Judge blasts U.S. Rep Maxine Waters for 'abhorrent' comments about Chauvin trial

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Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill holds a copy of a verdict form as he gives instructions to the jury to begin their deliberations, during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. April 19, 2021 in a still image from video. Pool via REUTERS

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April 19 (Reuters) - The judge overseeing the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Monday harshly criticized U.S. Representative Maxine Waters' remarks on the case, saying she might have given the defense grounds for appeal in the event of a conviction.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said during the closing moments of Chauvin's trial that it was abhorrent of Waters, a Democrat from California, to tell protesters it would be unacceptable for the former officer to be acquitted of murdering George Floyd.

"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," Cahill said after dismissing jurors from the courtroom.

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Elected officials commenting on the case should show respect for the judicial branch, Cahill said. "Their failure to do so is abhorrent."

A spokesman for Waters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chauvin, who is white, pushed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed Black man, in May 2020 for more than nine minutes, sparking protests around the world over police brutality.

Cahill's remarks came after Chauvin's defense lawyer requested a mistrial, arguing that Waters' comments had tainted the proceeding.

Cahill denied the request, but said the defense's concerns were legitimate.

"I'll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result on this whole trial being overturned," Cahill said.

Waters was in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, over the weekend to show support for ongoing protests over the death of Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed on April 11 by a Brooklyn Center police officer during a traffic stop.

Waters told the protesters to "stay on the street" and "to get more confrontational" if Chauvin was found not guilty.

Her remarks came ahead of closing arguments in Chauvin's trial. Jurors began deliberating on Monday.

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Reporting by Jan Wolfe Editing by Noeleen Walder and Richard Chang

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