Attorneys for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin have filed a court appeal to overturn his conviction in the killing of George Floyd, saying that the proceedings were so riddled with “error, misconduct and prejudice that they were structurally defective.”
The 82-page filing lists several aspects of the proceeding, including the protests outside the courthouse, its wide-scale pretrial publicity and Minneapolis’s announcement that it would pay a $27 million settlement to Floyd’s family, which came during jury selection. The filing also accuses the prosecutors of misconduct.
“This coverage glorified Floyd and demonized Chauvin,” his lawyers wrote.
In April 2021, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, manslaughter and third-degree murder and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison for killing Floyd.
Chauvin’s attorneys are asking the appeals court to either reverse his conviction, grant him a new trial in a different venue and reverse the conviction, or return the case to a lower court for resentencing.
They argue that a change of venue was needed in this case. That request was initially denied by the lower court.
“There are few cases involving such violent threats by the community in the event the jury finds the defendant not guilty,” the filing read. “Those cases — which all involved defendant police officers — required transfer of venue,” the attorneys said in the filing.”
If the court chooses to uphold the conviction, the filing requests that it reduces Chauvin’s sentence to be within the state’s sentencing guidelines.
The attorneys also pointed out the jurors’ concerns for safety.
“The overwhelming media coverage exposed the jurors — literally every day — to news demonizing Chauvin and glorifying Floyd, which was more than sufficient to presume prejudice,” the filing said.
“However, the real problem is the jurors expressed concern for (i) they and their families’ personal safety and (ii) riots breaking out in the event they acquitted Chauvin,” it continued.
Chauvin’s lawyers also wrote that “in order for a police officer to be convicted of murder, Minnesota statutes require the officer to be using ‘deadly force’ — force one knows will cause either death or ‘great bodily harm.’ Putting your knees on the back of a suspect does not create a ‘substantial risk of causing, death or great bodily harm.’”
They said the court instructed the jury that “it is not necessary for the State to prove that [Chauvin] intended to inflict substantial bodily harm,” which is a “material misstatement of the law.”