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EXPLANATOR: Chauvin’s lawyer asks to investigate the alleged jury bias

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MINNEAPOLIS – Defense attorney for the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd is seeking not only a new trial, but also a hearing to “impeach the verdict” by investigating possible jury misconduct.

Eric Nelson’s request for a new trial for 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 unclear when the judge will rule.

Here are some of the issues Nelson raised.

REQUEST FOR NEW TEST

Chauvin was convicted in April of unintentional murder in the second degree, murder in the third degree and manslaughter in the May 25, 2020 death of Floyd, a black man who was immobilized on the ground for about nine and a half minutes while he said I couldn’t breathe Chauvin wants to be sentenced on June 25.

Nelson’s request for a new trial covers everything from the wide publicity of the case to the prosecutor’s misconduct allegations, arguing that the state “belittled” Nelson’s defense by calling his arguments “stories.”

He disagrees with the fact that no records of side discussions were made between the lawyers and the judge, and says the court abused its discretion by not allowing a man who was with Floyd on the day of his death to testify. He also disagrees with the addition of a third-degree murder charge and the state’s accumulated evidence on the use of force.

Nelson alleges that all of these factors deprived Chauvin of his right to a fair trial.

“It’s almost as if Eric is bundling all the major objections he made during the trial into one brief and bringing them back to (Judge Peter) Cahill one more time and asking him to reconsider,” said Brock Hunter, a defense attorney for Minneapolis that has followed the case.

Retesting is unlikely. Since Cahill has already ruled on most of these issues, Hunter and other experts said it likely won’t be reversed. Still, experts say, Nelson has to try. You also have to raise these issues in the trial court, if you want to raise them on appeal.

“He zealously represents his client, as we are ethically bound to do,” Hunter said.

PRIOR TO TRIAL ADVERTISING

Nelson said the intense publicity, both before the trial and due to the events during the trial, contaminated the jury pool and prejudiced 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 Floyd’s family, and the shooting murder of Daunte Wright. by a nearby police officer. Brooklyn Center, which happened during Chauvin’s trial and sparked days of protests.

Nelson said Cahill abused his discretion when he denied previous requests to move the trial out of Hennepin County, postpone the trial and kidnap the jury.

Ryan Pacyga, another Minneapolis defense attorney who followed the case, called the events that emerged during Chauvin’s trial a “perfect storm” and said the cumulative impact is worth noting. He said Nelson’s strongest argument may be that the case should have been delayed.

“If I were to think about any of those things that happen in a case where I am defending someone, I would go crazy and have serious concerns about the impact, whether perceived or real, in a fair trial,” Pacyga said.

REQUEST TO DENY THE VERDICT

The term “indictment” 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 request a court hearing to investigate possible jury misconduct. The hearing, known as the Schwartz hearing, gets its name from a 1960 Minnesota Supreme Court case that established a procedure to examine juries when their fairness is questioned.

Schwartz v. Minneapolis Suburban Bus Co., arising from a car accident. One of the jurors said during the jury’s questioning that he could be fair and impartial, without revealing that his daughter had been in an accident. According to the text of the ruling posted on casetext.com, there was a dispute over whether he was asked a question about it during the jury selection.

After the trial, an investigator from the accused bus company interviewed the jury and learned of the accident; the jury told the investigator that he influenced him to favor the plaintiffs a little.

To prevent lawyers or investigators from “harassing” jurors when questioning them, the Minnesota Supreme Court said that if false answers from a jury to questions could prevent someone from having a fair trial, it is best to take the matter before the judge. first instance. The jury may be summoned to court to answer questions.

ARE SCHWARTZ HEARINGS COMMON?

No. Pacyga said that is mainly because the judge and lawyers generally do not know about issues like this unless they are revealed in some way. He said the defense has a high level to overcome to get a Schwartz audience, and prevailing in one is even difficult.

In the Chauvin case, Nelson alleges that an alternate juror, who did not deliberate, made public comments after the trial indicating that she felt pressured to enter a guilty verdict.

He also alleged that a deliberating juror, Brandon Mitchell, did not follow the jury’s instructions and was not sincere during the 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 alleged that Mitchell made comments stating that he based his verdict on outside influences.

Hunter said he hopes the state will say that Mitchell was not a fake and that the march was not specifically about police brutality. Hunter noted that Mitchell said during the jury selection that he supported the Black Lives Matter concept.

“He wasn’t really trying to be evasive or hide the ball on where his views were during the jury selection,” Hunter said.

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