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Judge Denies Mistrial Request Over Rep. Waters' 'Confrontational' Comment

"We've got to get more confrontational, we've got to make sure that they know we mean business," Rep. Maxine Waters said during a protest at the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Saturday.
Chandan Khanna
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AFP via Getty Images
"We've got to get more confrontational, we've got to make sure that they know we mean business," Rep. Maxine Waters said during a protest at the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Saturday.

The judge in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin criticized comments made by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., over the weekend, calling them "disrespectful to the rule of law," but rejected a motion from the defense to use her rhetoric as grounds for a mistrial.

"I'm aware that Congresswoman Waters was talking specifically about this trial, and about the unacceptability of anything less than a murder conviction, and talk about being 'confrontational,' " Judge Peter Cahill said on Monday as the closing arguments wrapped up in the trial of Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd.

The case is now with the jury.

Cahill said he wished "elected officials would stop talking about this case" but said that the jury had been instructed not to watch the news and therefore Waters' comments could not prejudice the jury and warrant a mistrial.

"Beyond the articles that we're talking specifically about the facts of this case, a congresswoman's opinion really doesn't matter a whole lot," Cahill said.

He noted separately, however, that Waters may have provided the defense "something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned."

What Waters said

Over the weekend, Waters spoke to the media during a demonstration in Brooklyn Center, Minn., miles away from the site of Chauvin's trial following protests over another police killing of a Black man: 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

"We've got to stay on the street and we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational, we've got to make sure that they know we mean business," she said.

On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Waters does not need to apologize for her comments.

"Maxine talked about confrontation in the manner of the civil rights movement," Pelosi told Capitol Hill reporters.

Following Pelosi's words of support, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted that Waters "broke the law by violating curfew and then incited violence" and vowed to introduce a resolution to censure Waters.

Such a resolution would likely be tabled by House Democrats.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.

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