April 20, 2021

"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."

"I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful and in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution to respect a coequal branch of government. Their failure to do so I think is abhorrent, but I don't think it has prejudiced us with additional material that would prejudice this jury." 

Said Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, the judge in the Derek Chauvin case, quoted in "Jury ends first day of deliberating with no verdicts in Derek Chauvin murder trial/With the dismissals of the alternates, the jury of 12 is now half white and half people of color" (Star Tribune). 

It's a hopeless wish. People are going to talk. And disrespect is part of human expression. An important part. The rule of law is one of the all-time great ideals, but the way the law plays out in real life deserves — and benefits from — the expression of disrespect. It's fine for the judge to wish for respect, but it's up to him to do what earns respect. 

His main point here is to deny that there has been a mistrial because of what's been said out there in public, particularly what Rep. Maxine Waters said — that protesters need to get "more confrontational" if there is no guilty verdict. It's horrible to think that all the hard work of conducting a trial could be squandered by one wild-talking politician. Of course Cahill denied the motion.

But does the threat of riots unfairly prejudice the jury — and does Waters's one inflammatory statement make all the difference? What does "more confrontational mean"? It could just mean bigger, louder, more passionate demonstrations. But perhaps we're supposed to know that she meant destruction and violence — just like the way the supporters of the last impeachment were sure that when Trump urged people in the street to "fight like hell," everyone was supposed to know he advocated criminal disorder.


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