An attorney for Derek Chauvin is asking an appeals court to throw out the former Minneapolis police officer’s convictions in the murder of George Floyd, arguing that numerous legal and procedural errors deprived him of a fair trial, reports the Associated Press. Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pinned the Black man to the ground with his knee on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes. A bystander video captured Floyd’s cries of “I can’t breathe.” Floyd’s death touched off protests around the world and forced a painful national reckoning with police brutality and racism. 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 pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge and was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison, which is he is now serving in Arizona concurrent with his state sentence.
While Chauvin waived his right to appeal under his federal plea deal, he continued his appeal of his murder convictions in state court. Even if he wins his appeal, his federal sentence will keep him in prison longer than his state sentence likely would because he would qualify for parole earlier in the state system. A successful appeal could set a precedent for future cases involving police officers. Chauvin’s attorney is William Mohrman, who often pursues conservative causes including challenges to President Biden’s election victory and to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Mohrman argued to the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the pretrial publicity was more extensive that any other trial in Minnesota history, and that the judge should have moved the trial elsewhere and sequestered the jury for the duration. Mohrman wrote that the publicity, combined with the riots, the city’s $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family announced during jury selection, unrest over a police killing in a Minneapolis suburb during jury selection, and the unprecedented courthouse security were among factors prejudicing Chauvin’s chance of a fair trial. Prosecutors said Chauvin had a fair trial and received a just sentence. Three other officers present during Floyd’s murder — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — were convicted of federal civil rights charges last February and are serving their sentences in out-of-state federal prisons.