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Politics

The Heavy Burden Placed on High-Profile Jurors

Diane Dimond on

So much has been said about the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin -- and so little has been mentioned about the jurors who decided the case.

Let's take a walk in their shoes.

At first, you are allowed to go home every night, and while you really want to talk to your loved ones about this most important time in your life, the judge has ordered you not to discuss the case with anyone. Further, Judge Peter Cahill has instructed you not to "watch the news" about the case.

But information about the death of George Floyd isn't just on the news. It penetrates your favorite evening TV shows when teases for upcoming newscasts interrupt programming. Information about the high-profile murder trial pop up on your phone and car radio. Commentary on the case floods every cafe and social media platform.

It is hard to follow the judge's orders and to sit through so much horrific testimony shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow jurors who are total strangers, but you do your best to pay attention.

And every day you come to court, you can't help but notice the warlike transformation of the area: the new chain-link fence around the courthouse, the boarded-up store and office windows, the concrete barriers and barbed wire on rooftops, and the sudden presence of the National Guard. You know in your bones that something awful could happen after you and the other jurors render a verdict.

 

Then, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., swoops into Minneapolis (after making a request that a U.S. Capitol police detail escort her) to persuade protestors to continue to "fight" police brutality and to protest if the verdict isn't "guilty, guilty, guilty."

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

As a juror on the city's most headline-grabbing murder case, you can't help but have heard about Waters' comments, and it adds to the enormous stress you already feel.

When it comes time to deliberate, the judge decides the jury should be sequestered in a hotel, held under tight security and with no communication to the outside world. So, presumably, you don't hear President Joe Biden say he's "praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is -- I think it's overwhelming, in my view."

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