A Minnesota appeals court on Monday upheld former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the second-degree murder of George Floyd, with his 22 1/2-year sentence remaining efficient.
Chauvin’s lawyers had asked the appeals court to vacate the ex-officer’s conviction for a number of reasons, including extensive pre-trial publicity. He also argued that legal and procedural errors denied Chauvin a fair trial. But a three-judge jury sided with prosecutors, saying Chauvin received a fair trial and a fair sentence.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, when Chauvin, a white man, knelt on the neck of a black man on the ground for 9 1/2 minutes. A bystander video captured Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” fading cries. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world, some of which turned violent, and forced a national reckoning over police brutality and racism.
“There is no doubt that the work of the police is challenging, difficult and sometimes dangerous. Yet no one is above the law,” Appellate Judge Peter Reyes wrote for the panel. “When they commit crimes, they must be held accountable like those they lawfully arrest. The law only allows police to use reasonable force when making a lawful arrest. Chauvin crossed the line here when he used unreasonable force against Floyd over that line.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who convened the prosecution team, said in a statement that he was “glad that we have a system where everyone, no matter how egregious their crimes, are entitled to due process and fair treatment. “
“Today’s ruling by the court demonstrates once again that no one is above the law — and no one is above the law,” Ellison said.
A voicemail and email were sent to Chauvin’s attorney, William Moorman. He argued on appeal that the trial judge should have moved the case out of Minneapolis due to extensive pretrial publicity and unprecedented security precautions over fears of violence.
“The main issue on this appeal is whether a criminal defendant can receive a constitutionally required fair trial in a courthouse surrounded by concrete blocks, barbed wire, two armored personnel carriers, and a National Guard contingent, all of which or who has a Purpose: If the jury acquits the defendant,” Mollman said during oral argument in January.
But the state’s special prosecutor, Neal Katyal, argued that Chauvin was subjected to “one of the most transparent and thorough trials in the history of our country.”
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill sentenced Chauvin to 22.5 years in prison after jurors found him guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin later pleaded guilty to a separate federal civil rights charge and was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison, which he is now serving concurrently in Arizona.
“Judge Cahill managed this trial very carefully, and even if Chauvin could find some small mistakes, any mistakes are harmless,” Katial said. “Chauvin’s incriminating evidence was captured on video for the world to see.”
Mollman argued that the pretrial disclosure was the most extensive of any trial in Minnesota history and that the judge should have moved the trial and isolated the jury. He said the publicity and rioting, the city’s announcement of a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family during the jury selection, the police killing of a black man in suburban Minneapolis during the jury selection, sparked The riots, and the blockade of the courthouse, are just some of the factors that have affected Chauvin’s chances of a fair trial.
His appeal also focused on a juror who participated in a civil rights march on Washington honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., months after Floyd’s death. It was only after the trial that jurors revealed he had been there.
But the appeals court ruled that Cahill did not abuse his discretion in deciding those issues.
The appeals court declined to address whether the law would have allowed Chauvin to be convicted of third-degree murder. The defense said a 2021 decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court in another police killing case clarified the definition of the crime, meaning the law no longer complied with the fact that Floyd was killed. But the appeals court noted that the trial judge never formally found guilty of the charge, nor did he sentence Chauvin for it.
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