MINNEAPOLIS – The defense attorney for the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd is seeking not only a retrial but also a hearing to “challenge the verdict” investigating the juror’s possible misconduct.
Eric Nelson’s request for a retrial of Derek Chauvin is fairly routine, but the request to investigate the jury is not. Prosecutors have until Wednesday to present written arguments in response to Nelson’s requests. It is not clear when the judge will decide.
Here is a look at some of the issues raised by Nelson.
NEW TEST ORDER
Chauvin was convicted in April of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 25, 2020, death of Floyd, a black man who was held to the ground for about 9 and a half minutes, as he said he could not breathe. Chauvin will be sentenced on June 25th.
Nelson’s request for a retrial covers everything from the case’s widespread publicity to allegations of misconduct by the prosecutor’s office, arguing that the state “downplayed” Nelson’s defense by calling his arguments “stories.”
He questions the fact that no records were made of parallel discussions between lawyers and the judge, and he says the court abused its discretion by not allowing a man who was with Floyd on the day he died to testify. He also questions the addition of a third-degree murder charge and the state’s cumulative evidence on the use of force.
Nelson claims that all these factors deprived Chauvin of his right to a fair trial.
“It’s almost as if Eric is repackaging all the major objections he made throughout the trial into a briefing and putting them back in front of (Judge Peter) Cahill once again and asking him to reconsider,” said Brock Hunter, a Minneapolis defense attorney who followed the case.
It is unlikely that a retrial will be granted. Since Cahill has already decided on most of these issues, Hunter and other experts say he is unlikely to go astray. Still, experts say, Nelson needs to try. He also has to present these issues in court if he wants to raise them on appeal.
“He is zealously representing his client, as we are ethically obligated to do,” said Hunter.
Nelson said the intense publicity – both before the trial and due to events during the trial – tarnished the jury and hurt the jury against his client.
There were reports in February that Chauvin was prepared to plead guilty to third-degree murder, an announcement during jury selection that Minneapolis reached a $27 million settlement with the Floyd family and the fatal murder of Daunte Wright by a police officer at Brooklyn Center, which took place during Chauvin’s trial and sparked days of protests.
Nelson said Cahill abused his discretion by denying previous requests to withdraw the Hennepin County trial, adjourn the trial and isolate the jury.
Ryan Pacyga, another Minneapolis defense attorney after the case, called the developments that emerged during Chauvin’s trial the “perfect storm” and said the cumulative impact is noteworthy. He said Nelson’s strongest argument could be that the case should have been postponed.
“If I thought about any of these things happening in a case where I was defending someone, I would go crazy and have serious concerns about the impact – whether perceived or real – on a fair trial,” Pacyga said.
REQUEST TO ACCUSE THE VERDICT
The term “impeachment” in this context means to question the integrity or validity of a jury’s verdict.
Under the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, a defendant may ask the court for a hearing to investigate possible juror misconduct. The hearing, known as the Schwartz hearing, is named after a 1960 Minnesota Supreme Court case that established a procedure for examining jurors when their impartiality is challenged.
The case, Schwartz v. Minneapolis Suburban Bus Co. resulted from an automobile accident. One of the jurors said during the jury’s interrogation that he could be fair and impartial without revealing that his daughter had been in an accident. According to the text of the decision posted on casetext.com, there was controversy over whether he was asked about it during jury selection.
After the trial, an investigator from the defendant bus company interviewed the juror and learned of the accident; the juror told the investigator that this influenced him to favor the plaintiffs in some way.
To prevent lawyers or investigators from “harassing” jurors by questioning them, the Minnesota Supreme Court said that if a juror’s lying answers to questions could prevent someone from getting a fair trial, it’s best to take the matter to the lower court judge. . The juror may be summoned to court to answer questions.
ARE SCHWARTZ HEARINGS COMMON?
No. Pacyga said this mainly because the judge and lawyers usually don’t know about issues like this unless they are made public in some way. He said the defense has a high standard to rise to in order to get an audience with Schwartz, and winning one is even harder.
In Chauvin’s case, Nelson alleges that an alternate juror, who did not deliberate, made public comments after the trial, indicating that she felt pressured to deliver a guilty verdict.
He also alleged that a deliberate juror, Brandon Mitchell, did not follow the jury’s instructions and was not candid during jury selection because he did not mention his participation in an August 28 march in Washington, DC, to honor Martin Luther King Jr Nelson also claimed that Mitchell made comments indicating that he based his verdict on outside influence.
Hunter said he expects the state to say that Mitchell wasn’t a liar and that the march wasn’t specifically about police brutality. Hunter noted that Mitchell said during jury selection that he supported the Black Lives Matter concept.
“He wasn’t really trying to be evasive or hide the ball about where his views were during jury selection,” Hunter said.