Who is Peter A Cahill? Derek Chauvin trial judge is 'used to limelight' and up for the 'challenge', says attorney

The decision to allow live steaming the proceedings was made by Cahill himself, owing to the global interest around the case and limited courthouse space


                            Who is Peter A Cahill? Derek Chauvin trial judge is 'used to limelight' and up for the 'challenge', says attorney
Peter A Cahill, the judge presiding over Derek Chauvin case, is used to limelight (Minnesota Judicial Branch/Ramsey County Sheriff's Office)
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The trial of Derek Chauvin, a former police officer accused of ending the life of George Floyd, is entering its sixth week — and many believe Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill is the right man for the job.

Cameras are live streaming a case for the first time in Minnesota state court history. The decision to allow live steaming the proceedings was made by Cahill himself, owing to the global interest around the case and limited courthouse space, USA Today reported.

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According to the outlet, the 62-year-old former prosecutor and public defender has "opened the courtroom in one sense, he has been very strict in another." Cahill's colleagues reportedly describe him as a taskmaster noted for running tight courtrooms, and he has ruled with a stern hand despite the intense scrutiny. He has publicly reprimanded the press, rebuked a combative witness and scolded a witness's public relations representative for taking a photo in the barricaded courthouse.

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Who is Peter A Cahill?

Cahill began his career as a public defender before moving to private practice. He joined the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in 1997 and spent a decade there before becoming its chief deputy county attorney.

In 2007, Cahill was appointed to the bench by former Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty and has been re-elected to his position twice, per the outlet. His current term began in 2014 and expires in January 2027. Speaking to a local newspaper in Plymouth, where he resided for at least a quarter of a century with his wife and four children, Cahill said his favorite part of being a judge is presiding over jury trials, USA Today reported.

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Floral tributes lay next to a mural of George Floyd (Getty Images)

Cahill was a chief judge when he presided over one of Minnesota's problem-solving courts, which aims to "prevent women on probation for prostitution charges from reoffending."

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"Judge Cahill definitely has control of that courtroom," Hennepin County Chief Judge Toddrick Barnette, who picked Cahill to preside over Chauvin's trial, told USA Today. Barnette said he was looking for someone who could make legal decisions under local, national, and international pressure when he was selecting a judge for the case. "We needed a person that this moment wasn’t too big for," he added.

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Cahill, last year, sentenced figure skating coach Thomas Incantalupo to 24 years in prison for sexually abusing one of his figure skaters. In 2019, Cahill sentenced gunman Kenneth Lilly to seven years after he pleaded guilty to shooting a school bus driver while a student was on board. In 2015, Cahill dismissed charges against organizers of a large Black Lives Matter protest at Mall of America. He issued a 137-page decision at the time.

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A man holds a Black Lives Matter sign as a police car burns during a protest (Getty Images)

Andrew Gordon, an attorney who was part of the BLM case, said Cahill is a "big fan of courtroom efficiency" who marshaled that case well and is likely doing the same in the Chauvin proceedings.

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"Cahill is used to the limelight. He has handled complex matters before," he told USA Today. "He is up for the challenge."