The police officer who killed African-American George Floyd in 2020 and inflamed the US is seeking to have his murder conviction overturned in an essentially symbolic appeal beginning Wednesday.
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Derek Chauvin, 46, was found guilty of murder by a state court in northern Minnesota after a high-profile trial in 2021 and sentenced to 22½ years in prison.
He feels that his right to a fair trial has been violated, particularly given the “publicity” of the case and the “threats of violence” that should have led to a change of scenery at the hearings, and he is calling for the verdict to be overturned.
Regardless of the outcome of that appeal, Derek Chauvin will remain in prison after pleading guilty to George Floyd’s “civil rights abuses” in front of a federal judge and receiving a final sentence of 21 years in prison in 2022.
On May 25, 2020, this 19-year-old Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of the black man in his forties for almost ten minutes, indifferent to his moans and the interventions of panicked passers-by.
The scene, which was filmed and posted online, sparked huge protests against racism and police brutality across the United States and beyond.
During the trial in the magistrates’ court, his attorney pleaded that George Floyd died of an overdose combined with health problems and asserted that Derek Chauvin had legitimately used violence.
Today, the former police officer is trying to invalidate that trial, particularly because it took place in the twin cities of Minneapolis-Saint-Paul, which were still tense less than a year after the tragedy.
In their motion, his lawyers recall “the threats” against the jury, the fear of a new conflagration of the two cities in the event of an acquittal and the daily reporting in the local media that “idealized George Floyd and demonized Derek Chauvin”.
Lawyers for the former police officer have criticized the court for refusing to host the hearings in a rural area of the state or for not accommodating the jury. She says that would have prevented her from finding out in the middle of a lawsuit that the city of Minneapolis had decided to compensate those close to George Floyd up to $27 million.
They also mention the lies of a juror who concealed attending the demonstrations following the death of George Floyd and accuse prosecutors of producing “cumulative” testimonies from seven police officers and experts about the use of force.
Prosecutors countered in a separate argument that the trial was “one of the most concise and transparent” in history, jury selection took two weeks and the verdict must be confirmed.
The two parties will present their arguments before the Court of Appeal in Saint-Paul from 9:30 am (15:30 GMT) and the hearings will be televised as in the first trial.
Three other police officers who remained passive during George Floyd’s ordeal have been sentenced to between two and a half and three and a half years in prison.