U.S.

Cameras in the Derek Chauvin trial helped with transparency

Sen. Chuck Grassley

America’s application of jurisprudence – our court and trial system – was arguably on trial this month for all the world to see from the Hennepin County Courthouse in America’s heartland.

Former police officer Derek Chauvin’s televised murder trial pulled back the curtain for anyone to watch our justice system at work during one of the most tumultuous times in America in decades. Riots, racial disharmony and policing practices percolated throughout a year-long pandemic and divisive presidential election. Pent-up political and social turbulence culminated in downtown Minneapolis for the criminal trial following the death last May of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in police custody. 

All eyes on the trial

All eyes were on the court during jury selection, opening arguments, testimony from 45 witnesses (some off camera) and closing arguments. For nearly 10 hours over two days, the jury of Chauvin’s peers deliberated the three charges against him. Video livestreams and televised broadcasts helped satisfy the court of public opinion that the court proceedings unfolding before their eyes were fair and balanced. The public watched as the 12-member jury confirmed one-by-one its unanimous guilty verdict on all three counts for the murder of George Floyd. Then, they watched as Judge Peter Cahill thanked the jury for their “heavy-duty jury service” and saw the convicted defendant remanded into custody until sentencing.

During the trial, the jury watched video footage and heard witness testimony of George Floyd telling the defendant, “I can’t breathe.” The televised proceedings allowed the public to watch the wheels of justice turn. In doing so, the nation was able to see the verdict rendered with full transparency thanks to cameras in the court.

I applaud Judge Cahill for making the decision to allow cameras in his courtroom. Transparency brings accountability. Considering the overheated rhetoric and injudicious comments from elected officials before the verdict was handed down, cameras in this courtroom allowed the American people to watch every moment and dissect every syllable of testimony with their own eyes and ears.

The Supreme Court has upheld constitutional guarantees for the accused to a fair trial by an impartial jury and for the public to have reasonable access to criminal trial proceedings in the First and Sixth Amendments. Judge Cahill took into consideration the extraordinary interest in the Chauvin trial and consented for it to be “recorded, broadcast and livestreamed in audio and video.”

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