Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison last June.
Lawyers for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in a filing Monday, asked an appeals court to overturn his conviction for the murder of George Floyd.
Chauvin’s lawyers in the case asked the court to do one of three things: vacate his conviction, vacate his conviction and grant him a new trial in a different location, or send the case back to a lower court for a new conviction.
In April 2021, Chauvin was convicted in Floyd’s death of second-degree manslaughter, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
He was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison last June.
In a 72-page court filing, Chauvin’s attorneys said pretrial publicity, jurors’ concerns for their safety, the possibility of riots breaking out if Chauvin was acquitted, and physical threats to the courthouse prevented Chauvin to obtain a fair trial.
“The overwhelming media coverage exposed jurors – literally every day – to news demonizing Chauvin and glorifying Floyd, which was more than enough to infer prejudice,” the court filing reads.
The lawyers added: “However, the real issue is that the jurors expressed concern for (i) their personal safety and that of their families and (ii) riots would break out in the event that they acquitted Chauvin.”
The court filing argued that a change of venue, which was previously denied by the lower court, was necessary in this case.
“There are few cases involving such violent threats from the community in the event that the jury finds the defendant not guilty. These cases – which all involved accused police officers – required a transfer of location,” said lawyers in the case.
The threat of violence was “extreme,” and because the jurors were not sequestered, they saw it every day during the trial, Chauvin’s attorneys said in the filing.
“The courthouse was surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers during the trial. Ahead of jury deliberations, National Guard troops were deployed throughout Minneapolis, businesses barricaded their buildings and schools were closed” in anticipation of a riot “in the event of Chauvin’s acquittal,” the filing said.
Chauvin’s lawyers have also argued that his sentence should be reduced, as the presumed sentence for someone with no criminal history is 150 months, while he was given 270 months. They argued that “abuse of a position of authority” is not an aggravating factor that would allow for upward sentencing.
Chauvin’s attorneys also claimed that a police officer cannot be convicted of murder under Minnesota law and that Chauvin was allowed to “touch” Floyd when Floyd resisted arrest.
“Chauvin is a police officer legally authorized to commit ‘assault’ to effect an arrest,” they said in the filing.
Lawyers later asserted that “for a police officer to be convicted of murder, Minnesota laws require the officer to use ‘deadly force’ – force known to cause death or harm” grievous bodily harm”. Putting your knees on a suspect’s back does not create a “substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily harm”.
The court telling the jury that “it is not necessary for the state to prove that [Chauvin] intended to inflict substantial bodily harm” is a “material anomaly of the law,” Chauvin’s lawyers argued.
In the filing, lawyers claimed that statement called on the jury to apply strict liability, a liability standard that means the defendant could be liable for the consequences of an action even in the absence of criminal intent.
Lawyers also claimed there was ‘prosecution misconduct’, including breaches of discovery and failures to disclose, beginning with the state ‘largely ignoring the court’s original discovery deadline’. .
“The widespread and intentional violations of state discovery, alone, were prejudicial enough to warrant a new trial,” the filing says.