By William McCurry
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Defense Attorney Eric Nelson, who defended Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, filed a motion for a new trial Tuesday, based on interests of justice, abuse of discretion that deprived the defendant of a fair trial, prosecutorial and jury misconduct, errors of law at trial, and a verdict that is contrary to law.
Nelson argued that “the Court abused its discretion when it denied Defendant’s motion for a change of venue, pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 24,03, subd. 1, and 25.02, subd. 3, in violation of Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to a due process and a fair trial.”
Nelson also claims that the Court abused its discretion when it denied Defendant’s motion for a new trial on the grounds that “publicity during the proceedings threaten[ed] the fairness of the trial. Such publicity included pre-deliberation intimidation of the defense’s expert witness, from which the jury was not insulated,” Nelson maintained.
Nelson charged that not only did such acts escalate the potential for prejudice in these proceedings but they “may” result in a far-reaching chilling effect on “defendants’ ability to procure expert witness—especially in high-profile cases, such as Chauvin’s codefendants—to testify on their behalf.”
Nelson insisted the Court abused its discretion when it failed to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, or, at the least, admonish them to avoid all media, which resulted in jury exposure to “prejudicial publicity regarding the trial during proceedings, as well as jury intimidation and potential fear or retribution among jurors,” which violated Chauvin’s Constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial.
He claims the State committed pervasive, prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct, which deprived Chauvin of his Constitutional rights to due processes and a fair trial. He argues that the state committed this by “disparaging the defense, improper vouching, and failing to adequately prepare its witness.”
Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, Nelson argues that the Court abused its discretion and violated Chauvin’s rights under the Confrontation Clause “when it failed to order Morries Hall to testify, or in the alternative, to admit into evidence Mr. Hall’s statements to law enforcement regarding his interactions with George Floyd and presence at the May 25, 2020 incident.”
Nelson said the Court also abused its discretion when it submitted instructions to the jury that ”failed to accurately reflect the law…permitted the State to present cumulative evidence with respect to use of force… ordered the State to lead witnesses on direct examination (and) failed to order that a record be made of the numerous sidebars that occurred during the trial.”
Based on these “multiple errors” in the proceedings, Nelson cites: “See State v. Duncan, 608 N.W.2d 551, 551-58 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. May 16, 2000) (‘when the cumulative effect of numerous errors’—even if, alone, the errors are harmless—’constitutes the denial of a fair trial, the defendant is entitled to a new trial’).”
Nelson also argues for a hearing to “impeach the 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, in violation of Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial.”
Lastly, Nelson argues for granting the defense additional time to thoroughly brief all issues in the case, in light of time that was required for preparation of partial transcripts of the proceedings.
Nelson’s motion was based on the files and records in this case, the Minnesota Statutes, the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, the United States and Minnesota Constitutions and upon such other and further points and authorities as may subsequently be presented to the Court.
William McCurry is a fourth year at Sacramento State, majoring in Criminal Justice. He is from Brentwood, California.
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