The attorney for Derek Chavin, a former Minneapolis police officer convicted of the murder of George Floyd, after kneeling on his neck for nearly ten minutes, filed a series of motions on Tuesday demanding a new trial for several reasons – including understood a fault of the jury.
The request was sent two weeks after the jury’s verdict, which convicted Chauvin in three categories of homicide. The case, videotaped on May 25 last year, sparked a wave of protests against racism and police violence in the United States and more than 60 countries. The sentence was handed down by a panel of 12 jurors, after a trial that lasted three weeks.
In a series of motions filed with District Judge Peter Cahill, attorney Eric Nelson said Chauvin did not receive a fair trial for several reasons, including the judge’s decision to deny the defense claims of moving the case out of Hennepin County (where Minneapolis is located) due to publicity of the case and not isolating the jury during the trial. The lawyer also says the jury felt threatened and intimidated.
The motion was already expected and is a common measure after criminal convictions in the country.
A photo of one of the jurors taking part in the anniversary march of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech has circulated on social media in recent days, prompting comments on a possible reason the verdict was overturned . Experts heard by the New York Times, however, say Chauvin is highly unlikely to win an appeal.
Before the trial, all potential jurors were asked to fill out a questionnaire asking whether they or a relative “had participated in demonstrations against the use of force or police brutality”.
Brandon Mitchell, the only juror to speak publicly after convicting Chauvin, told local newspaper The Star Tribune that he answered no to the question. He said he was at the rally in Washington to honor the activist and the struggle for civil rights and that he did not see it as a march against police brutality.
Jurors have not been publicly identified. What is known from the record is that the group consisted of four white women, two white men, three black men, one black woman and two women who identify as multiracial.
Judge Cahill can call a hearing to question Mitchell and see if he lied on his questionnaire. But, even if Cahill determined that Mitchell had intentionally misled the court in his questionnaire, that probably wouldn’t be enough to overturn the verdict.
The hearings began on March 29 and 45 witnesses were heard, including police officers, medical experts and passers-by who witnessed the approach of the police.
When presenting the case for more than two weeks, prosecutors assembled moved witnesses, police officers who claimed Chauvin’s actions violated police department policies, and medical experts who told court that Floyd, 46 years old, had died of suffocation.
Chauvin pleaded not guilty to all counts and waived his right to testify before juries. His defense attorney said Chavin behaved like any “reasonable policeman”, arguing that he took his 19-year training in the force.
The length of the sentence has not yet been announced. Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison. Since he is a main defendant, such a conviction would typically lead to 12.5 years in prison, but prosecutors can request an extension of the sentence, based on aggravating factors.
With Reuters and the New York Times