The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin prompted widespread speculation, protests, and controversial rhetoric that one prominent legal scholar believes should support a successful appeal of Tuesday’s guilty verdict.
In a Newsmax TV appearance on Tuesday, Alan Dershowitz said that while he believes Chauvin acted wrongly in the police stop that resulted in George Floyd’s death last year, he believes this week’s conviction should be overturned because of threats and intimidation directed at members of the jury.
“The verdict is questionable”
“Well first, what was done to George Floyd by Officer Chauvin was inexcusable morally,” Dershowitz said. “But the verdict is questionable because of the outside influences from people like Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters.”
.@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
Dershowitz went on to fault the judge in the case for not sequestering the jury earlier, noting that jurors could not help but feel intimidated by looting and riots in the area over the past several weeks.
Protesters and progressive public figures alike have been “basically saying that if you don’t convict on the murder charge, or all the charges, the cities will burn, the country will be destroyed,” he added, suggesting that such rhetoric “seeped into the jury room because the judge made a terrible mistake by not sequestering the jury.”
Judge Peter Cahill might have realized his mistake, admitting that U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) made “abhorrent” remarks calling for more “confrontation” from protesters if Chauvin received anything short of a full conviction.
“Disrespectful to the rule of law”
He called the congresswoman’s comments “disrespectful to the rule of law,” but ultimately dismissed a defense motion to grant a mistrial.
While Cahill acknowledged that the public statement from Waters might present an opportunity for appeal, he determined that it had not prejudiced the jury and that he trusted jurors to abide by his instruction to avoid watching news coverage of the trial.
“The judge himself said that this case may be reversed on appeal and I think it might be reversed on appeal,” Dershowitz said. “I think it should be reversed on appeal.”
On Tuesday, the day after arguments ended in the trial, jurors voted to convict Chauvin on all counts — second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
While the result sparked celebrations nationwide among those who had been protesting in the streets during the trial, Dershowitz pointed out that a jury verdict reached because of the influence of a crowd is inherently unfair.