Judge Rejects Chauvin’s Request for New Trial in George Floyd’s Death

Judge Rejects Chauvin’s Request for New Trial in George Floyd’s Death
In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson (L) and defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, address Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill during motions before the court in the trial of Chauvin, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn., on April 15, 2021. (Court TV via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS—A judge on Friday rejected former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin’s request for a new trial in George Floyd ‘s death.

Judge Peter Cahill said defense attorney Eric Nelson has not shown that the court abused its discretion or that there was any prosecutorial misconduct that would have deprived Chauvin of his right to a fair trial. The ruling came hours before Chauvin was to be sentenced for murder in Floyd’s death.

Nelson argued that intense publicity around Floyd’s death tainted the jury pool and that the trial should have been moved away from Minneapolis.

Cahill also rejected Nelson’s request for a hearing into possible juror misconduct, saying Nelson failed to show there was any juror misconduct or that a juror gave false testimony during questioning.

Nelson had accused juror Brandon Mitchell of not being candid during jury selection because he didn’t mention his participation in a march last summer to honor the Martin Luther King Jr. Prosecutors countered that Mitchell had been open about his views in a jury questionnaire and during the questioning of potential jurors.

trial of former Minneapolis police
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill speaks during pretrial motions, prior to continuing jury selection in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 11, 2021. (Court TV/ Pool via AP)

Under Minnesota statutes, Chauvin will be sentenced only on the most serious charge, which has a maximum sentence of 40 years. But case law dictates that a 30-year sentence would be the practical maximum sentence Cahill could impose without risk of being overturned on appeal.

Though Chauvin is widely expected to appeal, he also still faces trial on federal civil rights charges, along with three other fired officers who have yet to have their state trials.

Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Cahill has already found that aggravating factors in Floyd’s death warrant going higher than the 12 1/2-year sentence recommended by the state’s sentencing guidelines. The judge found Chauvin abused his position of authority, treated Floyd with particular cruelty, and that the crime was seen by several children. He also wrote that Chauvin knew the restraint of Floyd was dangerous.

“The prolonged use of this technique was particularly egregious in that George Floyd made it clear he was unable to breathe and expressed the view that he was dying as a result of the officers’ restraint,” Cahill wrote last month.

Attorneys on both sides are expected to make brief arguments Friday. Floyd’s family members—including his brother Philonise, his brother Terrence and his nephew Brandon Williams—will give statements in court.

Chauvin can also make a statement, but it’s not clear if he will. Experts say it could be tricky for Chauvin to talk without implicating himself in the pending federal case accusing him of violating Floyd’s civil rights.

Chauvin chose not to testify at his trial. The only explanation the public has heard from him came from body-camera footage in which he told a bystander at the scene: “We got to control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy … and it looks like he’s probably on something.”

He’s been held since his conviction at the state’s only maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights. The former officer has been held in solitary confinement in a 10-by-10-foot cell, with meals brought to his room. He is allowed out for solitary exercise for an hour a day.

It’s not clear if Chauvin will remain there. State prisons officials said that decision wouldn’t be made until after Cahill’s formal sentencing order.

Chauvin and the three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest are awaiting trial in federal court on charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights. No trial date has been set.

The three other officers are also scheduled for trial in March on state charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter.