Legal representation for Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin has filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal to the contentious and highly-publicized case concerning the death of George Floyd. Attorney William Mohrman, doing an interview with The Daily Wire, said his client was denied the right to a fair trial, and emphasized how the jury was biased from the outset, especially one specific juror.
Chauvin was sentenced in 2021 to over 20 years behind bars after a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Videos of the arrest and of Floyd’s detainment on the ground by Chauvin went viral in 2020, sparking protests and riots across the U.S. and even Europe. Holding the trial in Minneapolis, where the incident occurred, effectively guaranteed Chauvin an unfair trial, Morhman said.
“Under the Sixth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, every criminal defendant is guaranteed a right to a fair trial,” the attorney explained. “And part of that fair trial-right is not to be tried in a location where the jurors have either been exposed to extensive pre-trial publicity, or there has been such community outrage and the like that the jurors, before they even were impaneled before the trial, would have concluded the defendant’s guilty, or would have been pressured into rendering a guilty verdict.”
“When that happens,” Mohrman said, “the Supreme Court precedents require that the case be moved to another location or venue, as the law puts it.” However, that’s not what happened with Chauvin’s case.
“During the questioning, I would say the vast majority — not only the vast majority, probably 75 to 80 percent of the jurors — expressed concerns for their own personal safety as a result of being impaneled on the jury,” he said. “Virtually every juror had obviously heard about the case, knew about the riots, had seen the videos that were taken when George Floyd was arrested; virtually all the jurors have seen that, so it’s difficult in a case like that to impanel the jury where the jurors haven’t formed firm conclusions before the trial even starts.”
Mohrman said their “primary argument” is that “due to the riots that took place in Minneapolis, every juror who was impaneled had a stake in the outcome of the trial, because no juror would want to see their communities burned again in riots.”
“Minneapolis suffered half a billion dollars in damage, and all of the jurors, or virtually all the jurors during jury questioning, expressed concerns about another riot breaking out,” he added.
Mohrman also noted outside factors before and during the trial that could have prejudiced jury members, who were not sequestered in the sense most Americans might expect. Jurors, for example, went home each night, and then met at an undisclosed location in the morning and were brought into the courthouse with heavy security.
The attorney said that Minneapolis announced a 27 million dollar settlement with Georgie Floyd’s estate in the middle of the trial, and noted rather notorious comments from Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters. The Democrat traveled to Minneapolis and told BLM protesters that if there is no guilty verdict, they should “stay on the street,” “get more active,” and “get more confrontational.” Further, the National Guard was deployed by Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN) just before the trial. Mohrman argues this was done to prepare for another riot in case Chauvin were to be acquitted — potentially sending another clear message to the jury that they better convict.
The attorney also made the argument of potential juror misconduct regarding a specific juror, Juror 52.
“Almost immediately after trial, Juror 52 was on a radio show, being interviewed about his experience as a juror,” Mohrman explained. “He expressed happiness at being on the juror panel. Then he said he was really happy with the messages sent to the Minneapolis Police Department because during his life he had had 50 encounters with the Minneapolis police department — all of them negative. And in one of them, he had a gun pulled on him. Now again, he filled out a juror questionnaire prior to trial saying, to the best of my recollection, he was at least neutral on the Minneapolis Police Department.”
“And then the other thing that’s even more disturbing is that video evidence was found on the internet Juror 52 participated in a ‘Get Off Our Necks’ BLM rally in Washington, D.C., in August of 2020,” the attorney added. “So, again, he answered questions prior to trial saying he had not been at any protests.”
Morhman said this case should be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, especially because of what he sees as the nationwide implications of the trial’s outcome.
“All over the country, police departments in the inner cities are having difficulty hiring police officers,” he explained, “and there’s a debate out there as to why that’s happening, but two of the primary reasons that are being articulated as to why it’s happening is, number one, as a result of the trials up here in Minneapolis, and particularly Mr. Chauvin’s case, if a police officer gets caught up in an ambiguous situation with a suspect, trying to arrest a suspect who’s resisting arrest, and something happens where the suspect dies, police officers are concerned that they’re now going to be charged with second degree murder, and looking at a 20 to 40 year sentence for that, which is essentially a life sentence. Police officers are extremely concerned about that, and that’s why you’ve had numerous officers around the country who have retired, and why inner city police departments are having trouble hiring new officers.”
The U.S. Supreme Court only hears about 100 appeals of the 7,000 or so cases it’s asked to review annually. But if the court agrees to review the case, and agrees Chauvin did not get a fair trial, the former officer would get a new trial. There is also a Federal Civil Rights conviction against Chauvin, for which he is serving over 20 years concurrently with his state sentence. Challenging this sentence would be a separate legal action following a potential acquittal from a new trial.