Joe Biden

Biden Treads Lightly in Comments on Derek Chauvin Trial as Jury Deliberates

Tom Brenner | Reuters
  • President Joe Biden waded carefully into a discussion about the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin a day after Chauvin's attorney pushed for a mistrial over more incendiary comments from Rep. Maxine Waters.
  • Biden said he was praying that the jury would reach the "right verdict" in the case, calling it "overwhelming in my view" and praising George Floyd's family.
  • Jurors began deliberating Monday whether Chauvin is guilty on three charges stemming from Floyd's death May 25.

President Joe Biden waded carefully into a discussion about the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, a day after Chauvin's defense attorney pushed for a mistrial over more incendiary comments from a California lawmaker.

Biden said that he was praying that the jury would reach the "right verdict" in the case, calling it "overwhelming in my view" and praising George Floyd's family. Jurors began deliberating Monday whether Chauvin is guilty on three charges stemming from Floyd's death May 25.

Biden said he wouldn't have made his remarks if the anonymous jury were not sequestered. The 12 jurors — half of whom are white and half of whom are Black or multiracial — are isolated in a hotel without access to the news. The jurors could announce a verdict at any time.

Biden's comments come a day after the judge presiding over the case, Judge Peter Cahill, admonished Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., for remarks she made at a rally in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Saturday calling on protesters to become "more confrontational" if Chauvin is acquitted.

Cahill ultimately rejected a motion from Eric Nelson, Chauvin's attorney, for a mistrial. But the judge said that Waters may have provided Chauvin an opportunity on appeal if he is found guilty, and urged elected officials to practice more discretion.

"I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law, the judicial branch and our function," a visibly angry Cahill said in unusually forceful comments.

Nelson had argued in his motion for a mistrial that jurors likely saw Waters' comments even if they followed Cahill's instructions to avoid news specifically about Chauvin's case. He said that jurors could interpret Waters' remarks as threats.

Nelson had previously asked for the jurors to be sequestered while the case was being argued given the enormous amount of attention it has garnered, but Cahill did not agree to that.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier on Tuesday, in a post on Twitter, that Biden spoke with Floyd's family on Monday "to check in with them and also share that the family was in his prayers." On Monday, Psaki declined to say at a press conference whether Biden would be disappointed if Chauvin is found not guilty.

Defendants in the U.S. are presumed to be innocent until they are convicted. Courts and judges work to ensure that jurors are not influenced by information outside of the trial record.

Floyd's killing sparked months of protests around the country and is one of the most high-profile cases in recent years to energize the movement against police violence against Black men. The courthouse in which the trial took place was fortified with barbed wire ahead of arguments.

Biden, who spoke from the Oval Office during a meeting with lawmakers, also said that he has gotten to know Floyd's family.

"I can only imagine the pressure and the anxiety they're feeling," he said. "They're a good family, and they're calling for peace and tranquility." 

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