By Zachary Stieber
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was clearly trying to influence the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial when she traveled to Minnesota and said Chauvin should be found guilty, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz charged on Tuesday.
“Her message was clearly intended to get to the jury—‘If you will acquit or if you find the charge less than murder, we will burn down your buildings. We will burn down your businesses. We will attack you. We will do what happened to the witness—blood on their door,’” he said during an appearance on Newsmax, referring to how the former home of defense expert Barry Brodd was recently vandalized.
“This was an attempt to intimidate the jury. It’s borrowed precisely from the Ku Klux Klan of the 1930s and 1920s when the Klan would march outside of courthouses and threatened all kinds of reprisals if the jury ever dared convict a white person or acquit a black person. And so, efforts to intimidate a jury should result in a mistrial with the judge, of course, wouldn’t grant a mistrial because then he’d be responsible for the riots that would ensue, even though it was Waters who was responsible,” Dershowitz added.
Waters told a crowd in Brooklyn Center, just outside of Minneapolis, over the weekend that they should “get more confrontational” if a guilty verdict isn’t handed down.
“We’re looking for a guilty verdict and we’re looking to see if all of the talk that took place and has been taking place after they saw what happened to George Floyd,” she also said. “If nothing does not happen [sic], then we know that we got to not only stay in the street but we have got to fight for justice.”
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, the judge overseeing the trial of Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Floyd, told the court on Monday he was aware of Waters’ statements.
Cahill rejected a motion from Chauvin’s lawyer for a mistrial. However, he told the lawyer that he could submit articles about the remarks for an “appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
Eric Nelson, the lawyer, had argued that Waters was making “threats against the sanctity of the jury process” and “threatening and intimidating the jury” into delivering a guilty verdict against his client.
Waters’ office has not responded to requests for comment.
The longtime congresswoman told TheGrio this week that she did not agree with the characterizations of her remarks.
“I am nonviolent,” she said. “Republicans will jump on any word, any line and try to make it fit their message and their cause for denouncing us and denying us, basically calling us violent.”
But Dershowitz predicted the case could be dismissed upon appeal if there is a conviction.
“I think there will be a conviction, at least on the manslaughter charge. The issue will go to the Court of Appeals,” he said on Newsmax. “And will the Court of Appeals have the courage to reverse this conviction on the ground … that the jury was subjected to intimidation tactics, not only by Waters but by others as well who threatened violence in the event of an acquittal or a lesser charge than murder?”
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.