(The Center Square) – The attorney of Derek Chauvin has filed a motion seeking a new trial.
The motion cited reasons for a new trial, including: “[T]he interests of justice; abuse of discretion that deprived the Defendant of a fair trial; prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”
On April 20, a jury convicted Chauvin guilty on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Eric Nelson defended Chauvin, a former Minneapolis Police officer.
“The State committed pervasive, prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct, which deprived Mr. Chauvin of his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial, including but not limited to: disparaging the Defense; improper vouching; and failing to adequately prepare its witnesses,” the motion reads.
Nelson’s argued the court “abused its discretion” when it denied a venue change for the trial. Nelson claimed the publicity surrounding the case “threatened the fairness of the trial,” also citing “post-testimony, but pre-deliberation, intimidation of the defense’s expert witnesses.”
“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,” Nelson wrote. “The publicity here was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings.”
Other reasons cited by Nelson include:
- The court “abused its discretion” by not sequestering the jury for the entire trial, which resulted in Chauvin being denied his right to due process and a fair trial. The jury was told to avoid media reports about the case.
- Morries Hall, Floyd’s friend who pleaded the 5th Amendment to avoid self-incrimination, should have been ordered to testify, or have his conversations with police submitted into evidence.
- Nelson’s claim the judge failed to give the jury accurate instructions regarding 2nd and 3rd-degree murder charges, and says the court should not have allowed the prosecution to “present cumulative evidence with respect to use of force.”
- Nelson’s claim “the jury committed misconduct, felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”
Nelson also requested a Schwartz hearing, in which jurors are recalled to court and questioned about possible misconduct. That request followed after juror Brandon Mitchell was criticized for attending the March on Washington event in 2020, during which he wore a shirt with a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr., displaying the words, “GET YOUR KNEE OFF OUR NECKS” and a Black Lives Matter hat.
Judge Peter Cahill previously denied a motion for a retrial during proceedings after California U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA traveled to Minnesota and told reporters that if the jury gave a “not guilty” verdict, activists should “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational.”
Cahill said he didn’t believe her comments represented “additional material that would prejudice this jury”, but suggested her comments could be used in a future appeal.