What are Derek Chauvin's grounds for successful appeal? Publicity and Maxine Waters’ remarks may help him

Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on April 20 and found guilty on all three counts against him in connection with the murder of George Floyd


                            What are Derek Chauvin's grounds for successful appeal? Publicity and Maxine Waters’ remarks may help him
Criminal defense experts say the massive publicity given to the case might help build the former Minnesota cop’s appeal (Getty Images)
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Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three counts against him in connection with the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd. The 45-year-old was convicted on Tuesday, April 20, and there is a chance he might file an appeal against it, though experts believe the odds are not in his favor, especially given the fact that 90 percent of the appeals are rejected in the US.

According to criminal defense experts, the massive publicity given to the case might help build the former cop’s appeal. Another likely avenue of appeal is by arguing that the jurors were prejudiced by media coverage and that the lead defense attorney Eric Nelson’s repeated requests to move the case out of Minneapolis or sequester the jury were dismissed by Judge Peter Cahill.

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But testimonies at the three-week-long trial, including by Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, and statements made by political leaders are expected to be a great hindrance to Chauvin’s efforts to overturn the verdicts. As per reports, Arradondo was called to the court to focus on the police force’s training and policies, but he went ahead and told the jury twice that Chauvin's actions on May 25 last year damaged the police department's "values". “It is certainly not part of our ethics or our values," he added.

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People gather at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue following the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin on April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Getty Images)

As per some experts, Arradondo should not be allowed to express his opinions so broadly. Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina, said, “He gratuitously added that this doesn’t adhere to our standards or our values. He probably shouldn’t have said that.” Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St Thomas, added: “That’s something an expert witness isn’t supposed to do, but the fact [prosecutors] posted him as a fact witness kind of finessed that. There’s no doubt that he was a very good witness for the government.”

Other issues in Chauvin's expected appeal, about which his attorneys will have to notify the trial court within 60 days, are the public’s anger over the killing of the  African-American man and leading politicians’ soft corner for him and his family. Recently, Democratic representative Maxine Waters addressed a group of protesters, where she allegedly incited violence. “We're looking for a guilty verdict,” the 82-year-old said, before adding if the verdict was not against Chauvin “we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational.”

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Even President Joe Biden on Tuesday declared that he was praying for the “right verdict, which is – I think it's overwhelming in my view.” But he did not specify what is the “right verdict” or what he meant by “overwhelming.” Earlier, on Monday, April 19, he told the reporters, “I've come to know George's family. They're a good family. And they're calling for peace and tranquility.”

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People march through the streets after the verdict was announced for Derek Chauvin on April 20, 2021, in Atlanta, United States (Getty Images)

Osler said defense lawyers can point out that comments from prominent leaders created an atmosphere that pressured jurors while taking decisions. “Their basis of appeal would be that jurors were influenced not by the evidence, but by fear of what happened if they didn’t convict,” he added.

Besides these, another unique Minnesota thing that could reportedly help the defense team while appealing is that prosecutors were allegedly too mean to his defense lawyer. During the three-week trial, the defense arguments were allegedly branded by a prosecutor as “nonsense”. Osler explained, “We actually have a rule in Minnesota saying you can’t belittle the defense. It’s a very Minnesota issue. In Texas, if as a prosecutor you weren’t belittling the defense, you probably wouldn’t be doing your job.”

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