Controversial photo of Chauvin juror #52 prompts legal questions

The “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” March on Aug. 28 2020.
Twitter

The “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” March on Aug. 28 2020. Twitter

One of the jurors who served on the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin reportedly sported a Black Lives Matter T-shirt with a reference to the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin, who jammed his knee into Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds as the Black man lay in a prone position on the ground, was convicted on one count of second-degree murder, one count of third-degree murder and one count of second-degree manslaughter.

"Either way, I was going to D.C. for this event, even if George Floyd was still alive", he said.

"Not only did such acts escalate the potential for prejudice in these proceedings, they may result in a far-reaching chilling effort on defendants' ability to procure expert witness - especially in high-profile cases such as those of Mr. Chauvin's co-defendants - to testify on their behalf", Nelson wrote.

Nelson also cites "prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law". If this request is denied, it can add another layer of decisions for Nelson to appeal.

Mike Brandt, a Minneapolis defense attorney not involved in the case, said the revelation alone could not overturn Mr Chauvin's conviction, but it could be combined with other issues.

Mike Brandt, a Minneapolis defense attorney not involved in the case, told the AP the revelation alone wasn't almost enough to overturn Chauvin's conviction, but it could be combined with other issues - the announcement of a massive civil settlement to Floyd's family during jury selection, the shooting of Daunte Wright, the judge's refusal to move the trial - in an appeal to say Chauvin was denied a fair trial. "The publicity was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings".

Mitchell and Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, have not returned messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The motion also calls for a hearing to investigate whether the jury "committed misconduct, felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations". To impeach a verdict is to question its validity.

In a Facebook post dated August 31, 2020, Mitchell was pictured wearing a shirt with an image of Martin Luther King along with the words, "Get your knee off our necks" and "BLM", which is short for Black Loves Matter.

That juror, Brandon Mitchell, has defended his actions, saying the event was to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington and was not a protest over Floyd's death. Floyd's brother and sister, Philonise and Bridgett Floyd, and relatives of others who have been shot by police addressed the crowd. The goal of holding a hearing to impeach the verdict would be to develop a factual record and present evidence that could determine whether the verdict was compromised.

Joseph Daly, a retired law professor from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, said Mr. Mitchell was very forthright on a range of topics in voir dire.

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