Question 1: Derek Chauvin is guilty of all three criminal counts he faced for the murder of George Floyd, a Hennepin County jury has ruled. Did they get this one right?
John Kaul, photographer, long-time former lobbyist: Yes. Any reasonable person who watched the video might come to that conclusion.
Nick Zerwas, lobbyist, former GOP House member: The jury was in an unbelievably difficult scenario, but they were there as every witness was interviewed and cross-examined, they and had access to every piece of evidence and they watched a pretty horrific video more times than I think any human would ever want to. So I’m in no position to question the verdict that they came to. I think there are questions about whether it made sense to do a sequestered jury, especially with developments in Brooklyn Center. I think that will be questioned for some time to come. But in the scenario that jury was in and the evidence they saw and they lives they lived in the community during that time, I’m in no position to question their verdict.
Carlos Mariani, DFL House Public Safety chair: Oh yeah, they did. It screams accountability from beginning to end. Minnesota courts and our jury system said that accountability matters. Now, the bigger question is, what still needs to get right? It wasn’t just in that court. That really lies in our communities, our legislature and our practices of law enforcement. So there’s a heck of a lot of work before us. It doesn’t feel joyous that their verdict came down. It just feels correct.
Dennis Smith, attorney, former GOP House member: Yes. In my opinion, looking at the totality of the evidence, they did. And I am very thankful for it.
Ron Latz, attorney, DFL state senator: I think as a whole, yes, they did get it right. I trust the jury process. But I think there are some substantial grounds for appellate review. The decision not to sequester the jury once that trial began, I think that will be reviewed carefully. Because honestly, I don’t see how a jury could avoid information or being impacted by everything going on around them. There is a lot of questioning going on already within the defense community and other places, about whether the jury’s decision was impacted, in any way, by the outside pressures—the risks, concerns and fears for their own safety or attention down the road—as opposed to just being narrowly focused on the individual facts and the person in front of them. One would hope that they were able to do their work with blinders on.
Question 2: Discretionary sentencing is “constitutionally necessary,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday. It reversed two decades of precedent by upholding a life without parole sentence for a 15-year-old who murdered his grandfather. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that it is unnecessary to find a juvenile “permanently incorrigible” before throwing away the key. How do you feel about that?
Kaul: That’s what you get with a Republican majority Supreme Court—a rejection of science and reason.
Zerwas: I have grave concerns with the idea of life sentences for minor children. We are supposed to have a redemptive and rehabilitative justice system that focuses on recovering people from their criminal activity. I don’t know what you expect that person, at that point in their life, to gain from an incarceration, truly, for the rest of their life. It seems this makes that individual significantly more dangerous and more of a threat once inside a penitentiary. And, and most likely, it turns people into lost causes. Which, morally, I just have a problem with.
Mariani: I feel like we got news from the 1200s. Our society has grown, partly because we actually do use science and we know a lot of about social science. And we have jurists who just didn’t learn any of that. It’s incredibly disappointing and shocking, quite frankly. I don’t think it reflects how the average American thinks about human nature, human compassion, dignity and the capacity to grow and develop. That’s what we do. So it feels like a decision that would have been appropriate back in the 1200s, 1300s or 1400s—but not in that 21st century.
Smith: I respectfully disagree—and quite vehemently. We need to have all the tools available for our judges. We will never really properly approach proper criminal justice reform without having judges take all matters into account. I hope the Supreme Court reverses this decision right away.
Latz: Absolute travesty, just based on the science of brain development and maturity. We know that at age, 15, even up to the age of 25, the ability to control impulse is lower and not fully developed. So to categorically condemn a 15-year-old to life without parole, without the possibility of review even decades later, is inhumane.
Question 3: The Twins aren’t exactly burning up the league in the early going. What are your expectations for the team this year?
Kaul: All Minnesota teams seem to take us to the altar. But we never get married.
Zerwas: Well, I can tell you this: I got an email last week about doing a 20-ticket package and I checked around with four of my buddies to see if anyone wanted to go in with me. And I got four no’s. So I don’t know what my expectations are. But the people I know don’t seem to have expectations.
Mariani: My expectation is that they better get used to not being in the playoffs. You know, it’s disappointing. Good God, how do you get rid of [outfielder Eddie] Rosario? I mean, you just handed Cleveland the division title! I’m just stunned. It kind of reminds me of getting rid of Big Papi [slugger David Ortiz] 20 years ago.
Smith: I’m hoping for some sunshine, some peanuts and something cold to drink as I sit in the stands and watch the Twins. I legitimately hope that they could win a game or two along the way. But sometimes things happen in life that are more important than winning baseball games.
Latz: I think they’ve got the talent to burn up the league. And I think that we will see that as the season progresses. It’s still very early.