Omar Says Minneapolis ‘On Edge’ Over Chauvin Trial

Elected officials should not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

The Guardian (“Minneapolis ‘on edge’ over outcome of Derek Chauvin trial, Ilhan Omar says“):

As the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd headed into its second week, the Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar said residents remain “on edge” about the outcome.

On Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Omar was reminded that few trials involving police officers result in conviction, and asked: “Are you and your city prepared for the possibility of a hung jury or a not-guilty verdict?”

“The community is on edge about that,” Omar said. “We have seen justice not delivered in our community for many years. I think that there is a lot of confidence in [state] attorney general Keith Ellison and the prosecutors in this case, but we are all eagerly awaiting to see how this trial shakes out.

“It’s been really horrendous to watch the defense put George Floyd on trial instead of the former police officer who’s charged with his murder.”

This is a highly problematic stance for a powerful public servant to take. While Omar is doubtless right that the community is nervous about the outcome and that it will be a bitter pill for many to swallow if Chauvin is not found guilty, it’s simply outrageous for her to declare that a jury that ruled that way is somehow failing to deliver justice. Or, for that matter, to declare that lines of inquiry allowed by the judge are somehow improper. It poisons the well and potentially intimidates the jury pool, intimating that rioting will ensue if they don’t vote the “right” way.

The video evidence here is rather powerful and the testimony that I’ve read from police leadership is rather damning for Chauvin. But he’s entitled to a fair trial without elected officials grandstanding from the sidelines.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. flat earth luddite says:

    Agreed, elected officials should not grandstand on ongoing criminal investigations and/or trials. However, they were doing this long before I paid attention to such things, and I’m about a generation up on you with regard to that. Thus it was, is now, and forever more shall be, I’m afraid.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    I lived in Mpls for ~25 years and still have lots of friends and family there. Most all are lefties and several neighborhood activists, to a person they hate Omar, considering her a grifter and useless to the community. The comparisons to Keith Ellison aren’t flattering. That she’s shoot her mouth off isn’t surprising, like Matt Gaetz she views the reason she is in Congress is to get her name and quoted in the press.

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  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    We don’t really know where this might lead. These people love to raise the stakes. Before you know it, she might be suggesting that a presidential election was stolen, or something outrageous like that.

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  4. Jay L Gischer says:

    P.S. No, two wrongs don’t make a right. I get that.

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  5. Scott O says:

    @Jay L Gischer: My reaction to this article was the same as yours I think. I agree that Ms Omar’s words could be a bit problematic. But compared to what we’ve been through for the past 4 years and the ongoing denial of reality by most of the Republican Party this is very small beans. I suppose that I should find it refreshing that we’re reading about a congressperson “intimating that rioting may ensue” vs a President actually encouraging violence.

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  6. Gustopher says:

    While Omar is doubtless right that the community is nervous about the outcome and that it will be a bitter pill for many to swallow if Chauvin is not found guilty, it’s simply outrageous for her to declare that a jury that ruled that way is somehow failing to deliver justice.

    James, with all due respect, fuck that.

    If, when some ignorant mouth breathing Neanderthal on the jury refuses to vote to convict despite the evidence (a very real possibility), and we expect Rep. Ilhan to use her position in the community to try to hold back the tide of anger, then she has to be part of the community, and speaking for the community — she can’t just helicopter in at the last minute and have any influence. In an ideal world she would have found a slightly better way, but in an ideal world police would face justice when they murder people. In an ideal world there wouldn’t be centuries of injustice.

    If the verdict is innocent or a mistrial, and she gets in front of an angry mob, and says that they should go down to that courthouse and overturn that verdict, and the angry mob storms the courthouse and rips him limb from limb with their hands, nails and teeth, well, I for one will be the first to say that perhaps Rep. Ilhan spoke too passionately, and I will encourage my Representative to vote to expel her from the House.

    And, in an ideal world, there wouldn’t be a precedent that makes that sound remotely plausible.

    But, seriously, this murderous shithead is getting a far fairer trial than most defendants, even now. There is so much focus that every i is being dotted and every t is being crossed and his rights are being scrupulously protected.

    And Lt. Richard Zimmerman is a fucking hero for testifying against this shithead, and I can only hope that he becomes the bar that other officers are held to when it comes to standing against their coworkers when they commit crimes.

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  7. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Gustopher:

    And Lt. Richard Zimmerman is a fucking hero for testifying against this shithead

    Instead, it’s more likely that he’ll be ostracized by his peers, and never get backup in a dangerous situation. I anticipate his early retirement.

  8. Kurtz says:

    @Gustopher:

    And Lt. Richard Zimmerman is a fucking hero for testifying against this shithead, and I can only hope that he becomes the bar that other officers are held to when it comes to standing against their coworkers when they commit crimes.

    Agreed. But I fear @Flat Earth Luddite may be correct.

    Instead, it’s more likely that he’ll be ostracized by his peers, and never get backup in a dangerous situation. I anticipate his early retirement.

  9. Crusty Dem says:

    @Gustopher:

    We all know how hard it is for a white police officer to get a fair trial in this country. Kudos to James for standing up to the underprivileged…

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  10. James Joyner says:

    @Crusty Dem: I’ve been rather consistent over the years, regardless of who the defendant is in the case, that public officials—especially prosecutors but also elected pols—should refrain from grandstanding on criminal trials. It simply undermines both the possibility of a fair trial for the accused and public confidence in the system. Juries have enough pressure on them without it being compounded.

    This is doubly true in cases of trials where there’s already a lynch mob mentality. Here, there’s a very real risk of rioting if the mob doesn’t get its way.

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  11. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher:

    when some ignorant mouth breathing Neanderthal on the jury refuses to vote to convict despite the evidence (a very real possibility)

    It’s a very real possibility that the state simply won’t be able to prove second- or third-degree murder beyond reasonable doubt.

    Lt. Richard Zimmerman is a fucking hero for testifying against this shithead, and I can only hope that he becomes the bar that other officers are held to when it comes to standing against their coworkers when they commit crimes.

    I haven’t seen the testimony but I agree with the broader sentiment: a profession’s ethic should be to uphold its standards against transgressors rather than to rally around them.

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  12. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    a lynch mob mentality

    Seems to me that belonged to Chauvin.

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  13. dazedandconfused says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite:

    Don’t be surprised if Zimmerman isn’t ostracized. Every cop I know thinks what Chauvin did was incredibly stupid. Most express deep sympathy for what that did to his trainees: From cadet to cop to inmate in ONE week. Nobody expected guys on their first week of their service to physically displace their training officer from that position, and Chauvin’s rank stupidity caused trouble for the entire MPD.

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