Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is appealing his conviction for the second degree felony-murder of George Floyd, asserting that the jury was intimidated by Black Lives Matter protests.
Chauvin is additionally arguing that the case was harmed by the immense pre-trial publicity.
The former police officer filed the appeal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday.
Chauvin’s lawyer William Mohrman noted in the filing that the riots over Floyd’s death resulted in property damage exceeding $500,000,000 — making them the second most destructive riots in American history.
The 82-page document goes on to cite specific fears from many jurors and potential jurors, both for their own safety and that of the city. Eleven days after being selected, Juror 27 begged the court to be removed from the jury citing his wife’s fears. The court refused to dismiss him, saying that if they did, they would have to dismiss every juror, as they all shared the same concerns.
“Your concerns are perfectly understandable. All of us on this case whose names are out in the public understand the concerns,” the filing quotes Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill saying.
The judge also told the juror, “your identity, I will do everything possible to keep it safe, but word spreads.”
During jury selection, many potential jurors said that their fears would put pressure on their impartiality.
In examples provided by Mohrman, Juror 60 said they “would have a hard time being impartial” because of his concern for the “safety of my family.”
“If the outcome were to go a certain way and the general public didn’t like that” it “would cause a definite concern from me regarding our family,” Juror 60 stated, adding, “one verdict is a path of less resistance,” and it would be “less controversial” to rule in one direction. That way “may involve more controversy, more concern for your family,” to the degree that “it would be hard [to be impartial].”
Juror 78 said that he would also be thinking about his safety and hoped-for anonymity. Juror 10 admitted that they had concerns about focusing on the trial because of safety. Juror 37 felt nervous about herself and her kids “depending on what is ruled, that could be a problem down the line or even in the process.”
Finally, seated Juror 55 believed that her personal safety “really depends on how the trial—the end results.”
In the midst of the trial, the City of Minneapolis announced it paid $27,000,000 to settle Floyd’s Estate’s claims against the City. The news was unavoidable and two jurors had to be dismissed for failing to avoid the media coverage.
The appeal also states that “Floyd’s arrest and death, Chauvin’s identification and the riots had more media coverage in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area than any event in its history. There was saturation news coverage in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press and the three TV networks – WCCO, KARE-11. Nationwide, news coverage was more extensive than any story in fifty years. More importantly, with respect to the riots, the news coverage was oddly favorable to the rioters.”
Mohrman noted that Court TV reported its viewership for the trial was the highest it had ever recorded — and that it was the first time a Minnesota court had allowed cameras into a trial.
The extensive coverage, Mohrman alleges, “glorified Floyd and demonized Chauvin.”
“The Minneapolis Police Chief and Minnesota’s head of the Department of Public Safety called the incident a ‘murder’ on June 4, 2020,” the appeal points out.
Judge Cahill denied the defense’s request for a new trial, despite the fact that a member of the jury was an open Black Lives Matter activist.
USA Today reports that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has 45 days to respond to Chauvin’s brief.
Ellison, a former Democrat congressman, tweeted a photo of himself holding a book titled, “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” in 2018.