Attorneys for George Floyd’s murderer and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has appealed for his conviction to be overturned.  

George Floyd's Killer Derek Chauvin

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Chauvin’s lawyers are claiming that numerous factors combined prevented him from getting a fair and just trial.

The Challenge

The attorneys for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin asked an appeals court to overturn his conviction in the murder of George Floyd in a court filing Monday. 

Within the filing, his lawyers asked the court to do one of three things: reverse his conviction, reverse his conviction and grant him a new trial in a different venue, or return the case to a lower court for resentencing.

 In April 2021, Chauvin was declared guilty in the murder of Floyd on three counts: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison last June.

In the 72-page court filing that was presented to the court, Derek’s lawyers said that a combination of pretrial publicity, jurors’ concerns for their safety, the potential for riots to break out if the former officer was acquitted, in addition to physical threats to the courthouse prevented him from getting a fair and just trial.

“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 court filing said. 

Lawyers then added, “However, the real problem is the jurors expressed these concerns: (i) they and their families’ personal safety and (ii) riots breaking out in the event they acquitted Chauvin.”

Lawyers also mentioned that the threat of violence was “extreme,” and since jurors were not sequestered, they saw this every day during trial. 

“There are few cases involving such violent threats by the community in the event the jury finds the defendant not guilty. Those cases — which all involved defendant police officers — required transfer of venue,” the attorneys said in the filing. 

The court filing also argued that a change of venue, previously denied by the lower court, was necessary in this case.

“The courthouse was surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers during the trial. Prior to jury deliberations, National Guard troops were deployed throughout Minneapolis, businesses boarded up their buildings and schools were closed ‘bracing for a riot’ in the event of Chauvin’s acquittal,” the filing said.

An argument for Chauvin’s sentence to be reduced, as the presumptive sentence for someone without a criminal history is 150 months. Chauvian, on the other hand, received 270 months. They also argued that “abuse of a position of authority” would not be a factor allowing for his upward sentencing.

George Floyd’s murderer’s lawyers made the allegation that police officers cannot be convicted for the charge of felony murder according to Minnesota law as well as the claim that that Chauvin was authorized to “touch” Floyd when Floyd resisted arrest.

“Chauvin is a police officer statutorily authorized to commit ‘assaults’ to effect an arrest,” they stated in the filing. “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.’”

The court told the jury that “it is not necessary for the State to prove that [Chauvin] intended to inflict substantial bodily harm” is a “material misstatement of the law,” Chauvin’s attorneys argued as well. In the filing, they claimed this statement invited the application of strict liability, a standard of liability meaning the defendant could be responsible for the consequences of an action, even without criminal intent.

Lawyers also claimed there was “prosecutorial misconduct,” including discovery violations and failures to disclose, starting with the state “largely ignoring the Court’s initial discovery deadline. The State’s pervasive, intentional discovery violations, alone, were sufficiently prejudicial as to require a new trial.”

Violation of Civil Rights

Former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were found guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights by a federal jury in St. Paul, Minnesota.

After deliberations, a jury of four men and eight women found Lane, Kueng, and Thao guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights. The jurors also found Thao and Kueng guilty of an additional charge for failing to intervene to stop Chauvin. In addition to giving the ex-cops guilty verdicts, the jury found that their crimes resulted in Floyd’s death.