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US cop convicted of murdering George Floyd appeals case

Derek Chauvin is arguing that the jury could not have been impartial because of the immense publicity around the case, and so his trial was not fair.

AFP
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This file grab from video courtesy of Court TV shows former policeman Derek Chauvin facing the camera as he hears his sentence in the Hennepin County Government Center on June 25, 2021 in Minneapolis. Photo: AFP
This file grab from video courtesy of Court TV shows former policeman Derek Chauvin facing the camera as he hears his sentence in the Hennepin County Government Center on June 25, 2021 in Minneapolis. Photo: AFP

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will seek to have his conviction and sentence for the 2020 murder of George Floyd thrown out Wednesday on the grounds that his high-profile trial was tainted by adverse publicity.

Chauvin's video-recorded killing of Floyd by pressing his knee to the detained African-American man's neck sparked nationwide demonstrations and riots over police mistreatment of blacks.

Chauvin, who is white, was convicted in a Minnesota state trial for murder, and sentenced in June last year to 22 and one-half years in prison.

That is the case he is appealing.

He separately pleaded guilty to federal charges of civil rights violations and in July 2022 received 20 years in prison – a sentence that won't be affected by the appeal of the murder charge.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear opening arguments Wednesday in Chauvin's appeal of the murder conviction.

Chauvin and three other officers with him were arrested after a bystander recorded him holding Floyd to the ground and pressing his knee to his neck after detaining the 46-year-old man for allegedly using a counterfeit banknote to buy cigarettes.

After some nine minutes Floyd lost consciousness and was later pronounced dead.

The recording of the incident sparked outrage and national protests under the banner "Black Lives Matter."

In his appeal filing, Chauvin, 46, argued that the jury could not have been impartial because of the immense publicity around the case, and so his trial was not fair.

"Pretrial publicity coupled with threats of violence poisoned the jury," Chauvin's appeal said.

"The media publicity was pervasive, and overwhelmingly hostile to Chauvin and police in general," it said.

He argued that at least the trial should have been held in another location where potential jurors were not so exposed to the heavy publicity around the case as those in Minneapolis were.

He asked the court to throw out his conviction or at least his sentence.

But in a pretrial submission to the appeals court, Minnesota state prosecutors said Chauvin had "one of the most thorough and transparent trials in the history of this nation."

"The parties painstakingly selected an impartial jury in a jury selection process that lasted nearly two weeks," they said, adding that the jury situation would likely have been the same elsewhere, as "the entire country knew about Chauvin's infamous crime."

The trial had 44 witnesses and they saw substantial video footage of the incident, including Floyd's arrest, they noted.

"They learned that Chauvin was specifically trained not to restrain suspects prone because it risks positional asphyxia – the very thing that killed George Floyd," the prosecutors said.

"Derek Chauvin received a fair trial and a just sentence," they said.

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