The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s second-degree murder conviction in the killing of George Floyd, and let his 22 1/2-year sentence remain in place. Chauvin’s attorney had asked the appeals court to throw out the ex-officer's convictions for a long list of reasons, including the massive pretrial publicity, according to the Associated Press. He also argued that legal and procedural errors deprived Chauvin of a fair trial. However, the three-judge panel sided with prosecutors who said Chauvin got a fair trial and just sentence. Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, used his knee to pin the Black man’s neck to the ground for 9 1/2 minutes. Floyd’s death touched off protests around the world, some of which turned violent, and forced a national reckoning with police brutality and racism. “Police officers undoubtedly have a challenging, difficult, and sometimes dangerous job. However, no one is above the law,” Appeals Judge Peter Reyes wrote. “When they commit a crime, they must be held accountable just as those individuals that they lawfully apprehend. The law only permits police officers to use reasonable force when effecting a lawful arrest. Chauvin crossed that line here when he used unreasonable force on Floyd.”
Chauvin’s attorney, William Mohrman, argued on appeal that the trial judge should have moved the case out of Minneapolis because of extensive pretrial publicity and unprecedented security precautions due to fears of violence. He said the publicity and the riots, the city’s $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family announced during jury selection, the unrest over a police killing of a Black man in a Minneapolis suburb during jury selection, and the sealing off of the courthouse, were just some of the factors prejudicing Chauvin’s chance of a fair trial. Neal Katyal, a special attorney for the state, argued that Chauvin got “one of the most transparent and thorough trials in our nation’s history.” Local defense attorney Mike Brandt, who has followed the case closely, said he was not surprised that the appeals court affirmed Chauvin’s conviction and found no errors that would have changed the outcome. Appellate courts give judges wide discretion and are loath to micromanage how they run trials, he said. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill sentenced Chauvin to 22 1/2 years 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 in Arizona concurrent with his state sentence.