Chauvin defense files motion for mistrial, claiming publicity threatened ‘fairness of the trial’


He continued:

Such publicity included post-testimony, but predeliberation, intimidation of the defense’s expert witnesses, from which the jury was not insulated. Not only did such acts escalate the potential for prejudice in these proceedings, they may result in a far-reaching chilling effect on defendants’ ability to procure expert witness—especially in high-profile cases, such as those of Mr. Chauvin’s codefendants—to testify on their behalf. The publicity here was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings. (…) The Court abused its discretion when it failed to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, or in the least, admonish them to avoid all media, which resulted in jury exposure to prejudicial publicity regarding the trial during the proceedings, as well as jury intimidation and potential fear of retribution among jurors, which violated Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to due process and to a fair trial.”

Nelson accused the state of committing “pervasive, prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct” and of violating Chauvin’s rights when Cahill failed to order Morries Hall, a friend of Floyd’s who was with him before his death, to testify. Hall invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination after drugs were found in his SUV during two different searches by police. It’s worth noting that Chauvin also invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege and never took the stand to give his version of what happened. Nelson, however, focused on the state and the court’s decisions.

He claimed his client’s rights to “due process and a fair trial” were violated:

-when the court “submitted instructions to the jury that failed to accurately reflect the law with respect to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and authorized use of force,”

-when it “permitted the State to present cumulative evidence with respect to use of force,”

-when it “ordered the State to lead witnesses on direct examination,” and

-when it “failed to order that a record be made of the numerous sidebars that occurred during the trial.”

Nelson also asked for a hearing to impeach the guilty verdict “on the grounds that the jury committed misconduct, felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations”. Worse yet, the attorney asked for more time to “thoroughly brief the above issues,” meaning this may not be the last of his whinings.

It certainly isn’t the first. Citing early remarks Rep. Maxine Waters made calling protesters to “get more confrontational” if the verdict is not guilty, Nelson initially asked Judge Peter Cahill to declare a mistrial on April 19. That was two days before a jury deliberated for about 10 hours to find Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Nelson said the jury, which was only sequestered after closing statements, should have been isolated from the beginning of the trial, “and so I have moved based on that for a mistrial.” The attorney said he gets thousands upon thousands of emails related to the trial.

“My phone gives me alerts on things that just happened. I mean you can’t avoid it, and it is so pervasive that I just don’t know how this jury can really be said to be that they are free from the taint of this,” he said. “And now that we have U.S. representatives threatening acts of violence in relation to this specific case, it’s mind-boggling to me judge.”


Cahill admitted that he wishes “elected officials would stop talking about this case.”

“I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful and in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution, to respect a coequal branch of government,” the judge said. “Their failure to do so, I think, is abhorrent, but I don’t think it’s prejudiced us with additional material that would prejudice this jury.” 

Nelson initially zeroed in on a particular juror during the jury selection process, and that juror, Brandon Mitchell, is now being heavily scrutinized for both what he wore and what he said after a rally to commemorate the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Mitchell, juror No. 52, told CBS-affiliated WCCO he attended the event to go to a related voter registration rally, and he explained that a photograph of him in a T-shirt with King’s image and the words, “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,” and “BLM” was only meant to make a broader reference to the circumstances of 2020.
Even in a juror questionnaire in which he denied ever taking part in a protest about police brutality, Mitchell said he wanted to be part of the Chauvin jury “because of all the protests and everything that has happened after the event, this is the most historic case of my lifetime and I would love to be a part of it.”

Nelson asked Mitchell how protests were related to the facts and evidence of the case during jury selection, and he responded that they weren’t. “Well there’s no correlation between the protest and the facts,” Mitchell said. “The facts are the facts. There’s no correlation between those two things.”

Cahill could hold a hearing to determine if Mitchell lied on his questionnaire about attending the rally, but even if the court interpreted Mitchell’s attendance at the rally as a lie, it would likely not lead a judge to declare a mistrial, experts told The New York Times. Mary Moriarty, a Minneapolis defense attorney, told the newspaper that an appellate court would ultimately need to decide whether Chauvin got a fair trial. “Given that the evidence was pretty overwhelming, it would take a lot for an appellate court to reverse his conviction,” she said.

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