Will Derek Chauvin appeal guilty verdict in George Floyd murder?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Nathan Place
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
<p>Former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter, but may file for an appeal</p> (AP)

Former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter, but may file for an appeal

(AP)

Derek Chauvin’s lawyers will most likely appeal his conviction, experts say, but they have little chance of success.

The former police officer was declared guilty on Tuesday of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd. He will be sentenced in eight weeks, and could face up to 40 years in prison.

Chauvin’s lawyers now have 60 days to notify the court if they want to appeal. Their odds of success aren’t good – only about 10 per cent of appeals achieve a reversal, according to Cornell University Law School – but there are a few arguments Chauvin’s team could make. Mainly, they could argue the jury’s decision was tainted by three things: comments by public officials, news of Daunte Wright’s shooting by a police officer, and the judge’s refusal to relocate the trial.

Comments by public officials

Throughout the trial, Judge Peter Cahill urged public officials to refrain from commenting on the case, warning that it might unfairly influence the jury. But a few did so anyway.

Rep Maxine Waters of California stepped into the fray at a rally on Saturday, before the jury started deliberating.

“We’re looking for a guilty verdict,” she told the crowd, adding that if Chauvin were acquitted, “we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational.”

Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, seized on those comments to request that Judge Cahill declare a mistrial. The judge refused – but admitted this might make a good basis for an appeal.

“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Judge Cahill said. “I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function.”

Later on, President Joe Biden commented publicly on the trial as well, but only after the jury was sequestered.

“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is – I think it’s overwhelming in my view,” the president said.

Chauvin’s defence team could argue that such comments from public officials inappropriately pushed the jury toward a conviction. Ms Waters’ words are particularly problematic, because she said them before the jury was in isolation, and she seemed to imply that if Chauvin was acquitted, there’d be consequences in the streets.

“Their basis of appeal would be that jurors were influenced not by the evidence, but by fear of what happened if they didn’t convict,” Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St Thomas told Politico.

Shooting of Daunte Wright

Another case for appeal stems from the news that broke during the trial. On 11 April, police shot and killed a 20-year-old Black man named Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota – just 10 miles from where Mr Chauvin’s trial was taking place.

The similarities between Mr Floyd and Mr Wright – both Black men killed by a white police officer – were immediately obvious. Massive protests against police violence erupted in Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis, and across the United States.

Chauvin’s defence could argue that the emotional aftermath of the shooting was inescapable, especially because it was so close, and the jury may have been unduly affected by the news and protests.

However, according to one legal expert, just supposing the jury was affected is not enough to win an appeal.

“You’re going to need direct evidence: a juror who says they were impacted,” John Baker, assistant professor of criminal justice at St Cloud State University, told Reuters. “You cannot just speculate.”

Judge’s refusal to relocate

From the beginning of the trial, Chauvin’s lawyers begged Judge Cahill to move the proceedings out of Minneapolis. It was impossible to find an impartial jury there, the defence argued, because the city had been engulfed in protests and riots over Mr Floyd’s death.

Judge Cahill refused, arguing that the case was already global news and jurors would know about it anywhere.

Later, when protests exploded over the killing of Mr Wright, and again when Rep Waters made her controversial comments, Mr Nelson repeatedly asked for the trial to be relocated. Each time, Judge Cahill said no.

For an appeal, the defence could now argue that this ruined any chances of an impartial verdict. But legal experts say the judge’s decision was reasonable.

“It was a totally normal ruling,” Ted Sampsell-Jones, a criminal defence appeals attorney, told USA Today. "But that’s something where defence counsel made the request, probably knowing or anticipating the request would not be granted but giving the defence an issue to appeal."

In order to win such an appeal, the defence would have to prove Judge Cahill committed a particularly egregious mistake called an “abuse of discretion.”

But the bar for proving such an abuse is high – “almost always insurmountable,” according to Minnesota criminal defence lawyer Paul Applebaum.

“I just don’t see there are a lot of close calls in terms of the judge’s discretion,” Mr Applebaum told Reuters.

Read More

38 others have been killed by police in county where Ma’Khia Bryant was fatally shot

House votes to curb power of presidency on travel bans

Ma’Khia Bryant: Ohio police release body camera footage in shooting of 16-year-old