Appeals court affirms conviction of Chauvin for George Floyd murder
FILE PHOTO: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin addresses his sentencing hearing and the judge as he awaits his sentence after being convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. June 25, 2021 in a still ima
By Jonathan Allen
(Reuters) -The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday upheld the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd during a 2020 arrest, rejecting Chauvin’s request for a new trial.
The panel of three judges rejected Chauvin’s argument that the judge in his 2021 state trial made multiple errors and abused his discretion, including a decision to deny Chauvin’s request to move the trial outside of Minneapolis.
Chauvin, a white man, was convicted of murdering Floyd, who is Black, by kneeling on a handcuffed Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest on May 25, 2020, which sparked protests across the country against police brutality and racism.
Chauvin was sentenced to 22-1/2 years in prison. In December 2021, Chauvin pleaded guilty in federal court to charges he violated George Floyd’s civil rights.
Chauvin’s lawyer, William Mohrman, argued in a court filing in April 2022 that Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill made multiple errors that denied Chauvin a fair trial.
Because of extensive pre-trial publicity, the judge should have agreed to Chauvin’s motions to move the trial outside Minneapolis and sequester the jury, Mohrman argued. A bystander’s cellphone video of a prone Floyd pleading for his life before falling limp beneath Chauvin’s knee was widely circulated, drawing outrage around the world.
In a 50-page opinion, the appeals court disagreed, writing that “a district court does not abuse its discretion by denying the motions if it takes sufficient mitigating steps and verifies that the jurors can set aside their impressions or opinions and deliver a fair and impartial verdict.”
Cahill, Chauvin’s attorneys and prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office spent about two weeks questioning potential jurors before seating the 12-person jury.
The most serious state crime for which Chauvin was convicted was second-degree unintentional murder involving third-degree assault. Although his lawyers did not raise this during the trial, Chauvin in his appeal argued that an on-duty police officer cannot be convicted of this crime because they are authorized to use force when arresting a resisting suspect.
Writing for the appeals court panel, Judge Peter Reyes disagreed.
“The law only permits police officers to use reasonable force when effecting a lawful arrest,” he wrote in the opinion. “Chauvin crossed that line here when he used unreasonable force on Floyd.”