Judge in the Derek Chauvin trial is a former prosecutor who has built a reputation as a no-nonsense prosecutor
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill
The judge who oversaw Derek Chauvin’s murder case is known for his decisive and direct style, which he built through years of service as a public defender and as a prosecutor.
Minnesota agent Chauvin was found guilty on Tuesday on all three charges – second-degree accidental murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter – in the death of George Floyd. He has now been behind bars for 40 years.
And Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, 64, has been commended for handling the high-profile case.
Cahill graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1984 before starting his career with the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office.
He served there for three years before joining the private firm of renowned attorney Michael Colich, where he worked from 1987 to 1993.
In 1997, Cahill moved to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, where he served as the top counsel to United States Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, when she was the county’s chief prosecutor.
During his 10-year tenure as a prosecutor, Cahill went to the state Supreme Court to argue against a ruling limiting the ability of police officers to question and search motorists without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
Cahill was commended for his steadfastness in his decisions not to delay or move the proceedings despite media attention.
Cahill was appointed by Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2007 and quickly built a reputation as a no-nonsense, honest justice. He was elected by the public in 2014 and 2020 and his current term expires in January 2027.
One of his biggest statements came in 2015 when he dismissed allegations against the organizers of a major Black Lives Matter rally at the Mall of America, saying the demonstration had gone peacefully.
Cahill was put in the spotlight when Chief Hennepin District Judge Toddrick Barnette urged him to oversee the trial of Derek Chauvin, one of the most highly anticipated and influential in Minnesota and US history.
“This moment isn’t too big for him,” Barnette said of Cahill. “He will make informed legal decisions based on the law, even if the decisions are unpopular.”
Early on, Cahill made the unprecedented decision to allow cameras in his court for the first time in Minnesota history.
Announcing the decision, Cahill said he decided that the “ only way to justify defendants’ constitutional right to a public trial and the constitutional rights of the media and the public to access criminal cases is to use audio and video reporting. of the process’.
Lawyers who know him describe the move as ‘classic Cahill’.
MINNESOTA V DEREK CHAUVIN – COSTS
Second degree murder – GUILTY
Possible punishment: 12.5 to 40 years
The second-degree murder charge required prosecutors to prove that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death while he was committing or attempting to commit a crime – in this case, third-degree assault.
Prosecutors had to convince the jury that Chauvin was attacking or attempting to assault Floyd and had sustained substantial bodily harm in the process. Prosecutors did not have to prove that Chauvin was the sole cause of Floyd’s death – just that his behavior was a “substantial causal factor.”
Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, but because Chauvin has no previous convictions, guidelines recommend that he serve 12.5 years.
Second degree manslaughter – GUILTY
Possible penalty: four to ten years
The manslaughter charge has a lower bar and requires evidence that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through negligence that created an unreasonable risk, and knowingly took the opportunity to cause serious injury or death.
Second-degree manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison – guidelines for convictions for someone without a criminal record for no more than four years behind bars.
Third degree murder – GUILTY
Possible penalty: 12.5 to 25 years
Third degree murder required a lower standard of proof than second degree. To get a conviction, the prosecutors only had to prove that Floyd’s death was caused by an act that was clearly dangerous, but not necessarily a felony.
Third-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, but since Chauvin has no criminal history, he would likely serve about 12.5.
‘He’s very bold. He applies the law fairly, ”said Colich, Cahill’s friend and former boss NPR. ‘He won’t be intimidated. And you will see that as the trial goes on, he will check the courtroom. He’ll let the lawyers do their job, but he’ll be in control. ‘
Before the trial, Cahill was commended for his steadfastness in his decisions not to delay or move the proceedings despite media attention.
Minneapolis officials took the wrath of the judge before the trial even began when they announced the city’s $ 27 million settlement with George Floyd’s family in the middle of the jury selection.
Cahill considered a defense to postpone the trial due to concerns that the “ unfortunate ” timing of the settlement announcement could hurt jurors’ perceptions of the case as officials went against the will of the judge and announced a second press conference on the case. issue.
Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson asked Judge Cahill several times to postpone the case and declare a void trial over comments from liberal politicians who suspected the defendant’s guilt and raised fears of post-verdict violence.
In a biting rebuke, Cahill demanded that the city, the prosecutor and the defense “stop talking about it” before judging that the trial was going on schedule.
However, he was forced to fire two already sitting jurors and several future jurors who admitted that their knowledge of the settlement could keep them from being impartial.
After three weeks of testimony, he quickly intervened when both sides appeared to be lapsed into a series of questions that contradicted the clear rules he had set.
As the trial drew to a close, Congressman Maxine Waters infuriated Cahill when she urged Black Lives Matter protesters to “ become more confrontational ” if Chauvin is found not guilty.
Chauvin’s attorney cited Waters’ remarks when he called for a null and void trial after the jury was sent to deliberate on April 19.
Hours before the verdict was announced, President Joe Biden joined fellow Democrats to defy Judge Peter Cahill when he called the evidence against Chauvin “ overwhelming ” and said he hoped the jury would reach the “ right verdict. ” .
Nelson said he believed the media frenzy surrounding the case would undoubtedly distort the jury, adding, “Now that we have US representatives threatening acts of violence in connection with this trial, it’s nothing short of astonishing.”
Judge Cahill called it ‘disgusting’ that politicians ignored his warnings against speaking up and said that Waters [the defense] something on appeal that could lead to this whole process being destroyed ‘.
The judge ultimately denied Nelson’s bid for a mistrial and the jury went on to deliberate.