A Day At The Fair

Dateline: April 25, 2021 Minneapolis

Let’s make one thing clear right at the top. Convicted murderer Derek Chauvin is a dirtbag. The judge is sure to max him out at sentencing. Given his age and what’s about to hit him, Chauvin should die in prison. Good riddance.

But, criminal trials are about more than guilt or innocence. They are also about the fairness of the process. For example, because juries are susceptible to outside influences, our justice system has safeguards designed to ensure that those factors do not sway the verdict.

In Chauvin’s case, the judge put a herculean burden on the jury’s shoulders to overcome extraneous threats in order to arrive at a fair verdict. But, juries aren’t supposed to be left to their own devices in reaching just results.

Given the negative pretrial publicity and the rioting, Chauvin’s attorney filed a motion to change venue. The judge denied it claiming that the publicity was so broad it could be seen from the moon. So, if the process was unfair in Minneapolis, it had to be unfair everywhere in the State.

The judge also refused to sequester the jury until closing arguments began. Sequestration is used to insulate the jury from the influence of negative publicity and other outside forces. The judge denied the motion because of the ‘hardship’ that sequestration can cause to jurors.

The judge’s rulings created an issue of jury tampering, which, if found, would overturn the verdict. Specifically, jury intimidation is a form of tampering. The rioting, and threats to do worse, were indisputable attempts to coerce a guilty verdict from a jury that could tune in every night.

But, proving that the jury was, in fact, intimidated can be a difficult row to hoe. In his case, Chauvin should see ice caps in Hell before his verdict is reversed.

The point is jury intimidation is anathema to our system of justice. It won’t always be Derek Chauvin on trial.