The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin may be over, but the legal odyssey surrounding it is likely just getting underway — and it’s likely a lot more ambiguous than it might have been thanks to President Joe Biden and Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California.
That’s at least the take from Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review contributing editor and former federal prosecutor. In a New York Post Op-Ed published Tuesday — hours after Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — McCarthy noted those two prominent Democrats had gone into territory they lambasted former President Donald Trump for.
“Remember when the Left used to go ballistic over President Trump’s propensity to lob rhetorical bombs into pending investigations and prosecutions?” McCarthy wrote. “Good times, good times.”
“Well, Trump is gone and, mirabile dictu, and we’re beginning to notice that the Left’s provocateurs are … lobbing rhetorical bombs into the most consequential prosecution in the nation — the murder trial of Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd case.
“Indeed, it is worse than that. For all the downsides of his unhinged commentary, Trump never took matters to the point of jury intimidation, as the preternaturally unhinged Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters did over the weekend.”
Waters stopped by Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Saturday to talk to those protesting the police shooting of Daunte Wright and said protesters need to “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if a guilty verdict wasn’t delivered in the Chauvin case.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) to BLM protesters in Brooklyn Center, MN:
“[Protestors] got to stay on the street and get more active, more confrontational. They’ve got to know that we mean business.” pic.twitter.com/GLIPoLwZnd
— Bree A Dail (@breeadail) April 18, 2021
“We’ve got to stay on the street, and we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational,” Waters said, adding she thought Chauvin was guilty of first-degree murder, which he was not charged with.
“We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business,” she added.
This was foul enough stuff that on Monday, the judge in the Chauvin trial admitted Waters’ rant could be grounds for a mistrial — something McCarthy said was eminently possible.
“[A]s the judge noted Monday, Waters’ inflammatory language offered Chauvin grounds for appeal. Because of her, this isn’t over.”
“Waters checked every box. As a federal representative from a California district, she traveled to another sovereign state, Minnesota, to interfere in its judicial system. Her rabble-rousing was done in violation of a curfew that the elected mayor had imposed to suppress the rioting that followed the tragic accidental killing of Daunte Wright by a police officer,” McCarthy wrote.
“And her remarks can only be interpreted as an incitement to violence — one less ambiguously provocative than the one over which she and other House Democrats impeached Trump.”
McCarthy went as far as to call for an investigation of Waters for obstruction of justice under Minnesota law, given her comments were made when the jury was not sequestered. (In a separate piece at National Review before Chauvin’s conviction, McCarthy said the presiding judge in the case, Peter Cahill, had “done an excellent job for the most part, but … the failure to sequester the jury last week was a bad call.”)
At least, McCarthy said, President Biden had the good sense (such as it may have been) to wait until the jury was sequestered to weigh in with his take on the case, essentially saying he was “praying” for a guilty verdict.
President Biden called George Floyd’s family to express his support, saying that he was praying for the “right verdict” in Derek Chauvin’s trial. He defended his decision to weigh in on an unresolved trial, saying he waited until the jury was sequestered. https://t.co/ZWPFtNw69B pic.twitter.com/6Q1yzk7y9C
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 20, 2021
“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. The evidence is overwhelming in my view,” Biden said Tuesday, telling reporters he had become familiar with Floyd’s relatives and that “they’re a good family.”
To McCarthy, it’s wasn’t just that Biden’s words had the weight of the presidency behind them, but also that someone with Biden’s experience should have known better.
“The fact that the jury was sequestered when Biden spouted off is no excuse. He is a lawyer and former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman who well knows that sequestration does not make jurors impervious to prejudicial publicity,” McCarthy wrote.
“And if he’s been following the case as he claims to have been, he knows trial judge Peter Cahill has pleaded that public officials stop commenting on the trial — under circumstances where, even before the Bidens and Waters piped up, there was already substantial reason to doubt that Chauvin could get a fair trial in Minneapolis.”
Cahill also remarked during Monday’s proceedings that politicians ought to stop remarking on the case, “especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law.”
This drew plenty of flak before the verdict, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying “sometimes a fair trial is difficult to conduct” and “it is certainly not helpful for a member of Congress, and even the president of the U.S. to appear to be weighing in in public, while the jury is trying to sort through this significant case.”
Twitter blue checkmarks had similar thoughts:
Joe Biden says he is “praying the verdict is the right verdict” in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. He says “the evidence is overwhelming”
Between the most powerful man in the world & Maxine Waters, Derek Chauvin is guaranteed to not get a fair verdict.
Democrats hate justice.
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) April 20, 2021
No sitting President should be publicly weighing in on how a jury should rule in a pending criminal matter. No president, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican.
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) April 20, 2021
The President of the United States just helped to intimidate a jury while they’re in deliberations. Now even if Chauvin is found guilty, Biden, along with Maxine + Pelosi yesterday, likely just ensured the case can get thrown out on appeal.
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) April 20, 2021
Biden decided to compound the issue after the verdict was reached, weighing in more unequivocally as he had the day before:
Today, a jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd.
The verdict is a step forward.
And while nothing can ever bring George Floyd back, this can be a giant step forward on the march towards justice in America.
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 20, 2021
This won’t age particularly well if Chauvin has to be retried and prosecutors need to find a suitable venue in the United States that isn’t, say, Wake Island.
And that’s the issue here, as McCarthy noted: America’s “viability as a free, prosperous, rule-of-law society is dependent on the viability of courts as the protection every one of us, equally, can rely on against overbearing government and politicized mobs” — something Chauvin hasn’t had.
“Chauvin’s case is more complicated than much of the coverage suggests on key issues of intent and causation. But his conviction now has a real chance of having the result overturned because public officials, who know better, have recklessly undermined the integrity of the trial,” he wrote.
“How is it that the Left grasps the fundamental need for due process and the presumption of innocence when a foreign terrorist is on trial for mass-murdering Americans, but not when an American police officer is in the dock?”
They might understand it a lot better if Chauvin’s conviction is overturned and this particular wound upon the American body politic is opened afresh.
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