Last week California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, speaking to a passionate crowd in Brooklyn Center, said she was hoping for a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. And if that does not happen, “we cannot go away. We’ve got to get more active and more confrontational and got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”
She later clarified her statement saying she wasn’t suggesting violence, rather a peaceful response and seeking legislation to confront the judicial system.
Her comments are indicative of just how important this trial is to the nation.
There’s no question the death of George Floyd is tragic and horrible. It never should have happened.
But the judicial branch, now determining the fate of Chauvin, is charged with an incredibly important role in making sure justice is served. The legislative branch, of which Waters is a member, is entitled to an opinion, but inflammatory remarks before a jury has even rendered its decision are reckless and, honestly, at odds with the oath she took to defend our Constitution.
I’ve only served on one jury in my life, but still consider it one of the most significant contributions I have made to society. The 2006 white-collar crime case I sat on lasted about three weeks. It was a sophisticated tax evasion case that included jail time for those found guilty.
My initial reaction, like most people who are notified they are being considered for jury duty, was, “How am I going to get out of this?”
I was a full-time editor at the time and we had no other people on staff to do my work. I was too busy for this.
Oddly, I made it through all of the pre-screening and was selected to serve. I thought I would be dumped quickly because I was a member of the media. Oddly, a reporter from a nearby newspaper was also selected for the jury.
My next thought after being told I would need to serve was how disruptive this was going to be to my life. I’d need to work at night and be at the courthouse by day.
We were not sequestered. It was a rigorous schedule. Court usually convened at 9 a.m. and went as late as 5 p.m.
But for all the disruptions to my life, it was quickly obvious that my role in this process was so critical to what we hold dear as Americans. We were deciding the fate of a fellow citizen.
The members of our jury all came from different walks of life and had different experiences, but not a single person took the responsibility lightly. While it was tiring to sit in court all day, keeping track of the sophisticated trail of evidence being presented by the prosecution, we all understood we were going to be the deciding factor of a fellow member of society.
The jury in the George Floyd case is performing the same role, holding the fate of a citizen in their hands, in the highest-profile case this country has ever seen. They have sat through all the hearings; heard testimony from dozens of witnesses; watched hours of video recordings; and finally, heard closing statements from prosecution attorneys and the defense.
All the while, they have the eyes and weight of the world waiting for them to make a decision that may seem obvious to the rest of us.
The jury system is intended to provide a fair trial by having citizens determine the outcome of what has been presented. A jury of your peers.
This jury has been under unprecedented pressure since the trial started. But their role in our democracy is paramount.
We all want justice for what happened. But part of justice is allowing the process to conclude. That means letting our fellow citizens of the jury complete their work on behalf of us all.
Keith Anderson is director of news for APG of East Central Minnesota.