An attorney for Derek Chauvin appeared before an appeals court in Minnesota Wednesday to ask for the former Minneapolis police officer’s convictions in the murder of George Floyd to be thrown out, arguing that legal and procedural errors hindered him from having a fair trial.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill had sentenced Chauvin to 22 1/2 years after jurors found him guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of Floyd, whom he pinned to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Chauvin later pleaded guilty to a separate federal civil rights charge and was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison. He is now serving that sentence in Arizona concurrent with his state sentence.
Chauvin’s attorney for the appeal, William Mohrman, argued in his brief to the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the pretrial publicity was more extensive than that of any other trial in Minnesota history, and that the judge should have moved the trial elsewhere and sequestered the jury for the duration.
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Mohrman wrote that the publicity, combined with riots, the city’s $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family announced during jury selection, the unrest over a police killing in a Minneapolis suburb during jury selection, and the unprecedented courthouse security were just some of the factors prejudicing Chauvin’s chance of a fair trial.
He also argued that Cahill improperly excluded evidence that could have been favorable to Chauvin, and accused prosecutors of misconduct.
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The prosecutors, which include state Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank and Neal Katyal, who was acting U.S. solicitor general during the Obama administration, are arguing that Chauvin’s rights were not prejudiced.
They said in their brief that pretrial publicity had blanketed the state, making a change of venue for the trial pointless, and that Cahill took extensive steps to ensure the selection of impartial jurors. They also said he took sufficient steps to shield the jurors from outside influences so there was no need to sequester them before deliberations.
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Even if Chauvin wins his appeal, his federal sentence will keep him in prison longer than his state sentence likely would, The Associated Press is reporting, because he would qualify for parole earlier in the state system.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals is expected to issue a response in writing within 90 days, according to KARE 11.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.