The inquiry into the Minneapolis Police Department is one of four open Justice Department investigations into law enforcement agencies.
Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction was met with widespread approval among those seeking justice for George Floyd, but the trial’s outcome may not be set in stone thanks to remarks from influential political leaders such as Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and President Biden himself.
Waters, who had visited Minnesota before the verdict was announced, said that if Chauvin is not convicted of murder, protesters should “stay in the street,” “get more active,” and “get more confrontational.” In a New York Post op-ed, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy warned that this alone would be grounds for appeal.
“Because of her, this isn’t over,” McCarthy wrote.
McCarthy said that Waters, who represents California, went to Minnesota “to interfere in its judicial system” in violation of a curfew. He argued that “her remarks can only be interpreted as an incitement to violence” and that she “ought to be under investigation.”
Biden had also weighed in on the case before the verdict was announced, telling reporters that he was “praying that verdict is the right verdict” and that “I think it’s overwhelming, in my view.”
The president claimed that he only said this because the jury was already sequestered, but McCarthy argued that this “is no excuse” for making those remarks.
“He is a lawyer and former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman who well knows that sequestration does not make jurors impervious to prejudicial publicity,” McCarthy wrote. “And if he’s been following the case as he claims to have been, he knows trial judge Peter Cahill has pleaded that public officials stop commenting on the trial — under circumstances where, even before the Bidens and Waters piped up, there was already substantial reason to doubt that Chauvin could get a fair trial in Minneapolis.”
McCarthy was far from the only one to criticize Waters and Biden for their comments.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that “sometimes a fair trial is difficult to conduct” and that “it is certainly not helpful for a member of Congress, and even the president of the U.S. to appear to be weighing in in public, while the jury is trying to sort through this significant case.”
Randy Zelin, head of the criminal practice at Wilk Auslander LLP and an adjunct professor of law at Cornell University, told Fox News that the defense has “so many different directions for the defense to go” in arguing that the trial was not fair, including Waters’ comments and possibly Biden’s.
Fox News reached out to Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson asking if the remarks from Waters or Biden will be cited on appeal, but he did not immediately respond. Nelson did argue before the verdict was announced that Waters’ statement and other factors should be grounds for a mistrial.
The Justice Department is launching a federal civil rights inquiry into Minneapolis police operations and its use of lethal force, a day after former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in the murder of George Floyd.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the review Wednesday, reviving a Justice strategy used to hold local police agencies to account for engaging in a pattern of unlawful conduct.
“Yesterday’s verdict does not address potentially systemic police issues in Minneapolis,” Garland said, describing a far-reaching investigation that will examine officers’ use of excessive force, discriminatory actions involving those with mental health problems, department training policies and supervision.
The newly announced Justice review is separate from a previously-launched federal investigation into Floyd’s death, which Garland said is continuing.
President Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general Merrick Garland, addresses staff on his first day at the Department of Justice, March 11, 2021, in Washington. Garland, a one time Supreme Court nominee under former President Barack Obama, was confirmed March 10 by a Senate vote of 70-30.
More:After Chauvin’s guilty verdict: A trial for American policing, the struggle for public trust begins anew
“I strongly believe that good officers do not want to work in systems that allow bad practices,” Garland said in brief remarks at the Justice Department. “Good officers welcome accountability … Public safety requires public trust.
“The Department of Justice,” the attorney general said, “will be unwavering in its pursuit of equal justice under law.”
Justice Department intervention in local policing matters was largely stalled during the Trump administration, but Garland reversed that policy last week signaling that the Biden administration intends to more aggressively investigate police departments accused of civil rights violations amid deepening distrust of law enforcement.
‘This is our Selma moment’:Racial justice activists hope Derek Chauvin verdict spurs larger systemic change
The Garland memo issued Friday rescinded a previous directive by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions who ordered Justice attorneys to limit the use of so-called consent decrees, which are court-enforced agreements that enable federal judges to ensure promised reforms are underway.
The move came in the final days of Chauvin’s trial in Minneapolis and following multiple fatal shootings by police.
President Joe Biden, who ran on a promise to reinvigorate federal oversight of police, said after the jury delivered its verdict Tuesday that the need for police reform does not end with Chauvin’s conviction.
“We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will never happen and occur again; to ensure that Black and brown people or anyone — so they don’t fear the interactions with law enforcement, that they don’t have to wake up knowing that they can lose their very life in the course of just living their life,” Biden said.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also have called on Congress to follow through on proposed legislation that bears Floyd’s name.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would bolster police accountability, make it easier to prosecute law enforcement officers for misconduct and create a national registry to track officers who try to move from one department to another.
More:Derek Chauvin will likely appeal his guilty verdict in George Floyd’s murder. But the odds aren’t good.