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Derek Chauvin — the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in May 2020 — has filed another brief in the appeal process.
The reply brief, filed by his attorneys on Friday, argues that Chauvin never had a chance to receive a fair trial for several reasons, including violent riots before and during the trial, endless negative media coverage, a lack of a “cooling period,” and one supposedly activist juror who “lied” on his jury form.
According to the brief, the riots that erupted in 2020 after the death of George Floyd “poisoned the jury against” Chauvin and that the lingering threat that the rioting would escalate in the event of an acquittal nearly guaranteed Chauvin’s conviction. Citing a 1997 case in which another police officer killed a suspect, the brief argues that no circumstance could be “more prejudicial … than that of a juror discovering that the City he or she resides in is bracing for a riot … in the event the defendant on whose jury you sit is acquitted.”
Chauvin’s lawyers likewise blame the media and various law enforcement bodies in the state of Minnesota for either wittingly or unwittingly tainting the jury. They wrote that media “coverage glorified Floyd and demonized Chauvin,” that various news outlets “falsely” reported that Chauvin “had his knee on Floyd’s neck thereby choking Floyd,” and that “pretrial publicity held up Chauvin as the symbol of police brutality.”
The Minneapolis Police Chief and the head of the Department of Public Safety in Minnesota, the lawyers believe, also unnecessarily prejudiced a jury against Chauvin since both referred to the incident as a “murder” within weeks of Floyd’s death.
The brief also condemns the state’s eagerness to expedite the legal process against Derek Chauvin. Rather than permitting a “cooling period” to allow emotions to settle, the brief claims that “the court hastened Chauvin’s trial.”
“It is not mere speculation to anticipate that allowing a longer, reasonable duration of time would allow the community to feel less of the pressure from fallout from the Floyd riots,” the brief states.
Finally, the brief points out that one juror, Brandon Mitchell, who has since publicly identified himself, “lied” on the pre-trial jury questionnaire “regarding his views of the case and the extent of his activism.” Though Mitchell checked “No” when asked whether he had ever advocated for police reform or demonstrated “about police use of force or police brutality,” the brief claims that Mitchell actively participated in at least one George Floyd-themed demonstration and can even be seen wearing a t-shirt with the message “BLM * Get Your Knee Off Our Necks.”
Brandon Mitchell, the Chauvin juror who previously attended a #BLM event wearing a “Get your knee off our necks” shirt, says he didn’t remember owning or wearing that shirt. But as recently as 6 months ago, he wore the shirt again on a podcast. pic.twitter.com/SQd6N57Y2i
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) May 5, 2021
Mitchell claims not to remember wearing the shirt. He also did admit on the jury questionnaire that he held a “[v]ery favorable opinion” of Black Lives Matter and wrote: “Although I do believe officers[’] lives matter, I feel like the concept ‘Blue Lives Matter’ only became a thing to combat Black Lives Matter, whereas it shouldn’t be a competition.”
Chauvin’s brief also offers several legal arguments about whether the former police officer could even be charged with felony murder and whether the judge presiding over the case denied the defense an opportunity to submit key evidence.
Chauvin is currently serving a sentence of 22.5 years. The filing asks for three possible outcomes in the appeal: a reversal of Chauvin’s convictions, a retrial, or resentencing. Chauvin’s lawyers submitted it in response to a filing made by the state early last month, arguing that justice had been served in the case.
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