America on the brink: Derek Chauvin seeks new trial in Floyd murder case, saying constitutional rights violated

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted last month of murdering George Floyd, filed court documents for a new trial on Tuesday.

The request for a new trial comes just weeks after a jury convicted Chauvin of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued in the filing that Chauvin’s constitutional right to a fair trial was violated multiple times throughout the proceedings.

The ten-point post-verdict filing took issue with several rulings by the judge, including the judge’s refusal to grant a change of venue to move the trial out of Minneapolis. Nelson wrote:

“The court abused its discretion when it denied the defendant’s motion for a change of venue… in violation of Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to a due process and a fair trial.”

The decision of the judge not to sequester jurors during the trial was another issue brought up in the filing.

In the filing, Nelson wrote:

“The court abused its discretion when it failed to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, or at least, admonish them to avoid all media, which resulted in jury exposure to prejudicial publicity regarding the trial during proceedings, as well as jury intimidation and potential fear of retribution among jurors.”

The motion slammed the court for not granting a new trial requested previously, saying that publicity during the trial tainted the jury:

“Publicity during the proceedings threaten(ed) the fairness of the trial. Such publicity included post-testimony, but pre-deliberation intimidation of the defense’s expert witness, from which the jury was not insulted.

“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 those in high-profile cases, such as those of Mr. Chauvin’s co-defendants – to testify on their behalf.”

On April 17, the former Santa Rosa home of expert witness Barry Brodd was smeared with animal blood and had a severed pig’s head dumped on the front porch.

Brodd, a use-of-force expert, had testified in the trial that Chauvin and three other officers’ actions were justified during the arrest that ended in George Floyd’s death and that they used an appropriate amount of force:

“I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified, was acting with objective reasonableness, following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement.

“If the officer is justified in using the prone control, the maintaining of the prone control is not a use of force. It’s a control technique. It doesn’t hurt.”

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Chauvin’s argument for a new trial also took aim at the judge’s decision to allow a defense witness to refuse to testify during the trial. Key witness Morries Hall invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because his lawyer contends anything he said about his alleged drug activity with George Floyd could leave him vulnerable to being charged with third-degree murder.

In filing for a new trial, Nelson wrote:

“The court abused its discretion and violated Mr. Chauvin’s rights under the Confrontation Clause when it failed to order Morries Hall to testify, or in the alternative, to admit into evidence Mr. Hall’s statements to law enforcement regarding his interactions with George Floyd and the presence of the May 25, 2020 incident.”

Hall has been identified as the alleged drug dealer from whom Floyd obtained narcotics. During opening statements, Nelson told the jury they would hear testimony from Hall:

“This will include evidence that, while they were in the car, Mr. Floyd consumed what were thought to be two Percoset [painkiller] pills.

Mr. Floyd’s friends will explain that Mr. Floyd fell asleep in the car and that they couldn’t wake him up to get going, that they thought the police might be coming because now the store [employees] were coming out.”

Nelson naming Hall and Shawanda Hill, Floyd’s former girlfriend, as passengers in the SUV with Floyd outside the Cup Foods prior to police arriving on the scene.

The defense was trying to build an argument that Floyd’s death was caused primarily by a combination of the powerful drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine, both found in Floyd’s system during an autopsy, and undetected heart disease.

The prosecution held that Floyd had died when Chauvin killed Floyd by burying his knee in the man’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, cutting off blood to his brain.

Hall’s lawyer told trial Judge Peter Cahill:

“Your honor, I cannot envision any topic that Mr. Hall would be called to testify on that would be both relevant to the case that would not incriminate him.”

Judge Cahill agreed with Hall’s lawyer, and ruled that Hall did not have to testify:

“If Mr. Hall puts himself in that car, he exposes himself to constructive possession charges. I do find that his invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights is valid.”

Among other issues raised in the motion, the defense argued that the jury was exposed to intimidation and fear during the trial and deliberations:

“The jury committed misconduct, felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”

In a stunning confession following the verdict, alternate juror Lisa Christensen said she was worried about future rioting if the jury did not find Chauvin guilty:

“There was a question on the questionnaire about it and I put I did not know. The reason, at that time, was I did not know what the outcome was going to be, so I felt like either way you are going to disappoint one group or the other.

“I did not want to go through rioting and destruction again and I was concerned about people coming to my house if they were not happy with the verdict.”

The juror also said that she was exposed to violence and rioting while driving home one night during the trial following the police shooting of Daunte Wright in nearby Brooklyn Center:

“It did not impact me as far as the trial went. However, only being about six blocks from the police department, I could hear everything. When I came home, I could hear the helicopters flying over my house.

“I could hear the flashbangs going off. If I stepped outside, I could see the smoke from the grenades. One day, the trial ran a little late, and I had trouble getting to my house, because the protesters were blocking the interstate, so I had to go way around. I was aware, but it did not affect me at all.”

Chauvin, who had served in the Minneapolis Police Department for 19 years, is awaiting sentencing. State guidelines recommend 12.5 years in prison for a conviction on unintentional second-degree murder for someone with no criminal history. However, prosecutors have signaled they will seek a sentencing enhancement because of aggravating factors, such as the fact that Chauvin was a police officer at the time of Floyd’s death.

The filing did not address several other issues, such as the inflammatory remarks by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who called for confrontations in the streets if the verdict was not guilty.

 

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The post America on the brink: Derek Chauvin seeks new trial in Floyd murder case, saying constitutional rights violated appeared first on Law Enforcement Today.

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Author: Scott A. Davis


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