I have posted four previous editions of footnotes to our coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd. My purpose here is to provide background on the legal issues in the case for those who seek to understand them. Readers who think they know all they need to know about the case are invited to pass them by.
I post these footnotes in the form of bullet points and differentiate facts and law from (my) opinion. I posted my fourth set on May 9 with previous editions (May 5, May 2 and April 25) appended. Today I want to add 10 footnotes in the same form:
• The court has set up a page here devoted to public filings in the case. It is indispensable for anyone seeking to follow the course of the case. The court has set up similar pages in the related cases, each of which is accessible on the Chauvin page.
• Filings yesterday (June 2) address sentencing, which is scheduled for June 25 and will be televised. Prosecutors seek a sentence of 30 years. Chauvin seeks probation with a sentence of time served.
• The presumed sentence under state sentencing guidelines is 12-and-a- half years. I infer from the court’s previous finding the existence of aggravating factors that the sentence will track that the prosecutors’ suggestion more closely than that of Chauvin’s.
• I have reported Judge Schiltz’s investigation of grand jury leaks in the federal civil rights case brought against Chauvin and his former colleagues. The leak I have followed most closely is the one to the Star Tribune’s Andy Mannix. Yesterday I noted the extension sought by the United States to respond to Judge Schiltz’s order. The Star Tribune has nothing today on the motion filed by the United States.
• Yesterday the United States filed a motion in the federal case seeking to have it declared complex under the Speedy Trial Act and thus free from the timeline set forth in the act (requiring trial within 70 days). Defendants do not oppose the motion.
• Chauvin has already been tried for murder in state court. The related state cases against the other three other officers were and scheduled for consolidated trial before Judge Cahill this August. In light of the federal case, Judge Cahill has rescheduled trial to next March. Despite the temptation to which the Biden Justice succumbed — the temptation to pile on and stoke the racial flames, consistent with the dominant themes of the administration — perhaps federal prosecutors should have stood aside and let the state cases proceed as scheduled. We have yet to be entrusted with a rationale supporting the federal case.
• Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson previously filed a new trial motion, but without a supporting memorandum setting forth the legal argument supporting it. Yesterday Nelson filed his 53-page memorandum supporting Chauvin’s new trial motion. I urge readers interested in the case to take it in with their own eyes.
• Nelson’s memorandum opens with argument on the issue of pretrial publicity/change of venue and pursues it at several points in passing. In my opinion it is strong. Judge Cahill has addressed each element of the argument adversely to Chauvin before and during trial; he won’t change his mind now. However, I think he has erred several times over.
• If Judge Cahill were to change his mind and grant Chauvin the requested relief, the Twin Cities would go down in flames yet again. There is no way Judge Cahill can escape the thought. It is illustrative of the fair trial issues he has botched. I am afraid that the same applies to the state appellate court judges sitting in St. Paul who will have to take up the issues in turn.
• The Star Tribune devotes one sentence to Chauvin’s post-trial motions in “Chauvin attorney argues for probation instead of prison time for George Floyd murder; prosecutors ask for 30 years.” If you get your news from the Star Tribune, this is all you would learn: “On Wednesday, Nelson also filed a 64-page memorandum seeking a new trial in a new location on several grounds, including prosecutorial misconduct and juror bias.”
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