Postponement of State Court Trial of Ex-Policemen for Killing of George Floyd                 

On January 12, 2022, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill postponed the commencement of the state trial of three Minneapolis ex-policemen (J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao) on charges of aiding and abetting the May 2020 second-degree murder and manslaughter of George Floyd. [1]

The Judge ordered the parties’ attorneys to meet before January 16 to select a new trial date between March 14, 2022 and January 9, 2023. If they cannot agree on a new date, the trial will start on March 7 as previously scheduled.

In the meantime, the three men are scheduled to go on trial in federal court starting January 20 on charges of violating Mr. Floyd’s civil rights during his arrest. If that trial has not concluded by the new date for the state trial, the latter shall be continued on a daily basis until the attorneys are available.

In addition, Judge Cahill stated that in the state case the attorneys should set aside three weeks for jury selection and five weeks for trial testimony.

All of these developments happened after the state court trial, conviction and sentencing of Derek Chauvin to 22.5 years imprisonment for second-degree and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of Mr. Floyd.[2] And then in mid-December 2021 Chauvin unexpectedly pleaded guilty to the federal charges against him over the killing of Mr. Floyd with Chauvin to serve the state and federal sentences concurrently in a federal prison.[3] Thus ended Chauvin’s criminal charges and trials over Floyd’s death.

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[1] Xiong, State trial of three officers charged in George Floyd killing postponed from March date, StarTribune (Jan. 12, 2022); Order Granting Joint Request To Continue Trial Date, State v. Thao, Lane, Kueng, Henn. Cty Dist. Ct., File Nos. 27-CR-20-12949, 12951 & 12953 (Jan. 12, 2022).

[2]  See the “Derek Chauvin State Criminal Trial” and “State Court Sentencing of Derek Chauvin” sections of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: George Floyd Killing.

[3] Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Federal Criminal Charges Over Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 16, 2021).

Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Federal Criminal Charges Over Killing of George Floyd

On December 15, 2021, at the Minneapolis’ federal courthouse Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to two counts of depriving George Floyd of his federally-protected civil rights by pinning his knee against Floyd’s neck and by failing to provide medical care for Floyd on May 25, 2020, ultimately causing his death.[1]

At this hearing, Chauvin also pleaded guilty to separate federal charges for holding down with his knee a 14-year-old boy in 2007 and failing to provide medical care to the boy and thereby causing non-fatal injuries.

His only comments during the hearing were short answers to questions by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson. These questions and answers undoubtedly followed the Plea Agreement and Sentencing Stipulations in his federal case over the killing of Mr. Floyd and other papers regarding pleading guilty to the 2017 mistreatment of the juvenile.

The federal court subsequently will conduct a sentencing hearing on these charges, but Chauvin and the federal prosecution have agreed that he will serve these sentences in a federal prison concurrently with his state sentence and that the federal prosecutors intends to recommend a sentence of 300 months.

Background[2]

On June 2, 2020, Chauvin in a superseding complaint was charged with these crimes under Minnesota state law regarding the killing of M. Floyd:  Second Degree Murder (Unintentional While Committing a Felony), Third Degree Murder (Perpetrating Eminently Dangerous Act and Evidencing Dangerous Mind) and Second Degree Manslaughter (Culpable Negligence Creating Unreasonable Risk).

After the district court had denied his dismissal motion, Chauvin alone went on trial, starting March 8, 2021. On April 20, 2021, the jury convicted him on all three counts: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

On June 25, 2021, the court at a hearing sentenced Chauvin to 22.5 years imprisonment. At that hearing, Chauvin stated to the judge and several members of the Floyd family, “At this time due to some additional legal matters at hand, I’m not able to give a full, formal statement at this time. Briefly though, I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest, and I hope things will give you some peace of mind. Thank you.”

Observers immediately speculated, rightly so by Chauvin’s recent change of his plea to guilty, that attorneys for the prosecution and Chauvin were working on details of an agreement for a guilty plea and their negotiation of the terms of such an agreement reached fruition at the December 15th hearing.

Along the way, Chauvin has clearly indicated his preference for federal over Minnesota prisons. Perhaps that is because in state prison he is more likely to encounter fellow inmates who have had bad experiences with Minneapolis policemen, including Chauvin himself, and who as a result might have incentives to mistreat Chauvin.

Conclusion

The Chauvin guilty plea to the state charges obviously will result in the dismissal of his appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

It also leaves the other three ex-officers with the challenging decision of whether to change their pleas to guilty to the state and federal criminal charges against them and thereby eliminate the necessity of state and federal criminal trials, which might include Chauvin’s testimony against them.

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  1. Zapotosky & Bailey, Derek Chauvin signals he will plead guilty to violating George Floyd’s civil rights, Wash. Post (12/12/21); Mannix, Derek Chauvin to change plea in federal civil rights case, StarTribune (12/13/21); Plea Agreement and Sentencing Guidelines, U.S. v. Chauvin, U.S. Dist. Ct., D. MN (Case No. 21-CR-108 (PAM-TNL) Dec. 15, 2021); Mannix,  Derek Chauvin pleads guilty to civil rights charges in George Floyd’s killing, StarTribune (12/15/21); Bailey, Derek Chauvin pleads guilty to violating George Floyd’s civil rights, Wash. Post (12/15/21);Bogel-Burroughs, Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Violating George Floyd’s Rights, N.Y. Times (12/15/21); Derek Chauvin pleads guilty to civil rights charges in killing of George Floyd, Guardian (12/15/2021);
  2. This blog’s many posts about the state criminal cases over the killing of Mr. Floyd are listed in List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: George Floyd Killing. This post specifically references the following posts: The Criminal Complaint Against Derek Chauvin Over the Death of George Floyd (June 12, 2020); Court of Appeals Reverses District Court’s Refusal To Follow Precedent on Third-Degree Murder Charge Against Derek Chauvin, (Mar. 5, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Week One (Mar. 15, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Conviction (Apr. 21, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years Imprisonment (June 28, 2021).

Federal Criminal Cases Over George Floyd Death Seem Ready for Trial in Mid-January

On November 18, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson mailed questionnaires to prospective jurors ordering them to report to the Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis on January 20, 2022, and be ready to serve from mid-January to mid-February on the federal criminal cases against Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.[1]

The Judge’s letter said, “In trials of this nature, the Court and the attorneys need to ask probing questions of prospective jurors, including questions about their views on law enforcement, various interest groups, and events that have taken place over the past year-and-a-half. We do this not because we wish to pry into the private lives of prospective jurors, but because we are obligated to ensure that the jurors who hear the case will be fair and impartial.”

The Judge also asked those responding to the questionnaire to avoid media coverage related to this case.

This development looks as if it will interfere with the commencement of the state criminal trial of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, previously scheduled to start on March 7, 2022.[2]

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1/ Mannix, Federal civil rights trial for ex-Minneapolis-cops in George Floyd killing on track for mid-January,  StarTribune (11/30/21).

2/ Xiong, State trial postponed to March 2022 for ex-officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in George Floyd death, StarTribune (May 13, 2021).

Federal Criminal Cases Over George Floyd Death: Four Policemen To Be Tried Together  

As previously noted, four Minneapolis policeman—Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao–face a federal grand jury indictment over the death of George Floyd in the District of Minnesota. They are charged with  allegedly using the “color of the law” to deprive  George Floyd of his constitutional rights to be “free from the use of unreasonable force” when Chauvin held Floyd down by the neck for more than nine minutes while the others did nothing to stop Chauvin. In addition, all four are charged with failing to help provide medical care to Floyd and “thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm.” [1]

All four of the defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Denial of Severance of the Four Cases

On November 29, U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung denied the motions by the last three ex-policemen to sever their federal cases from the one against Derek Chauvin. [2]

The Magistrate Judge said said the attorneys making the motions had failed to prove that Chauvin’s conviction would prevent their clients from receiving a fair trial.

Elaborating on the reasons for that conclusion, the Magistrate Judge said the charges against Chauvin are not identical to the others, but there is “significant overlap and interplay” in the allegations. “Also, the Government will be using essentially the same substantive evidence against each of the Defendants at trial. There will be witnesses. A number, if not a majority, of these same witnesses will be called to testify regardless of whether Chauvin is tried jointly with Thao, Kueng and Lane. The events at issue occurred during a short temporal period on a single day in a single location. In addition to the discrete unities of time and place, there can be no genuine dispute that all four Defendants were at the scene of the events giving rise to this case.”

This decision was made “without prejudice,” meaning that if these three defendants object to this ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, who will be presiding over the trial, may make his own ruling on the motion.

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[1] Indictment, U.S. v. Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane, U.S. Dist. of Minn. (Case 0:21-cr-00108-PAM-TNL (May 6, 2021); Federal Court Charges Against Ex-Minneapolis Policemen Over George Floyd’s Killing, dwkcommentaries.com (May 7, 2021).

[2] Mannix, Former Minneapolis officers should be tried together in federal case, says magistrate judge, StarTribune (11/29/21).

Chauvin and Ex-Wife Plead Not Guilty to Tax Evasion Charges 

As a previous  post reported, on July 22, 2020, Derek Chauvin and his then wife Kellie Chauvin were charged with Minnesota felony tax crimes dating back to 2014 for alleged failure to report more than $400,000 in income  and resulting failure to pay $21,853 in Minnesota taxes which  with interest and late filing and fraud penalties then amounted to $37,868. This was done in Minnesota District Court for Washington County, where they then lived. [1]

On November 5, 2021, a Washington County District Court Judge entered pleas of not guilty for the pair after each waived a pretrial hearing in two brief remote court sessions. The next date for a court hearing in the case was set for January 21, 2022.[2]

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[1]  Chauvin and Wife Now Charged with Minnesota Tax Crimes, dwkcommentaries.com (July 22, 2020).

[2]  Olson, Derek Chauvin and his ex-wife plead not guilty to tax evasion, StarTribune (Nov. 5, 2021); Karnowski (AP), Chauvin, ex-wife plead not guilty to tax evasion charges, StarTribune (Nov. 5, 2021).

More Details on Jurors’ Comments on Derek Chauvin Trial 

The blog previously has discussed the court’s decision last week to release on November 1 certain information about the jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial and the October 28th Don Lemon program on CNN  with seven of the 14  jurors (including two alternates). [1] Now additional details about this development have been reported by the Washington Post, New York Times and StarTribune. [2]

The Washington Post has reported the following:

  • Several jurors said their views on race did not factor into the verdict. According to Juror Nicole Deters, ““We got here because of systemic racism within the system, right, because of what’s been going on. That’s how we got to a courtroom in the first place. But when it came down to all three verdicts, it was based on the evidence and the facts one hundred percent.”
  • Several jurors said “they probably would have come to the same verdicts if Chauvin had testified in his defense, but they said they would have liked to hear what he was thinking. Videos of the killing, recorded by bystanders and others, factored into the jurors’ decision-making, they said.”
  • Juror Sheri Belton Hardeman said, “The camera doesn’t lie. And it was in slow motion at times while you were sitting there in court. … So it was hard. It played a huge role though. It truly did.”
  • Juror Jodi Doud told CNN the video “bothered me so much. How could somebody do that to someone else? And it was a slow death. It wasn’t just a gunshot and they’re dead.”

The New York Times added the following report:

  • Half of the 12 jurors declined to comment or could not be reached on November 1st after their names had been publicly released. At the home of one of them, this sign was posted on the front door: “Please, no press no soliciting” while a “Black Lives Matter” poster was prominently displayed in a window.
  • Juror Brandon Mitchell, who previously had made public comments on the trial, said on November 1, , 2021, that all of the jurors have been keeping in touch on an email chain since the trial. “They’re scared of the unknown and of becoming a public figure instead of spending their lives in peace.”
  • Juror Jodi Doud had said on the CNN program, “This is not what he [Chauvin] did, but more or less what he didn’t do. He did not provide lifesaving measures for George Floyd when he knew that the guy was in pain or needed medical attention.”

The Times article also reported that the prospective jurors questionnaires “reveal a diverse range of opinions from the jurors, who were from throughout Hennepin County and ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s. Four of the jurors were Black, six were white and two were multiracial; seven of the 12 were women.”

The StarTribune noted that two jurors and an alternate previously had made the following public comments about the trial:

  • “25-year-old Journee Howard, of Minneapolis, said she was especially swayed by the testimony of Dr. Martin Tobin, who bolstered the prosecution’s contention that Floyd died from asphyxiation as a direct result of being pinned face down on the pavement at 38th and Chicago for more than nine minutes by Chauvin and two other officers.”
  • Brandon Mitchell said the jury deliberations were “smooth” with a strong focus on the evidence and the terminology of the law, but did not include discussions about race or the broader issue of police killing civilians.
  • Alternate Lisa Christensen, 56, of Brooklyn Center, said she was “sad and disappointed” when she was excused before deliberations began but agreed with the verdicts.

The StarTribune also added that a jury questionnaire disclosed that the jury foreperson was a 31-year-old man from Minneapolis, who was engaged at the time of the trial, has degrees in accounting from the University of St. Thomas, and works as an audit manager and that almost all of the  responses to the questionnaire said the prospective jurors disagreed with the statement that “the police treated white and Black people equally” while all agreed that “Police in my community make me feel safe.”

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[1]  Judge Orders Release of Jurors Names in Derek Chauvin Trial, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 28, 2021); Discussion of Derek Chauvin Trial By Seven of Its Jurors, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 30, 2021).

[2]  Shammas & lati, Race was not part of Chauvin jurors’ decision, they say, Wash. Post (Nov. 1, 2021); Bogel-Burroughs, Jurors Who Convicted Derek Chauvin Are Identified for First Time, N.Y. Times (Nov. 1, 2021); Walsh, More than 6 months after verdicts, court releases names of jurors in Derek Chauvin trial, StarTribune (Nov. 1, 2021).

 

 

 

Discussion of Derek Chauvin Trail by Seven of its Jurors  

On October 28, seven of the 12 jurors in the trial of Derek Chauvin who delivered the guilty verdict on all three counts were interviewed by CNN’s Don Lemon. [1]

Theses jurors all provided intelligent comments and conveyed a great sense of the jury’s seriousness, cooperation and appreciation for one another.

Most importantly, they said a very important piece of evidence  was the Minneapolis Police Department motto, “In our custody, in our care.” Clearly, they said, George Floyd was in the custody of the four policemen, but they did nothing to provide care to him when his pain and loss of breathe were obvious.  That observation made the guilty verdict obvious, they said.

Now on November 1, most of the trial evidence will be made public at the Hennepin County Government Center.[2]

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[1]  Sanchez, Exclusive: Derek Chauvin jurors speak out for the first time, recalling ‘traumatic experience’ and that light-bulb moment, CNN (Oct. 28, 2021).

[2]  Judge Orders Release of Jurors Names in Derek Chauvin Trial, dwkcommentareis.com (Oct. 28, 2021).

Judge Orders Release of Jurors Names in Derek Chauvin Trial

On October 25, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill ordered the release on November 1 of the names of the 12 jurors who signed the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin earlier this year plus (a) the names of the two alternate jurors who were excused before jury deliberations commenced; (b) the names of the other 109 prospective jurors; (c) the questionnaires filled out by all of these individuals; and (d) the original jury verdict form signed by the jury foreperson. [1]

The Order had the following limitations: (a) the addresses and other contact information for the 14 sworn and alternate jurors will not be made public; (b) the Court reserves the right to redact from the completed juror questionnaires certain information, consistent with discussions with some of the jurors during voire dire, from the copy of the questionnaires publicly filed pursuant to this order; and (c) the information and documents being made public will only be available for inspection and copying at the Hennepin County Government Center; no remote access.

The Judge’s 31-page Order and Memorandum, which was soundly reasoned and well written, provided the background and reasons for this order. It set forth with abundant legal citations the Court’s legal conclusion:

  • “Although there is no absolute right of the press or public to access all records and information contained in court records in criminal cases, judicial records are presumptively public under Minnesota’s applicable court rules and the common law, warranting granting public access to some of the requested juror information sought by the Media Coalition in light of the present facts and circumstances of this case.”

This legal conclusion was based upon the Court’s balancing “on a case-by-case basis . . . [of the following] competing considerations . . . the defendant’s constitutional rights to a public trial before a fair and impartial jury, the public interest in access to open judicial proceedings to monitor the manner in which justice is being administered, the press’ First Amendment rights, and jurors’ privacy interests and rights.”

This Order was prompted by a motion for such disclosure submitted by the Media Coalition of 16 local and national media organizations.

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[1]  Olson, & Xiong. Court order: Chauvin jurors’ names to be released Nov. 1 at courthouse, StarTribune (Oct. 25, 2021); Assoc. Press, Judge in Chauvin trial to release names of Jurors on Nov. 1, StarTribune (Oct. 25, 2021); Order and Memorandum Opinion on Media Coalition Motion To Unseal Juror Names and Associated Juror Information, State v. Chauvin, Henn. County Dist. Ct. File No. 20-12646 (Oct 25, 2021).

 

 

 

Derek Chauvin Has Attorney for Appeal 

On October 15, William F. Mohrman, a Minneapolis attorney, filed a notice in the Minnesota Court of Appeals that he shall appear as counsel of record for Chauvin.[1]

Mohrman is a partner in the Minneapolis law firm of Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A. and previously was an associate attorney with the Minneapolis office of Faegre & Benson and a trial attorney with the Minneapolis law firm of Felharber Larson Fenlon & Vogt. He also has served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis and was awarded “Attorney of the Year” by the Minnesota Lawyer publication. [2]

Mohrman has a J.D. degree with an Order of the Coif for academic excellence from the University of Colorado Law School and an undergraduate degree, cum laude, from the University of Colorado and bar admissions in the state and federal courts in that state and Minnesota  as well as the federal court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now Mohrman will be remedying Chauvin’s various failures to abide by rules regarding his appeal. [3]

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[1]  [Notice of Appearance], State v. Chauvin, Minnesota Court of Appeals # A21-1218 (Oct. 15, 2021).

[2]  Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A. 

[3]  Minnesota Supreme Court Denies Chauvin’s Request for Public Defender, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 8, 2021); Derek Chauvin Faces Roadblocks in Appealing His Conviction and Sentencing for Second-Degree Murder of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 9, 2021).

Derek Chauvin Faces Roadblocks in Appealing His Conviction and Sentencing for Second-Degree Murder of George Floyd

Derek Chauvin is facing roadblocks to appealing his conviction and sentencing for second-degree murder of George Floyd that was commenced on September 20 with Chauvin’s notice of appeal, statement of the case, motion to proceed in forma pauperis (IPF) in the Minnesota Court of Appeals and motion to stay this appeal pending the Minnesota Supreme Court’s review of his ineligibility determination for a public defender by the Office of the Minnesota Appellate Public Defender (OMAPD).[1]

The first roadblock occurred on September 24 when the clerk of the appellate courts directed Chauvin within 10 days to (1) pay the $550 filing fee; (2) provide proof of service of the notice of appeal on the district court administrator; and (3) provide proof of service of the appeal papers on the county attorney and attorney general.

The second roadblock was the Minnesota Supreme Court’s October 6th rejection of Chauvin’s appeal from OMAPD’s determination of his ineligibility for a Public Defender in this appeal.  [2] (The Court of Appeals in an  October 8th Order stated his request for the same relief was moot.)

That Court of Appeals’ Order also noted that Chauvin must submit a written request of transcripts within 30 days after the filing of the notice of appeal and that his appellate brief must be submitted within 60 days after the court reporter delivers the transcript.

That Court of Appeals’ Order further noted that because he was not represented by counsel, its rules provided that “the case will be submitted on the briefs and record without oral arguments by any party.” If, however, Chauvin subsequently obtains counsel, he may file a motion requesting oral argument.

These details were incorporated in the Court of Appeals’ Order as follows:

  1. On or before October 15 Chauvin “shall file proof of service of the notice of appeal on the Hennepin County District Court Administrator and proof of service of the notice of appeal and statement of the case on the Minnesota Attorney General.”
  2. Chauvin’s “motion to proceed IFP in this court is denied.”
  3. Chauvin’s “motion to stay this appeal is denied.”
  4. “On or before October 22, 2021, [Chauvin] shall pay the $550 filing fee.”
  5. “On or before October 22, 2021, [Chauvin] shall order a transcript of the district court proceedings from the court reporter and make financial arrangements for the court reporter to file a completed transcript certificate by November 12, 2021.”
  6. Chauvin’s “request for oral argument is denied without prejudice to a subsequent motion for oral argument filed by counsel.”

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[1] Olson, Appeals Court: Derek Chauvin can’t make oral arguments unless he hires a lawyer, StarTribune (Oct. 8, 2021); Order, State v. Chauvin, Minn. Ct. App. #A21-1228 (Oct. 8, 2021).

[2] Minnesota Supreme Court Denies Chauvin’s Request for Public Defender, dwkcommentaries (Oct. 8, 2021).