MINNEAPOLIS – Derek Chauvin’s defense on Tuesday moved to have the former Minneapolis police officer receive a new murder trial, alleging misconduct by prosecutors and the judge before guilty verdicts on murder and manslaughter charges were handed down two weeks ago.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson said in the filing in Hennepin County District Court that Judge Peter Cahill erred when he denied Chauvin’s request for a change of venue, thereby denying his client a fair trial in connection with the May 25 death of George Floyd at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.
Also, Nelson continued, Cahill should have granted the defense’s motion for a new trial on the grounds that “publicity during the proceedings threaten(ed) the fairness of the trial.”
He pointed specifically to publicity after testimony concluded but before deliberations began that resulted in “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’s filing read. “The publicity was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings.”
Nelson alleged that Cahill committed misconduct by denying a change of venue and a motion for a new trial, along with failing to sequester the jury throughout trial, rather than just during deliberations. Such acts, he said, “resulted in jury exposure to prejudicial publicity regarding the trial during the proceedings, as well as jury intimidation and potential fear of retribution among jurors.”
Nelson also alleged that prosecutors committed “pervasive, prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct, which deprived Mr. Chauvin of his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial.” He claimed their acts included “disparaging the Defense.”
John Stiles, a spokesman for the Minnesota attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case, said, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”