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Authorities are spreading the word that a repeat of the violence, property damage and looting of last year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., won’t be tolerated following the verdict in the trial of the man accused of killing Floyd, former police officer Derek Chauvin.
After 45 witnesses, three weeks of testimony and 11 hours of deliberation that started Monday, a jury on Tuesday reached its decision on all three counts:
- second-degree unintentional murder: guilty
- third-degree murder: guilty
- second-degree manslaughter: guilty
Chauvin, 44, who was immediately remanded to the local sheriff's custody, faces more than 40 years in prison.
Earlier in the day, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department tried to calm any local fears.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and your Malibu-Lost Hills Sheriff's Station would like to assure our communities we are fully staffed and deployed throughout the cities of Malibu, Agoura Hills, Hidden Hills, Calabasas, Westlake Village and the incorporated areas of Los Angeles County,” Capt. Chuck Becerra said.
Closing arguments wrapped up in Minneapolis on Monday, where Chauvin stood trial in the death of 46-year-old Floyd on May 25, 2020.
Last year's killing, captured on video, sparked peaceful protests in Malibu and elsewhere, but there were also riots and looting across the country, including in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and portions of Los Angeles.
Tensions were already high over a possible repeat of the mayhem of 2020. Then as the trial wound down, Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles fanned the flames during a trip to Brooklyn Center, Minn., site of a recent fatal officer-involved shooting.
“We're looking for a guilty verdict and we're looking to see if all of the talk that took place and has been taking place after they saw what happened to George Floyd,” she told reporters. “If nothing does not happen, then we know that we got to not only stay in the street, but we have got to fight for justice.”
“We 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 that we mean business,” Waters added.
At the same time, the Chauvin trial had been featured on scripted “ripped from the headlines” TV shows.
This was not lost on Chauvin defense attorney Eric Nelson who, outside jurors’ presence, requested a mistrial from Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill. He alluded not only to the TV shows but also “U.S. Representatives threatening acts of violence.”
Noting that jurors had not yet been sequestered, Nelson told Judge Cahill, “I just don’t know how … they are free from the taint of this.”
Cahill denied the defense request while blasting the L.A. politician.
“I’m aware that Congresswoman Waters was talking specifically about this trial and about the unacceptabiity of anything less than a murder conviction, and talked about being confrontational,” the judge said.
“I'll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
An obviously perturbed Cahill wasn’t finished.
“I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that's disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function.”
If elected officials want to give an opinion, he added, they should do so in a way respectful of “their oath to the Constitution to respect a co-equal branch of government.”
“Their failure to do so I think is abhorrent."
President Biden must not have heard the judge, saying Tuesday at the White House, “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. It’s overwhelming in my view.”
Waters’ remarks drew a call for censure from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Law enforcement and elected officials everywhere are trying to calm fears about a repeat of 2020.
“While everyone’s right to free speech and expression should be respected and upheld, incidents of looting, theft, property damage or violence will not be tolerated,” said Becerra. “Please know that your deputies’ first priority is your safety and the protection of your property.”
He urged anyone who sees suspicious activity to report it by calling (818) 878-1808.