Those who watched the jury selection for Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd said the recurring sentiment among potential jurors was the fear of reprisals to themselves or their families if they didn’t produce the verdict the left demanded, which was guilty of murder.
Those who verbally expressed this fear were summarily dismissed. But although the individuals ultimately selected to serve on the jury might not have explicitly voiced this concern, it is unreasonable to believe it did not enter their minds.
The death of Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody both riveted and divided the nation as have only a handful of cases in history. Because of the sheer volume of media coverage, it was nearly impossible to find 14 jurors who did not have some level of familiarity with this case.
Once the selection was completed and the trial had begun, the media coverage exploded.
Longtime Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz believes Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over the trial, made a terrible mistake by not sequestering the jury. He appeared on Newsmax’s “Spicer and Co.” on Tuesday to weigh in.
Dershowitz began by stating the obvious: Chauvin’s actions were “inexcusable morally.”
The larger point is the verdict, which he considers to be “questionable because of the outside influences of people like [civil rights activist] Al Sharpton people like and [California Democratic Rep.] Maxine Waters. Their threats and intimidation and hanging the ‘Sword of Damocles’ over the jury and basically saying if you don’t convict on the murder charge and all of the charges, the cities will burn, the country will be destroyed, seeped into the jury room.”
“The judge made a terrible mistake by not sequestering the jury,” he said. “So the judge himself said this case may be reversed on appeal. And I think it might be reversed on appeal. I think it should be reversed on appeal.”
“I think the American Civil Liberties Union, which would be all over this case if it weren’t a racially charged case — all Americans who care about due process and liberty should be concerned that the jury verdict may have been influenced by, if not the thumb, maybe even the elbow of the outside pressures, the fears, the threats. Every juror in that room knew about these threats.”
“So I have no real confidence that this verdict, which may be correct in some ways, but I have no confidence that this verdict was produced by due process and the rule of law rather than the influence of the crowd,” Dershowitz said. “A new appeal will be filed immediately, because he’s in jail now, pending appeal.”
Ultimately, however, Dershowitz believes this case will be settled by the Supreme Court, which he said “holds the best possibility for the defense of getting this conviction reversed on the ground that the judge himself suggested the statements made by people outside the courtroom essentially intimidating jurors and telling them that if they don’t come to the, quote, right verdict, there will be violence and consequences and their own lives may be affected.
“Jurors should never, ever have that fear or influence in their verdicts.”
.@AlanDersh says “threats and intimidation and hanging the ‘Sword of Damocles’ over the jury…seeped into the jury room. I think this case should be reversed on appeal.” @LyndsayMKeith https://t.co/VlT7z8drtO pic.twitter.com/5uuoku1uZu
— Newsmax (@newsmax) April 20, 2021
He believes that Cahill, who knows the world is watching, will likely decide on a “very substantial sentence” for Chauvin.
“Remember the case of Sam Sheppard?” Dershowitz asked. “That was very a famous case, F. Lee Bailey did it. It became a television series, and in that case, the Supreme Court reversed the conviction based on outside pressures. … Convictions have been reversed not because of what happened inside the courtroom, but because what happened outside the courtroom seeped into the jury box and that’s not acceptable under the rule of law.”
He had harsh words for Waters and Sharpton. “These folks took what they did right out of the playbook of the Deep South in the 1920s when prominent public officials would whoop up the crowds in front of the courthouse demanding conviction of black people and acquittal of white people,” Dershowitz said. “And the Supreme Court and other courts reversed convictions based on that because jurors should not be intimidated or influenced by what goes on outside the courtroom.”
“This judge did not do a good enough job. He just told jurors not to watch ‘the news.'” He then listed the many sources of news.
Dershowitz summed up his thoughts on the Chauvin verdict in an article that appeared on the Gatestone Institute’s website.
“The evidence, in my view, supports a verdict of manslaughter, but not of murder,” he wrote. “Any verdict that did not include a conviction for murder was likely to be unacceptable to Waters and her followers, however, even if the facts and the law mandate that result. Waters is not interested in neutral justice. She wants vengeance for what she and her followers justifiably see as the unjustified killing of George Floyd.
“That is not the rule of law. That is the passion of the crowd.”
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