Minneapolis, MN – The defense attorney for former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin filed a motion for a new trial in Hennepin County District Court on Tuesday alleging the trial was tainted by bad behavior by state prosecutors and juror misconduct.
The motion filed by attorney Eric Nelson on May 4 also cited Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill’s failure to change the venue and sequester the jury from the media circus that accompanied the trial.
Nelson’s motion called for a new trial to be granted because Cahill’s abuse of discretion deprived Chauvin of a fair trial in numerous ways, including his denial of the defense’s motion for a new trial after “publicity during the proceedings threaten[ed] the fairness of the trial.”
The city of Minneapolis made the largest pre-trial settlement in U.S. history with Floyd’s family during jury selection, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-California) levied threats of what would happen without a guilty verdict, and black-clad vandals attacked the former home of one of the defense’s expert witnesses with pig’s blood before the trial had even finished.
“Such publicity included post-testimony, but predeliberation, intimidation of the defense’s expert witnesses, from which the jury was not insulated,” Nelson wrote in the motion. “Not only did such acts escalate the potential for prejudice in these proceedings, they may result in a far-reaching chilling effect on defendants’ ability to procure expert witness—especially in high-profile cases, such as those of Mr. Chauvin’s codefendants—to testify on their behalf.”
“The publicity here was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings,” the motion read.
The motion pointed out that Cahill had “failed to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, or in the least, admonish them to avoid all media, which resulted in jury exposure to prejudicial publicity regarding the trial during the proceedings, as well as jury intimidation and potential fear of retribution among jurors, which violated Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to due process and to a fair trial.”
Legal experts have pointed out that Cahill never told the jury to avoid social media which was full of information and unconfirmed reports about the trial.
Nelson also alleged that the judge had violated Chauvin’s rights under the Confrontation Clause when he failed to order the passenger from Floyd’s vehicle the day he died to testify at trial.
Cahill also refused to allow witness statements Morries Hall made to law enforcement about the incident into evidence.
Hall announced he would plead the Fifth Amendment on the stand after Floyd’s girlfriend testified that he was the dead man’s drug dealer.
The motion also addressed prosecutorial misconduct by the state throughout the trial including improper vouching, failing to prepare witnesses, and disparaging the defense.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter by a Hennepin County jury on April 20.
Since his conviction, it was revealed that one of the jurors lied on his jury questionnaire when he said he hadn’t attended any of the George Floyd protests.
Brandon Mitchell, who was juror No. 52, has been making the media circuit talking about his experience deciding Chauvin’s fate and promoting his podcast.
In the process, Mitchell advocated using jury duty for social justice purposes and revealed he may have had an agenda.
During jury selection, Mitchell claimed he’d never even watched the entire video of Floyd’s death.
But once the trial was over and Chauvin had been convicted on all three charges, it turned out that Mitchell had engaged in activism.
Pictures posted to social media by a family member showed that Mitchell had actively participated in anti-police protests in Washington, DC last summer while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt that said “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks.”
Mitchell told WCCO that he was in DC for a voter turnout march that had nothing to do with the protests.
But the shirt he was wearing in the pictures and his recent advocacy for juror activism told an entirely different story.
Chauvin’s sentencing is scheduled for June 25.
Prosecutors have filed a request for enhanced sentencing based on aggravating factors of the crime.