George Floyd’s killer didn’t receive a fair trial because the judge hearing the case refused to sequester the jury to prevent them from being influenced by publicity around the case, Derek Chauvin’s attorney said in a motion for a new trial filed Tuesday.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, said in his motion that Judge Peter Cahill repeatedly abused his discretion throughout the trial by refusing to either relocate or sequester the jury in the face of widespread public protests that erupted after Floyd’s death.
During the trial, Nelson began laying the groundwork for a possible appeal—publicity being the biggest factor.
Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted April 20 of killing Floyd when he knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes. Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. Sentencing is expected in June.
Cahill repeatedly denied requests to sequester the jury prior to their final deliberations during the trial. Following an unrelated police killing, Cahill said sequestering the jurors at that point might influence their deliberations by suggesting they had something to fear.
Floyd was a 46-year-old Black man accused of passing a counterfeit bill at a convenience store last May when officers attempted to take him into custody. After Floyd refused to get into a police vehicle, shouting that he was claustrophobic, he was pinned to the ground where Chauvin knelt on his neck and back.
When the jury began deliberations April 19, Nelson pleaded with Cahill to declare a mistrial, pointing to the “public context” and “profound” media attention on the trial, including comments from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Waters had urged protesters to “get more confrontational” if Chauvin wasn’t convicted.
Nelson had also argued that Minneapolis’ decision to announce a $27 million civil settlement with Floyd’s family on the eve of the trial could prejudice the jury against Chauvin. Nelson several times during the trial sought to have the jury sequestered to avoid outside factors like the settlement and a separate police shooting in the area influence jurors. The jury was sequestered for deliberations only.