Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on charges of second-degree, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd on Tuesday. The jury reached a verdict a day after the prosecution and the defense presented their closing arguments in the trial.
Chauvin’s defense team has a right to appeal, but it will be a “hard burden,” says Debbie Hines, trial lawyer and former Assistant Attorney General for Maryland.
Amid heightened tensions across the country ahead of the verdict, Rep. Maxine Waters (D., CA) urged protestors on Saturday to “get more confrontational” if Chauvin is acquitted. Chauvin’s defense team tried to obtain a mistrial in response to the publicity surrounding Waters’ comments.
Judge Peter Cahill, who oversaw the trial, dismissed the defense’s motion on Monday, but did concede that Waters may have made an appeal easier for the defense. "I'll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned," said Cahill.
Hines threw doubt on that prospect.
“In order for an appeal to be successful, you have to show [how Waters’ comments] had an impact on the verdict,” Hines told Yahoo Finance. “It’s not what [people say outside the courtroom but rather] what was happening with the jurors and did [Waters’ statement] really have a prejudicial effect on Derek Chauvin’s verdict.”
Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, set off a social justice reckoning last year with hundreds of protests across the country.
The verdict in the Chauvin trial was a test for America, said Hines. “I think those 12 [jurors] in that regard speak for where we are in this country,” she said.
President Joe Biden also weighed in on Tuesday, saying that he was “praying” that Chauvin would be convicted, describing the evidence as “overwhelming.”
Hines, who hoped for a guilty verdict, said there was enough evidence to convict Chauvin on a first degree murder charge. “I understand why the prosecution in this case did not want to do that, because they really felt that they may not have been able to get a verdict from a jury on that just based on racial bias,” she said.
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