Minneapolis, MN – An attorney for former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin went before an appeals court in Minnesota on Wednesday to argue that the man convicted of George Floyd’s murder hadn’t received a fair trial in Hennepin County.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill sentenced Chauvin to 22-and-a-half years behind bars in June of last year after he was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death.
Chauvin pleaded guilty to federal charges in December of 2021 for violating George Floyd’s civil rights when he used excessive force.
Federal prosecutors had asked the judge to give Chauvin 25 years, and defense attorneys had argued that 20 years would be more appropriate given that the former police officer had expressed remorse for Floyd’s death and his part in it, NBC News reported.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ultimately gave Chauvin 21 years with credit for time that he had already served, a reduction that brought his federal sentence down to 20 years and five months.
But on Jan. 18, Chauvin’s appeal attorney, William Mohrman, took his case before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and argued that his client had not had a fair trial, FOX News reported.
Mohrman told the court that the pre-trial publicity ahead of Chauvin’s jury trial was more extensive than that of any case before in the history of the state’s court system.
He argued that Cahill made the wrong call when he failed to grant the change of venue to another jurisdiction, FOX News reported.
Cahill also failed to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial and jurors were subjected to non-stop noise about it, Mohrman said.
Chauvin’s attorneys has argued the media circus, which included an announcements about a record-breaking $27 million pre-trial settlement for Floyd’s family, could not be completely avoided by the jury and may have influenced their verdict, FOX News reported.
The fact that a nationwide season of riots was sparked in Minneapolis by Floyd’s death as he was being arrested by Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020, should play heavily into the appeals court’s ruling on whether the former police officer had a fair trial, according to experts.
The attorney said the unprecedented courthouse security surrounding the trial may have also influenced the jury who were bussed in and out from a secure location in different blacked-out vehicles daily, FOX News reported.
Mohrman told the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the judge had improperly excluded evidence that could have been favorable to Chauvin and also accused the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the Hennepin County District Attorney’s Offices of misconduct.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank and Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general during President Barak Obama’s administration, countered in their response to the appeal that Chauvin’s rights were not prejudiced, FOX News reported.
Prosecutors said that a change of venue would have been “pointless’’ because the publicity about Floyd’s death and the video of it had blanketed the entire state of Minnesota.
Frank and Katyal argued to the appeals court that Cahill had taken sufficient steps to shield jurors from the media and the public so there was no need for sequestration, FOX News reported.
But legal experts said it wouldn’t really matter for Chauvin if he wins his appeal because his federal sentence would still be in effect and keep him in prison, likely longer than he would be on the state charges.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals is expected to rule on Chauvin’s appeal in writing within 90 days, FOX News reported.
Floyd died in the custody of the Minneapolis police after officers responded to a call about a counterfeit $20 that he had allegedly used to make a purchase at a deli.
Store employees pointed out the suspect to police and they arrested him.
The complaint used to charge Chauvin said Floyd actively resisted arrest and then fought being put in the back of a police car once he had been handcuffed.
Cell phone video showed then-Officer Chauvin and three other officers holding Floyd on the ground.
The video showed Officer Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, during which time the suspect lost consciousness.
Chauvin remained on Floyd’s neck for almost three minutes after he was unresponsive.