Legal scholar Alan Dershowitz predicted Monday that Derek Chauvin’s conviction would be overturned on appeal because of the unusual number of “outside influences” that potentially tainted the jury, which was unsequestered for the majority of the trial.
Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murdering George Floyd last May. The jury reached a verdict more quickly than expected, declaring Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
What did Dershowitz say?
Speaking on Newmax TV, Dershowitz declared that Chauvin’s actions were “inexcusable morally,” but called the verdict “very questionable,” citing outside influences.
In fact, Dershowitz said the verdict “should be” overturned on appeal.
“The verdict is very questionable because of the outside influences from people like Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters. Their threats and intimidation and hanging the ‘Sword of Damocles’ over the jury — 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 — seeped into the jury room because the judge made a terrible mistake by not sequestering a jury,” Dershowitz explained.
“I think it should be reversed on appeal,” he predicted.
.@AlanDersh says “threats and intimidation and hanging the ‘Sword of Damocles’ over the jury…seeped into the jury… https://t.co/HXKyqh0zaQ
— Newsmax (@Newsmax)1618958100.0
Despite the amount of attention Chauvin’s trial received, the jury was only fully sequestered on Monday when closing arguments took place.
Because the jurors were not sequestered for the duration of the trial and were open to outside voices threatening protest violence, Dershowitz said it would be inconceivable to think the jurors were not consciously or subconsciously weighing the impact their decision would have on society.
“That should never, ever be allowed to seep into a jury room,” Dershowitz said, adding that he has no confidence the verdict was “produced by due process and the rule of law.”
What about an appeal?
Dershowitz predicted Chauvin’s case will ultimately be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, which he said would be Chauvin’s best hope for a conviction reversal.
Citing Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Al Sharpton, Dershowitz said, “These folks took what they did right out of the playbook of the Deep South in the 1920s when prominent public officials would whoop up the crowds in front of the courthouse, demanding conviction of black people and acquittal of white people.”
“The Supreme Court and other courts reversed convictions based on that because jurors should not be intimidated or influenced by what goes on outside the courtroom,” he added.
Specifically, Dershowitz cited the infamous Sam Sheppard murder trial in the 1950s. Sheppard was convicted of murdering his wife, but was exonerated a decade later. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately determined Sheppard was deprived of a fair trial because the jury was tainted by media attention that engulfed the case.
Dershowitz also said Judge Peter Cahill, the judge who presided over Chauvin’s trial, supports his hypothesis.
On Monday, Cahill castigated Waters for urging protesters to “get more confrontational” if Chauvin was not found guilty. “You got to make sure that they know we mean business,” Waters said.
Cahill said Waters’ comments could be used by the defense in an appeal to argue for a mistrial.
“I will give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Cahill said after denying the defense’s motion for a mistrial over Waters’ remarks.
“This goes back to what I’ve been saying from the beginning. 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,” the judge added. “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 is abhorrent!” he said.