equal branch of government.
Cahill explained that jury members were already told to sequester themselves from the news cycle, and he trusted that they followed those instructions.
Despite Cahill’s dismay with Waters’s comments on the court case, however, he said her words were not enough to constitute a mistrial. Cahill subsequently denied the defense bench’s motion for a mistrial.
Waters visited Brooklyn Center, Minn. on Saturday, the suburb where Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old African-American man, was shot and killed by a white police officer during a traffic stop the previous weekend.
During a demonstration there, Waters said, “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.”
Since Wright’s death, protests have erupted, prompting the state to mobilize the Minnesota National Guard.
In the event that Chauvin was acquitted, Waters vowed to “fight with all of the people who stand for justice.” She added, “We’ve got to get justice in this country, and we cannot allow these killings to continue.”
Republican members of Congress quickly responded to Waters’ calls for continued violence and protest in Minnesota. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) described her words as “dangerous.”
“Maxine Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis — just as she has incited it in the past,” McCarthy tweeted late Sunday evening. “If Speaker Pelosi doesn’t act against this dangerous rhetoric, I will bring action this week,” McCarthy continued.
Rep. Marjorie Talyor Greene (R-Ga.) called for Waters to be ousted from the House of Representatives for her “continual incitement of violence” and said she planned to introduce a resolution next week.