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Derek Chauvin asks court to overturn his conviction in George Floyd’s death

David Joles/Star Tribune via Getty Images

(MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) -- Attorneys for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in a court filing Monday asked an appeals court to overturn his conviction in the killing of George Floyd.

Chauvin's lawyers in the filing asked the court to do one of three things: reverse his conviction, reverse his conviction and grant him a new trial in a different venue, or return the case to a lower court for resentencing.

In April 2021, Chauvin was found guilty in the death of Floyd on counts of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

He was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison last June.

In a 72-page court filing, Chauvin's lawyers said that pretrial publicity, jurors' concerns for their safety, the potential for riots to break out if Chauvin was acquitted and physical threats to the courthouse prevented Chauvin from getting a fair 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," the court filing said.

The lawyers added, "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 filing argued that a change of venue, which was previously denied by the lower court, was necessary in this 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," the attorneys said in the filing.

The threat of violence was "extreme," and because jurors were not sequestered, they saw this every day during trial, Chauvin's lawyers said in the filing.

"The courthouse was surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers during the trial. Prior to jury deliberations, National Guard troops were deployed throughout Minneapolis, businesses boarded up their buildings and schools were closed 'bracing for a riot' in the event Chauvin’s acquittal," the filing said.

Lawyers for Chauvin also argued that his sentence should be reduced, as the presumptive sentence for someone without a criminal history is 150 months, while he received 270 months. They argued that "abuse of a position of authority" is not an aggravating factor that would allow for his upward sentencing.

Chauvin's lawyers also claimed that a police officer cannot be convicted for felony murder under Minnesota law and that Chauvin was authorized to "touch" Floyd when Floyd resisted arrest.

"Chauvin is a police officer statutorily authorized to commit 'assaults' to effect an arrest," they stated in the filing.

Later, the attorneys claimed that "in order for a police officer to be convicted of murder, Minnesota statutes require the officer to be using 'deadly force' -- force one knows will cause either death or 'great bodily harm.' Putting your knees on the back of a suspect does not create a 'substantial risk of causing, death or great bodily harm.'"

The court telling the jury that "it is not necessary for the State to prove that [Chauvin] intended to inflict substantial bodily harm" is a "material misstatement of the law," Chauvin's attorneys argued.

In the filing, the lawyers claimed this statement invited the jury to apply strict liability, a standard of liability that means the defendant could be responsible for the consequences of an action even in the absence of criminal intent.

Lawyers also claimed there was "prosecutorial misconduct," including discovery violations and failures to disclose, starting with the state "largely ignoring the Court’s initial discovery deadline."

"The State’s pervasive, intentional discovery violations, alone, were sufficiently prejudicial as to require a new trial," the filing stated.

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