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Minnesota Appeals Court Upholds Derek Chauvin's Conviction

Attorneys for the former police officer have argued he was not given a fair trial

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld former police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction for his role in the 2020 death of George Floyd.

Chauvin was convicted of second- and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter in April of 2021. His attorneys asked the court to throw out the convictions, citing the impact of the case’s intense publicity ahead of the trial as well as procedural errors that prevented Chauvin from receiving a fair trial.

“Police officers undoubtedly have a challenging, difficult, and sometimes dangerous job. However, no one is above the law,” said Appeals Judge Peter Reyes on behalf of the three-judge panel, per AP News. “When they commit a crime, they must be held accountable just as those individuals that they lawfully apprehend.”

“The law only permits police officers to use reasonable force when effecting a lawful arrest,” Reyes added. “Chauvin crossed that line here when he used unreasonable force on Floyd.”

William Mohrman, who represents Chauvin, argued the trial should have been moved out of Minneapolis because of the media’s extensive coverage of the case and because of a number of security threats that sparked concern about violence. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill oversaw the case.

“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 during oral arguments heard by the court in January, per NBC News

Mohrman noted that, in addition to national news coverage, the case triggered riots in major cities across America – further impacting the potential partiality of a jury. He also noted that Minneapolis announced it had reached a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family during jury selection. 

Because of the threats of violence and security concerns, the courthouse had to be sealed off. 

Three days before the Court of Appeals announced its decision, the city announced it had settled with two people who claimed Chauvin knelt on their necks during arrest as he was accused of doing during Floyd’s arrest. The two people, John Pope and Zoya Cole, will receive a combined $8.9 million.

“I am grateful for the decision of the Court of Appeals, and grateful we have a system where everyone, no matter how egregious their offense, is entitled to due process and fair treatment. The Court’s decision today shows once again no one is above the law — and no one is beneath it,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement on April 17. 

“Today, my thoughts are today with the family of George Floyd and the communities that have suffered because of his death,” he continued. “We cannot bring Floyd back, but I hope today’s decision brings another measure of justice.”

After being found guilty in Minnesota, Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. Chauvin is currently serving time in a federal prison in Arizona after pleading guilty to federal civil rights charges, for which he was sentenced to 21 years in prison. He will serve both sentences concurrently.

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