A 72-page filing dated April 25 (pdf) asks the appeals court to either reverse Chauvin’s conviction, reverse his conviction and remand for a new trial in a new venue, or return the case to a lower court for re-sentencing.
Chauvin was handed a 22-and-a-half-year sentence in June 21 for second-degree murder by Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill.
Earlier, the former police officer was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter for the May 2020 death of Floyd which sparked widespread riots and protests, as well as calls to “defund the police.”
Chauvin’s attorneys in the filing argued that he wasn’t given a fair trial owing to the pre-trial publicity and media coverage surrounding the case, combined with the widespread riots prior to and during his trial.
“The overwhelming media coverage exposed the jurors—literally every day—to news demonizing Chauvin and glorifying Floyd, which was more than sufficient to presume prejudice,” Chauvin’s lawyers said. “However, the real problem is the jurors expressed concern for (i) they and their families’ personal safety and (ii) riots breaking out in the event they acquitted Chauvin.”
The court proceedings were “so pervaded by error, misconduct and prejudice that they were structurally defective,” they said.
“The pretrial publicity, combined with riots—both after the incident and during trial—coupled with the announcement of the $27,000,000 settlement, constitutes a presumption of prejudice,” the documents state.
Chauvin’s attorneys argued that media coverage “glorified Floyd and demonized Chauvin … literally every day from May 26, 2020 until trial concluded.”
The court document also argues that a change of venue was needed in Chauvin’s case.
“There are few cases involving such violent threats by the community in the event the jury finds the defendant not guilty. Those cases—which all involved defendant police officers—required transfer of venue,” his attorneys said.
The appeal filing said that if Chauvin’s conviction is upheld, his sentence should be reduced by the court to be within the state’s sentencing guidelines. Minnesota has a sentencing guideline range of 10 years and 8 months to 15 years.
Chauvin’s sentence was higher than the presumptive 12-and-a-half years after the judge agreed with prosecutors that there were aggravating factors in Floyd’s death. In handing down his sentence, Cahill said Chauvin exhibited “particular cruelty” during Floyd’s death, abused his position of authority as a police officer, and did so in front of children.