Legal /

Derek Chauvin Asks Appeals Court to Void Verdict in George Floyd's Death

His attorney contends the threat of protests and the trial location prevented Chauvin from receiving a fair trial

An attorney for former police officer Derek Chauvin has asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to void this client’s murder conviction stemming from his role in the death of George Floyd.

William Mohrman argued that his client was not given a fair trial and he is seeking a new one.

“Our primary argument here is that this case could not be tried in Minneapolis because of the pretrial publicity which was pervasive … and also just the physical pressure on the courthouse,” Mohrman said to a panel of three judges. 

Floyd’s death and videos of the law enforcement’s interactions with him sparked nationwide debate and exacerbated racial tension during the summer of 2020, resulting in riots in cities across the country.

Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder in April 2021 and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 15, 2021 to federal court for violating a federal criminal civil rights statute in connection to the case and was sentenced to 21 years in prison. Other officers involved have also been convicted for their role in Floyd’s death. 

Mohrman asked the judges on Jan. 18 to throw out the conviction because of legal failures and prejudicial circumstances that may have fairly impacted the trial. Mohrman said the judge assigned to the trial should have moved it out of Minneapolis because of the intense publicity, public scrutiny, security precautions, and imminent threat of protests. 

“The primary issue on this appeal is whether a criminal defendant can get a fair trial consistent with constitutional requirements in a courthouse surrounded by concrete block, barbed wire, two armored personnel carriers, and a squad of National Guard troops, all of which or whom are there for one purpose: in the event that the jury acquits the defendant,” Mohrman said, per AP News

Mohrman also argued the jury should have been sequestered during the trial.

Additionally, the attorney said a number of factors prevent Chauvin from being fairly tried in the city, including Minneapolis’s $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family. The settlement was announced during jury selection – before the trial had begun. 

The state of Minnesota is being represented by former Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal. Katyal said during his opening statements that “the evidence of Chauvin’s guilt was captured on video for the world to see.” He also said Chauvin’s trial was “one of the most transparent and thorough … in our nation’s history,” per NPR

Chauvin announced his plans to appeal his case in September of 2021 and hired Mohrman the next month. The Minnesota Supreme Court had denied Chauvin’s request to use a public defender in the appeal process. 

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