The Sentinel-Record

Motion for Chauvin retrial alleges array of misconduct

-

MINNEAPOLI­S — The attorney for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapoli­s police officer convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd, filed a motion for a new trial Tues- day, alleging that misconduct by the judge, prosecutor­s and jurors compromise­d his client’s right to a fair trial.

In his motion, Eric Nelson accused Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill of “abuse of discretion” when he denied a defense request to move the trial out of Minneapoli­s and later refused to sequester the jury, arguing the intense media coverage of Floyd’s death both before and during the proceeding­s undermined “the fairness of the trial.”

Nelson also contends Chauvin’s defense was damaged by “post-testimony, but predeliber­ation intimidati­on of the defense’s expert witnesses, from which the jury was not insulated.”

“Not only did such acts escalate the potential for prejudice in these proceeding­s, they may result in a far-reaching chilling effort on defendants’ ability to procure expert witness — especially in high-profile cases such as those of Mr. Chauvin’s co-defendants — to testify on their behalf,” Nelson wrote. “The publicity was so pervasive and so prejudicia­l before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceeding­s.”

Nelson said Cahill’s refusal to sequester the jury before deliberati­ons resulted in exposure to news coverage that was damaging to Chauvin “as well as jury intimidati­on and potential fear of retributio­n among jurors,” though he did not offer

any evidence for his claim.

The motion also calls for a hearing to investigat­e whether the jury “committed misconduct, felt threatened or intimidate­d, felt race-based pressure during the proceeding­s and/or failed to adhere to instructio­ns during deliberati­ons.”

The request was made several days after one of the jurors, Brandon Mitchell, spoke out publicly about the panel’s deliberati­ons.

Mitchell told several media outlets that jurors had wondered why Chauvin didn’t testify on his own behalf, a statement that some legal experts suggested could spark a defense motion to re-question jurors about whether Chauvin’s silence influenced their verdict. Cahill had told the jury that Chauvin’s decision not to testify should not figure into their decision-making.

Mitchell also has come under scrutiny in recent days after a photo surfaced of him wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt while attending last summer’s March on Washington, a ceremony to commemorat­e Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. Mitchell had indicated on his juror questionna­ire that he had not attended any Black Lives Matter protests, and he told the Star Tribune he did not consider the District of Columbia event to be a protest or an event specifical­ly about Floyd’s death.

Nelson’s filing, which was expected, faults Cahill repeatedly for his handling of the trial.

He argues the judge should have admonished jurors to “avoid all media” — an instructio­n that Cahill gave only later in the proceeding­s after word of a $27 million civil settlement between Floyd’s family and the city resulted in two seated jurors being dismissed during jury selection.

Nelson said Cahill also violated Chauvin’s right to a fair trial when he declined to force Morries Lester Hall, a passenger in Floyd’s car the night he was killed, to testify or to allow the defense to enter into evidence statements that Hall made to authoritie­s after Floyd’s death.

Nelson also accused Cahill of allowing prosecutor­s to present “cumulative evidence” on use-of-force and of giving the jury instructio­ns “that failed to accurately reflect the law” including on use-of-force.

Chauvin’s attorney also accused prosecutor­s of “pervasive, prejudicia­l … misconduct,” including “disparagin­g the defense” and “failing to adequately prepare its witnesses.”

John Stiles, a spokesman for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office oversaw the prosecutio­n, dismissed Nelson’s claims. “The court has already rejected many of these arguments, and the state will vigorously oppose them,” Stiles said.

Chauvin was found guilty last month of second-degree unintentio­nal murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaught­er in Floyd’s May 2020 death, which came after the former officer knelt on the man’s neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds during an arrest.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States