An attorney for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who on April 20 was convicted on three counts for the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, filed a motion in Minnesota’s Hennepin County court on Tuesday asking for a new trial for his client.
In the filing, defense attorney Eric Nelson alleged Chauvin’s right to due process was violated on a number of counts that warrant a new trial.
Nelson first alleged that the jury was prejudiced against his client due to substantial pre-trial coverage of the case, citing Hennepin County Judge Pete Cahill’s refusal to change the venue of the trial.
The attorney also claimed that Chauvin’s rights were violated when Cahill did not sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, nor did he admonish them to avoid all media, claiming the jurors were subject "to prejudicial publicity regarding the trial during the proceedings, as well as jury intimidation and potential fear of retribution among jurors."
Nelson also specifically noted that testimony from Morries Hall, a friend who was with Floyd the night he died, was not allowed in trial, alleging in part that the court “abused its discretion and violated Mr. Chauvin’s rights under the Confrontation Clause” by failing to either order Hall to testify, or to alternatively admit his statements to law enforcement officers into evidence.
During the trial, Chauvin’s defense attorney wanted to call Hall to testify in an effort to shift blame for the death to Floyd himself, for his use of illicit drugs and other health problems.
But Hall said he would refuse to answer any questions, and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Although not explicitly mentioned in Tuesday’s documents, the petition for a new trial comes amid recent reports surrounding one of the jury members who ultimately found Chauvin guilty in an Aug. 28 march in Washington, D.C., to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. The brief did not mention these reports.
A photo, posted on social media, shows Brandon Mitchell, who is Black, attending the Aug. 28 event to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington. Floyd’s brother and sister, Philonise and Bridgett Floyd, and relatives of others who have been shot by police addressed the crowd, as did relatives of others who had been shot by police.
Mitchell, 31, acknowledged being at the event and that his uncle posted the photo, but said he doesn’t recall wearing or owning the shirt. He also defended his actions, saying that it was not a protest over Floyd’s death.
Mitchell was one of 12 jurors who convicted Chauvin of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Mitchell, the first juror to go public, spoke to several media outlets last week, including The Associated Press.
“I’d never been to D.C.,” Mitchell said of his reasons for attending the event. “The opportunity to go to D.C., the opportunity to be around thousands and thousands of Black people; I just thought it was a good opportunity to be a part of something.”
Neither Mitchell nor Nelson have not returned messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Chauvin’s defense team noted their grounds for requesting a new trial “are not limited to” what was included in Tuesday’s filing, leaving the door open to add new grounds to the request later on.
Chauvin, 45, was convicted of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
The former officer was immediately led away with his hands cuffed behind his back and could be sent to prison for decades. He is set to be sentenced in several weeks
The Associated Press contributed to this report.