Congresswoman Maxine Waters is no stranger to controversy, and yesterday, her unabashed outspokenness landed her in the courtroom. Indirectly. On April 19, both the prosecution and the defense presented closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial.
After the jury was released to begin deliberating, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, made a last-ditch effort to have his client’s case thrown out. Instead of basing his attempt on misconduct or some other protocol issue, he decided to use Waters’ activism in his plea to Judge Cahill.
In another motion for a mistrial, Nelson said that comments by “a congressperson” could have threatened and intimidated the jury.
“A United States congressperson was making, what I interpreted to be, and I think are reasonably interpreted be threats against the sanctity of the jury process,” he said.
Nelson went on to air his grievances about the lack of sequestration of the jury and the likelihood that they heard Waters’ comments. The attorney asked for sequestration at the outset and middle of the trial– but Judge Cahill denied each motion.
Though Cahill denied Nelson’s motion, he did take the time to express his feelings about Waters’s statements over the weekend at a Brooklyn Center demonstration over the killing of Daunte Wright.
“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,” he said resolutely.
Cahill further added that though lawmakers can give their opinions, doing so in a way that lacked respect for the judicial branch is “abhorrent.” Mentioning Maxine Waters by name, he suggested that Chauvin’s attorney may be able to use the congresswoman’s comments to overturn the entire trial on appeal.
“I grant that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” he noted.
At the Wright demonstration, Waters said that in reference to the Chauvin trial, they (the community) are looking for a guilty verdict.
When asked what protesters’ next move should be if Chauvin is acquitted, she said, “Well, 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.” These comments were made directly to reporters after she spoke to demonstrators.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) April 18, 2021
Fox News took to social media to chop the video of Waters’ comments. That undoubtedly gave individuals like Nelson an excuse to take what she said out of context to buttress their defense of a police officer being held accountable for his behavior.
Now, some conservative lawmakers are calling for her to be disciplined. Rep. Marjorie Greene of Georgia, who claimed space lasers caused California wildfires to benefit banking families, believed that Waters had incited violence and terrorism– Black terrorism to be clear.
The timing of Nelson’s motion could undoubtedly be viewed as a way to use a prominent Black lawmaker like Maxine Waters as a scapegoat for a case that is rife with racial politics.
Cahill’s comments may have further aggravated the already tense situation in Minneapolis. To date, there is no proof that any Black public figure’s opinion has changed the trajectory of a murder trial of an officer who killed a citizen. The jury has not yet reached a verdict.