U.S. Supreme Court Denies Derek Chauvin’s Petition to Review His State Court Conviction for Murder and Manslaughter of George Floyd

On November 20, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court without opinion denied Derek Chauvin’s petition for review of  his state court conviction for the murder and manslaughter of George Floyd in May 2020.[1] It thus appeared that this state court criminal case was over as was Chauvin’s federal guilty plea, criminal conviction and sentencing for the killing of George Floyd. However, as discussed below, a recent development in the federal case raises the question of whether one or both of those cases could be reopened.

Prior State Court Proceedings[2]

Chauvin’s state court conviction resulted from an April 2021 Hennepin County jury verdict that he was guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The following June Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill sentenced him to 22 ½ years in prison for those crimes.

Chauvin’s appeal of that conviction was rejected by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in April 2023 with a 50-page opinion and the Minnesota Supreme Court in July 2023 denied his appeal from same without opinion.

That Minnesota Supreme Court decision was then challenged by Chauvin’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court,  which just denied that petition.

Derek Chauvin’s Federal Court Proceedings[3]

In  May 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota filed a criminal complaint against Chauvin and the other three Minneapolis ex-policeman over the killing of George Floyd.

Without a trial Chauvin pled guilty in December 2021 to these charges.  In that guilty pleaChauvin admitted in writing that certain facts were true . . .[and] established his  guilt beyond a reasonable doubt].” [3] Those admissions included the following:

  • Chauvin, ‘while acting under color of law . . . willfully deprived George Floyd of . . . the right to be free from an unreasonable seizure, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer. [Chauvin] . . . held his left knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck, back, and shoulder, and his right knee on Mr. Floyd’s back and arm. As Mr. Floyd lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting, [Chauvin] . . . kept his knees on Floyd’s neck and body, even after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive. This offense resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of, George Floyd.”
  • Chauvin “admits that in using this unreasonable and excessive force, he acted willfully and in callous and wanton disregard of the consequences to Mr. Floyd’s life. [Chauvin] . . . knew that what he was doing was wrong, in part, because it was contrary to his training as an MPD officer.. .”
  • Chauvin “also knew there was no legal justification to continue his use of force because he was aware that Mr. Floyd not only stopped resisting, but also stopped talking, stopped moving, stopped breathing, and lost consciousness and a pulse.’ [Chauvin] . . .chose to continue applying force even though he knew Mr. Floyd’s condition progressively worsened. . . . [Chauvin] also heard Mr. Floyd repeatedly explain that he could not breathe, was in pain, and wanted help.”

Chauvin “knew that what he was doing was wrong—that continued force was no longer appropriate and that it posed significant risks to Mr. Floyd’s life—based on what he observed and heard about Mr. Floyd.”

  • Chauvin “admits that he failed to render medical aid to Mr. Floyd, as he was capable of doing, and trained and required to do.”

In July  2022 U.S. District Judge Magnuson sentenced Chauvin to 245 Months for Depriving George Floyd and John Pope [a teenager in a different case] of Their Federal Civil Rights.

It thus appeared that this federal case was over while Chauvin concurrently served his federal and state sentences in a federal prison in Colorado.

Recent Chauvin Challenge to Federal Conviction and Sentencing[4]

However, on November 13, 2023, Derek Chauvin (without legal counsel) filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to vacate his conviction and sentencing by that court, based on his guilty plea, for the murder and manslaughter of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.

The asserted basis for this motion was the opinion of a pathologist, Dr. William Schaetzel, who had never examined the Floyd corpse and never testified in any of the criminal cases, but said based on review of certain papers that Floyd did not die from asphyxia from Chauvin’s actions, but from complications of a rare tumor called paragangliona that can cause a fatal surge of adrenaline.

This development will be explored in a subsequent post.


[1] Hyatt, U.S. Supreme Court rejects review of Derek Chauvin’s latest appeal attempt, Star Tribune Nov. 20, 2023) Supreme Court rejects appeal of former Minneapolis police officer convicted of killing George Floyd, APNews (Nov. 20, 2023)

[2] Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Seven {Conviction), dwkcommentaries.com (April 21, 2021);Derek Chauvin Trial: Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years Imprisonment, dwkcommentaries.com (June 28, 2021);Derek Chauvin’s Appeal of State Conviction and Sentencing for Killing George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 23, 2023); Minnesota Court of Appeals Affirms State Court Conviction of Derek Chauvin for Killing George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (April 19, 2023); Derek Chauvin Asks Minnesota Supreme Court To Review His Conviction for Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (May 18, 2023); Derek Chauvin Will Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Review His State Court Conviction for Murder and Manslaughter of George Floyd , dwkcommentaries.com(July 21, 2023); Derek Chauvin Files Petition for U.S. Supreme Court Review of His State Court Conviction for Murder and Manslaughter of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 25, 2023).

[3] Federal Criminal Charges Against Ex-Policemen Over George Floyd’s Killing, dwkcommentaries,com (May 7, 2021); Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges Over George Floyd Killing and Excess Force Against Teenager ,dwkcommentaries.com (December 16, 2021);  Federal Court Sentences Derek Chauvin to 245 months (20.4 Years) for Depriving George Floyd and John Pope of  Their Federal Civil Rights, dwkcommentaries.com (July 8, 2022); Comment: Federal Court’s Criminal Judgment for Derek Chauvin, dwkcommentaries.com (July 9, 2022).

[4] Karnowski (AP), Ex-officer Derek Chauvin makes another bid to overturn federal conviction in murder of George Floyd, StarTribune. com (Nov. 14, 2023) Krauss, Derek Chauvin files motion attempting to overturn federal conviction, StarTribune (Nov. 15, 2023) Price, Derek Chauvin claims new evidence shows he didn’t cause George Floyd’s death, attempts to overthrow conviction, Fox News (Nov. 15, 2023) Naham, Convicted murderer Derek Chauvin’s prison emails revealed as he cites pathologist’s alternate theory George Floyd ‘literally scared’ to death, Law & Crime (Nov. 15, 2023) Motion To Vacate Conviction and Sentence under 28 U.S.C. SECTION 2255, U.S. v. Chauvin, Case No. 21-CR-108-PAM, U.S. Dist. Ct. MN (Nov. 13, 2023).



State Court Imposes Sentence of 57 Months Imprisonment on Tou Thao for Aiding Manslaughter of George Floyd

When George Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020, Tou Thao was a Minneapolis police officer who was in charge of monitoring and restraining the large nearby crowd of bystanders while observing fellow officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane and Alexander Kueng physically restraining and killing George Floyd on the nearby pavement. On August 7, 2023, Thao was sentenced in state court to 57 months imprisonment for aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. The following is a summary of Minnesota state courts’ proceedings, convictions and sentencings of these four ex-Minneapolis police officers.

Prior State Court Proceedings[1]

The State of Minnesota charged Thao and the other three officers with various crimes for the killing of Mr. Floyd. The officer in charge, Derek Chauvin, was the first officer to go on trial in the Hennepin County District Court and a jury found him guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and the court sentenced him to 22.5 years  imprisonment.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals then denied Chauvin’s appeal and the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear his further appeal. According to his attorney, Chauvin will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case.

In Hennepin County District Court in May 2022, Officer Lane pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 2.5 years imprisonment.

In October 2022, also in Hennepin County District Court, Kueng pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting manslaughter  and was sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Thao, however, rejected a proposed guilty plea and instead chose to have Judge Cahill try him on stipulated evidence.

District Court’s Conviction of Thao[2] 

 On May 1, 2023, District Court Judge Peter Cahill issued the Court’s 177-page Verdict, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Memorandum Opinion. In finding Thao guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter of George Floyd, the Verdict stated:

  • “Thao actively encouraged his three colleagues’ dangerous prone restraint of Floyd while holding back a crowd of concerned bystanders begging the officers to render medical aid. Thao knew, as the minutes passed and the restraint continue unimpeded, that Floyd had stopped talking and fallen silent, had stopped moving altogether, and
  • had become totally unresponsive. In fact, by about six minutes into the restraint, Floyd stopped breathing, lost consciousness, and became pulseless.”
  • That night Thao “was an experienced Minneapolis police officer with almost a decade’s experience. He knew that the officers’ prone restraint could kill. Like the other officers, Thao had been trained specifically to turn an individual onto his side to avoid positional asphyxia, the very thing that several eminent medical specialists who testified at trial concluded caused Floyd’s death. Like the bystanders, Thao could see Floyd’s life slowly ebbing away as the restraint continued. Yet Thao made a conscious decision to actively participate in Floyd’s death: he held back the concerned bystanders and even prevented an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter from rendering the medical aid Floyd so desperately needed.”
  • ““Thao also directly insisted upon continuing the restraint that took Floyd’s death that night. Soon after Floyd had been subdued prone on the street, Thao retrieved a device called a ‘hobble’ from Lane’s and Kueng’s squad. If properly employed, that hobble would have saved Floyd’s life. But Thao encouraged the other officers not to use the hobble and instead to ‘hold on’ and continue the physical restraint by which his three fellow officers were bearing down on Floyd, forcing him into the unyielding concrete of the street, drastically inhibiting his ability to breathe effectively. Thao’s stated reason? ‘If we hobble him, the sergeant is going to have to come out’ to complete the paper work for a ‘use of force review’ mandated by MPD policy whenever the hobble is employed. The short of it: Tou Thao did not want to follow the proper protocol and the work it would entail. George Floyd died as a result.”

District Court’s Sentencing of Thao[3]

On August 3, 2023, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General  Erin Eldridge submitted a three-page letter to the Court noting that the presumptive sentence for this crime for Thao was 48 months with a guideline range of 41 to 57 months and that the State requested the imposition of a 51 month sentence for the following reasons:

  • “Thao’s conduct was calculated, deliberate, and directly facilitated and perpetuated the restraint that led to Floyd’s death. Throughout the encounter, Thao was aware of Floyd’s distress and the dangerousness of the ongoing prone restraint. Thao discouraged the officers from using a hobble—a device that, if properly utilized, would have saved Floyd’s life. . . . Instead, Thao actively encouraged his fellow officers to continue to restrain Floyd prone on the ground. . . . . . Thao also ‘expressly refused to allow’ ‘a trained Minneapolis firefighter’ ‘to tend to Floyd, . . . despite Floyd’s obvious distress. . . . In short, Thao bears personal responsibility for what happened that day. This Court should impose a punishment that reflects Thao’s culpability.”
  • “Thao’s conduct was even more egregious in light of his extensive experience and training. Thao completed the police academy in 2009, and became a full-time officer in 2012, serving in that capacity for 8 years. …. Over the course of his multi-year career, Thao completed 1,014 hours of MPD training, including medical training, defensive tactics training, procedural justice training, and crisis intervention training. . . . .Above all, Thao had been trained about the importance of placing individuals in the side recovery position to alleviate the risk of positional asphyxia. . . . Yet despite his extensive on-the-job experience and copious training, Thao intentionally encouraged the use of a dangerous prone restraint, discouraged the use of a hobble, and prevented an off-duty firefighter from rendering aid. In short, Thao knew better, but did not do better.”
  • “Thao acted callously and cruelly. Thao mocked Floyd, telling the concerned bystanders: ‘This is why you don’t do drugs, kids.’ . . . . Thao dismissed Floyd’s pleas: ‘He’s talking, so he’s fine.’ . . . And Thao encouraged the dangerous behavior for selfish reasons: In Thao’s words, if the officers used a hobble, ‘a sergeant’s going to have to come [to the scene].’ ….This Court put it best: ‘Tou Thao did not want to follow the proper protocol and the work it would entail. George Floyd died as a result.’ . . . . “
  • “[A] a significant term of incarceration would serve as a deterrent for similar misconduct. Police officers enforce the law; they are not above the law. A 51-month prison sentence will discourage other public servants from engaging in similar criminal behavior or abuses of authority.”
  • “Thao has neither accepted responsibility nor shown any remorse for his actions”

At the August 7 sentencing hearing, Mr. Eldridge said, “George Floyd’s last words were heard around the world,  but more importantly they were heard by Tou Thao and we cannot forget them now three years later.”

Mr. Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, said at the hearing, “The death of Mr. Floyd is a tragedy, but the court is a place of justice, not retribution. Mr. Thao went out that day with the purest intentions. My client is a good and decent man with a family.” Paule then requested a sentence of 47 months, which was 10 months less than the maximum of the sentencing guidelines.

Mr. Thao then spoke for about 23 minutes to say, “Hold on to the truth that I did not commit these crimes; my conscience is clear. I will not be a Judas nor join a mob in self-preservation or betray my God. I did not intend on hurting anyone that day. I did the best I thought I could. Obviously the outcome didn’t come out the way I wanted it. I’ll leave it at that” without any apology. He then quoted Biblical passages and preached of repentance, fear of God and forgiveness. “Today if you feel the love of God pulling at your heart. . . . Let it be your day of salvation. Do not harden your heart in rebellion, for God desired mercy and relationship with you.”

Thao then directly asked Judge Cahill if he was a brother in Christ and apologized if he had offended the Judge by refusing to take a guilty plea deal and having said, “it would be a lie and a sin for me to accept a plea deal.” The Judge then said no offense was taken.

Thao closed by saying that he is praying for everyone in the room, including the Judge, and that if anyone needs him for prayer, “you know where to find me. Thank you judge. God bless you.”

Judge Cahill then said, “After three years of reflection, I was hoping for a little more remorse, regret, acknowledgement of some responsibility and less preaching.” The Judge added that he would not rehash the facts of the case, but that Thao’s “culpability is less than Mr. Chauvin, but well above Mr. Kueng and Mr. Lane as an experienced senior officer who was in the best position to save George Floyd.” Therefore, a sentence of 57 months was appropriate.

This sentence will be served in Minnesota state prison, to which he will be transferred from federal prison where he already is serving his federal sentence of 42 months for violations of Floyd’s civil rights with the balance of that federal sentence to be served concurrently with the state sentence. [4]


After the hearing, Thao’s attorney said he would appeal the guilty verdict and the sentence.


[1] See, e.g., List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: George Floyd Killing.

[2] Tou Thao, ex-MPD Officer, Convicted for Aiding and Abetting Second-Degree Manslaughter of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (May 3, 2023); Briefs in Tou Thao’s State Court Criminal Case Over Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 2, 2023);

[3] Hyatt, Ex-Minneapolis cop Tou Thao sentenced to nearly 5 years for aiding George Floyd’s killing, StarTribune (Aug. 7, 2023); Karnowski, Ex-Minneapolis officer unrepentant as he gets nearly 5 years in George Floyd killing, AP News (Aug. 7, 2023); Betts, Former Officer Gets More than 4 Years in Final Sentencing for Police Killing of George Floyd, N.Y. Times (Aug. 7, 2023). Bailey, Ex-Minneapolis officer gets second sentence in George Floyd’s death, Wash. Post (Aug. 7, 2023); Helmore, Ex-officer sentenced to nearly five years for role in George Floyd’s murder, Guardian (Aug. 7, 2023); Letter, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin R. Eldridge to Judge Peter Cahill (Aug. 3, 2023).

[4] Tou and the other three ex-MPD officers were also sued in federal court for alleged violations of Mr. Floyd’s civil rights. All four of them were convicted and sentenced to federal imprisonment. (E.g., U.S. Court of Appeals Affirms Federal Conviction of Tou Thao for Violating the Civil Rights of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Aug. 5, 2023).) https://www.startribune.com/tou-thao-sentenced-nearly-5-years-aiding-george-floyds-killing/600295391/?refresh=true

Derek Chauvin Will Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Review His State Court Conviction for Murder and Manslaughter of George Floyd

The Minnesota Supreme Court on July 18, 2023, in a one-page order denied Derek Chauvin’s petition for review of the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ 50-page decision affirming his state court conviction, after a jury trial, for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 death of George Floyd.[1]

Immediately afterwards Chauvin’s attorneys said that they will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case on the ground that his right to a fair trial under the U.S. Constitution was violated. “This criminal trial generated the most amount of pretrial publicity in history. More concerning are the riots which occurred after George Floyd’s death [and] led the jurors to all express concerns for their safety in the event they acquitted Mr. Chauvin — safety concerns which were fully evidenced by surrounding the courthouse in barbed wire and National Guard troops during the trial and deploying the National Guard throughout Minneapolis prior to jury deliberations.”[2]

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, however,  said that the state Supreme Court’s denial of review “means that the Court of Appeals was correct in finding that his trial was properly conducted and he was properly convicted under law. This development definitively holds Chauvin accountable and closes this chapter of the murder of George Floyd.”

In this blogger’s opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court will deny this petition on the grounds that the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ 50-page decision is well-reasoned and thorough. In addition, as previously argued in this blog, Chauvin’s guilty plea to related charges in federal court should be another ground for rejecting any Chauvin appeals, but this argument was not mentioned by the Court of Appeals.[3]


[1] Walsh, Minnesota Supreme Court declines to hear Derek Chauvin’s petition for appeal, Star Tribune (July 19, 2023); Minnesota Court of Appeals Affirms Chauvin’s State Court Conviction for Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (April 19, 2023)

[2] Karnowski, Ex-officer Derek Chauvin to ask US Supreme Court to review his conviction in murder of George Floyd, Assoc. Press (July 19, 2023); Daniels, Chauvin to ask Supreme Court to review conviction in George Floyd murder, The Hill (July 20, 2023).

[3] Derek Chauvin’s Appeal of State Conviction and Sentencing for Killing of George Floyd, dwkcomentaries.com (Jan, 23, 2023).


Derek Chauvin Asks Minnesota Supreme Court To Review His Conviction for Killing of George Floyd     

As previously reported, in April 2021, a jury in Hennepin County District Court returned a verdict that Derek Chauvin was guilty on all three counts (second degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter) of George Floyd in May 2020. In June 2021 that court imposed a sentence of 22.5 years imprisonment on Mr. Chauvin for these crimes.[1]

On April 17, 2023, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed that conviction.[2]

On May 17, 2023, Chauvin appealed that decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, stating that the legal issues to be reviewed were the following:

  1. “Whether the district court’s failure to either transfer venue, delay the trial or sequester the jury deprived Petitioner of state rights and constitutional due process to a fair trial because (i) the district court failed to presume juror prejudice due to pervasive adverse publicity and violence in the community or (ii) the district court abused its discretion.”
  2. “Whether (i) police officers acting to effect lawful arrests can be convicted of second- degree felony murder when the predicate felony required only intent to contact, with no subjective intent to use what is later adjudicated as objectively unreasonable force or (ii) Minnesota should abrogate felony murder where the predicate felony is assault.”
  3. “Whether the jury instruction on ‘reasonableness’ police use-of-force was material error.”
  4. “Whether upward sentence departures are misapplied when defendant’s conduct was without subjective intent.”
  5. Whether denying a Schwartz hearing after defendant presented prima facie evidence of juror misconduct deprives defendants of the constitutional right to trial by impartial jury.”[3]

The Minnesota Supreme Court could decline to review the Court of Appeals decision or decide to conduct such a review after the parties submit detailed briefs and present arguments at a hearing and thereafter submit the Supreme Court’s decision.

This blogger thinks that the Supreme Court probably will decline to grant review. In the meantime, Chauvin is serving concurrent state and federal convictions for Floyd’s killing in a federal prison.


[1]  Derek Chauvin Trial:  Week Seven (CONVICTION), dwkcommentaries.com (April 21, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years Imprisonment, dwkcommentaries.com (June 28, 2021).

[2]  Minnesota Court of Appeals Affirms Chauvin’s State Court Conviction for Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (April 19, 2023).

[3] Karnowski (AP),  Chauvin appeals conviction in George Floyd’s murder to the Minnesota Supreme Court, StarTribune (May 17, 2023); Petition for Review, Chauvin v.State, Minn. Sup. Ct. # A21-1228 (May 17, 2023).

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.”


[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).

Minnesota Supreme Court Denies Chauvin Request for Public Defender     

On October 6, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied Derek Chauvin’s request for appointment of a public defender for his appeal of his conviction and sentencing for second-degree murder of George Floyd.[1]

Chauvin’s request apparently was made on September 23, when he stated the following to the Office of the Minnesota Appellate Public Defender (OMAPD):

  • “Due to my incarceration, I do not have the sufficient means to retain private counsel for the appeal.”
  • “I currently have no source of income, besides nominal prison wages, nor do I own any real property or vehicles. I am currently unmarried and have no dependents.”
  • “My only assets are two retirement accounts. I would face a significant penalty for early access to these retirement funds.”
  • “The district court case for which I intend to appeal was paid for by the Minneapolis Peace and Police Officer’s Association, and I have been informed that their obligation to pay for my representation terminated upon my conviction and sentencing,”

The OMAPD denied this request and the Supreme Court’s Order in effect affirmed the OMAPD’s conclusion  that Chauvin had not established that “through any combination of liquid assets and current income [he] would be unable to pay the reasonable costs charged by private counsel” for prosecution of this appeal. (Minn. Stat. sec. 611.17(a)(2).)

As the Court stated, “Having reviewed Chauvin’s request, the information provided regarding his assets and debts, and the OMAPD’s determination, we conclude that Chauvin has not established that he is entitled to appointed representation at this time.” (Unfortunately, this blogger was unable to obtain a copy of the OMAPD determination.)

However, the Supreme Court added that this denial “is without prejudice to a future application for such an appointment.”


[1]  AP, Minnesota court denies Chauvin’s request for public defender, Wash. Post (Oct. 6, 2021); Olson, Supreme Court denies Chauvin’s request for a public defender for appeals in Floyd murder, StarTribune (Oct. 6, 2021); Sarnoff, Derek Chauvin Appeal: Minnesota State Supreme Court Upholds Denial of Request for Public Defender, Law & Crime (Oct. 6, 2021); Order, In re Application of Derek Chauvin for relief from the Ineligibility Determination of the State Public Defender, Minn. Sup. Ct. # ADM08-8001 (Oct. 6, 2021). See generally List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: George Floyd Killing.





Criminal Cases Over George Floyd Killing: Recent Developments  

As mentioned in previous posts, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged, tried, convicted and sentenced in Minnesota state trial court for the May 2020 killing of George Floyd[1] and he has been criminally charged in Minnesota federal court for that same killing.[2] The other three former police officers who were so involved (Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao) also face state and federal criminal charges with their state trial scheduled for March 2022 while their request for prohibition of video or audio coverage of the trial is still pending.[3]

There have been recent developments in these cases.

Minnesota Supreme Court OverturnsThird-Degree Murder Conviction of Mohammed Noor.[4]

Former Minneapolis police Officer Mohammed Noor, after trial in state court, was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the July 15, 2017, killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, and on September 15, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously reversed the third-degree murder conviction and remanded the case for re-sentencing on the manslaughter charge.

The Supreme Court held that the third-degree murder statute required a “depraved mind” or a “generalized indifference to human life”  and that  requirement cannot be satisfied when a defendant’s conduct is aimed at a single person, as was the case with Noor.

Upon remand to the trial court, Noor will be re-sentenced for his conviction for second-degree manslaughter, which is expected to be four years, which given his imprisonment so far for 28 ½ months means he could be eligible for supervised release in 3.5 months.

This decision raises the question of whether it will affect Chauvin’s sentence of 22 ½ years for the second-degree murder of George Floyd. Although the jury also had found Chauvin guilty for third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, the 22 ½ year sentence was only based on conviction for second-degree murder.[5] Therefore, the Noor decision does not directly impact Chauvin’s sentence. Perhaps Chauvin’s attorney will argue on appeal that the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin unfairly impacted the entire case against him and thus calls for complete reversal by the appellate court, but Susan Gaertner, former Ramsey County Attorney, thinks that is highly unlikely. This blogger, a retired attorney without criminal law experience, concurs in that reaction.

Chauvin and the Other Three Defendants Plead to Federal Criminal Charges.[6]

In May 2021, Chauvin and the three other officers were criminally charged in federal court with allegedly using the “color of the law” to deprive Mr. Floyd of his constitutional rights to be “free from the use of unreasonable force” in his May 2020 arrest, and on September 14, 2021, all four entered not guilty pleas in federal court.

The pending motions of the other three officers to be tried separately from Chauvin have not yet been acted upon.

On September 16, Chauvin was arraigned on a separate charge in federal court for alleged use of excessive force in the September 2017 arrest of a 14-year-old boy, and Chauvin entered a not guilty plea to this charge.


[1] Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Seven (CONVICTION), dwkcommentaries.com (April 21, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years Imprisonment, dwkcommentaries.com (June 28, 2021).

[2] Federal Criminal Charges Against Ex-Minneapolis Policemen Over George Floyd Killing, dwkcommentaries.com (May 7, 2021); Federal Criminal Cases Against Ex-Minneapolis Cops for George Floyd Death: Initial Proceedings, dwkcommentaries.com (June 2, 2021).

[3]  Defendant’s Motion To Exclude Video and Audio Recording of Proceedings, State v. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane, District Court , Court File NO.: 27-CR-20-12953 & 27-CR-20-12931 (Aug. 25, 2021); State’s Memorandum of Law Opposing Motions To Exclude Audio and Video Recording of Proceedings, District Court File NO.: 27-CR-20-12953 & 27-CR-20-12931 & 27-CR-20-12949 (Sept. 1, 2021).

[4] Minnesota Supreme Court Hears Argument About Scope of Third- Degree Murder Statute, dwkcommentaries.com (June 10, 2021); Xiong & Olson, Supreme Court overturns third-degree murder conviction against ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohammed Noor, StarTribune (Sept. 16, 2021); State v. Noor, Opinion, No. A19-1089 (Minn. Sup. Ct. Sept. 15, 2021).

[5] See. n.1.

[6]  Mannix, Four former Minneapolis officers plead not guilty to federal civil rights charges, StarTribune (Sept. 14, 2001); Olson, Chauvin enters not guilty plea to federal civil rights charge involving a 14-year-old, StarTribune (Sept. 16, 2021); Federal Criminal Case Over George Floyd Killing: Request To Sever Chauvin Case from Three Co-Defendants Cases, dwkcommentaries.com (Aug. 9, 2021).


Minnesota Supreme Court Hears Argument About Scope of Third-Degree Murder Statute

On June 9, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments about the scope of Minnesota’s third-degree murder statute, which provides as follows:

”Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years.” (Minn. Stat. sec. 609.195 (a).)

These arguments were in the appeal of Mohamed Noor, a former Minneapolis policeman, for his conviction of that crime for the killing in 2017 of  Justine Damond in south Minneapolis and sentenced for same to 12.5 years in prison. The central issue of this appeal was whether this statute applied to a defendant whose actions were directed at only one, specific person.[1]

Noor’s attorney, Caitlinrose Fisher, argued that the statute’s language as well as case law “requires that a defendant’s actions must be directed at more than one person”  and that this law was meant only for such indiscriminate killings.

The prosecutor for Hennepin County, Jean Burdorf, however, argued that nearly all killings by police officers are directed at a specific person and if this statute is interpreted not to apply to such killings, then there could be no such prosecutions under this statute. Noor’s attorney basically agreed, saying, “’It would be very hard to imagine’ that an officer’s “split-second reaction to a perceived threat” would count as a ‘depraved-mind murder.”

Fisher, however, added that other charges, such as manslaughter, could be appropriate in some such cases and that Noor was not contesting his conviction for second-degree manslaughter and urged the Supreme Court to remand the case to the trial court for resentencing on that count with a likely sentence of four years.

The Supreme Court’s decision in this case is directly on point to Derek Chauvin’s conviction for third-degree murder of George Floyd even though his actions were directed at only one individual, namely George Floyd. [2]


[1] Karnowski (AP), Minnesota 3d-degree murder law at issue in ex-cop’s appeal, StarTribune (June 9, 2021); Killing of Justine Damond, Wikipedia.

[2] Karnowski (AP), EXPlAINER: Noor ruling could have impact for other ex-cops, StarTribune (June 9, 2021).



Chauvin Moves To Dismiss Criminal Complaint 

On August 28, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin filed a motion to dismiss the criminal complaints against him.[1] Here is a summary of this motion.

Dismissal of Count I–Second Degree Unintentional Murder

 Count I of the Amended Complaint alleges Chauvin is guilty of Second Degree Unintentional Murder by reason of his allegedly committing a Third Degree Assault. But it does not even “allege that Mr. Chauvin possessed the intent to inflict bodily harm upon Mr. Floyd.” And “the State has offered no evidence to support the intent element of third-degree assault.” (Chauvin Memo at 9.)

Instead, the evidence shows that Floyd “was struggling in and around the squad [car] at a busy Minneapolis intersection. He was handcuffed and acting erratically. Continued struggle posed a risk of injury to Mr. Floyd and, potentially, to officers. The decision to use MRT allowed officers to restrain Mr. Floyd without injury until EMS arrived on scene. Mr. Chauvin, who arrived at the scene as officers were already struggling with Mr. Floyd, checked to ensure that EMS had been called.” (Id. at 9-10.)

“The Medical Examiner found no bruising on Mr. Floyd’s neck or on any neck muscles or any injury to neck structures. There was no bruising on Mr. Floyd’s back or evidence of blunt trauma to his back. If Mr. Chauvin had intended to inflict harm to Mr. Floyd’s back and neck with his knee, surely there would be evidence of bruising. But clearly, Mr. Chauvin was cautious about the amount of pressure he used to restrain Mr. Floyd—cautious enough to prevent bruising. Video evidence shows Mr. Chauvin was calm and professional throughout the application of MRT” or Maximal Restraint Technique that was a technique approved by the Minneapolis Police Department. (Id. at 10.)

Dismissal of Count II–Third-Degree, Depraved Mind Murder

“Count II of the Amended Complaint charges Mr. Chauvin with Third Degree Murder— Perpetrating Eminently Dangerous Act and Evincing Depraved Mind, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.195(a). Under Minnesota law, however, ‘[d]epraved mind murder cannot occur where the defendant’s actions were focused on a specific person.’ State v. Barnes, 713 N.W.2d 325, 331 (Minn. 2006) (citing State v. Wahlberg, 296 N.W.2d 408, 417 (Minn. 1980)).” (Id. at 11.)

“As the Minnesota Supreme Court has explained, ‘We have made clear that the statute covers only acts committed without special regard to the effect on any particular person or persons.’ State v. Zumberge, 888 N.W.2d 688, 698 (Minn. 2017). ‘[T]he act must be committed without a special design upon the particular person or persons with whose murder the accused is charged.’ Id. (appellant’s claims that he shot “toward” not “at” the decedent precludes a third degree murder instruction) (citation omitted). Third degree murder is reserved to cover cases where the act was ‘reckless or wanton,’ such as firing a gun into a bus or driving a vehicle into a crowd. Wahlberg, 296 N.W.2d at 417. That is simply not the case here.” (Id. at 11.)

Dismissal of Count III—Culpable Negligence Manslaughter

 This charge requires proof of the actor’s “objective gross negligence” and “subjective recklessness.” (Id. at 12.)

Under Minnesota cases, “objective gross negligence” is an act that was “a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor’s situation.” Here, Chauvin as a police officer in an emergency situation under Minnesota case law had ‘significant independent judgment and discretion’ . . . ‘precisely because a more stringent standard could inhibit action.’ (Id. at 12-13.)

Chauvin’s attorney then argues,  “Such discretion often comes into play when an officer must gauge how much force to use in order to effect an arrest. The amount of force authorized is dependent on the subject being arrested, the circumstances of the arrest, and the ever-developing fact pattern of any arrest scenario.” (Id. at 13.)

Here, “Chauvin was acting within his duties to execute a legitimate legal process—assisting other officers with effecting their arrest of George Floyd,” who was actively resisting arrest when Chauvin arrived on the scene. Quoting Minnesota cases, in such cases, an ‘officer may use all necessary and lawful means to make the arrest’ and is authorized “to escalate their use of force, short of deadly force, as necessary.” Here, under MDP policy, the use of MRT was authorized because Floyd was ‘handcuffed, . . .combative and still pose a threat to themselves, officers or others, or could cause significant damage to property if not properly restrained.” (Id. at 14-19.)

Moreover, the evidence shows Chauvin performed the MRT in accordance with MPD training materials and manuals and did not actually and consciously disregard the risks associated with MRT. And the Hennepin County Medical Examiner found no bruising on Floyd’s neck or muscles or neck structures or on his back. (Id. at 14-20.)

Dismissal of All Counts—Chauvin Did Not Cause Floyd’s Death

According to the relevant Minnesota statutes and cases, conviction for homicide requires that ‘the act of the defendant [was] the proximate cause of death of [the victim] without the intervention of an efficient independent force in which the defendant did not participate or which he could not reasonably have foreseen” or that “the defendant’s conduct was a ‘substantial causal factor’ in bringing about the victim’s death.” (Id. at 21.)

Chauvin’s attorney then asserts, “Mr. Chauvin was not the proximate cause of Mr. Floyd’s death, because an ‘independent force’ . . . in which Mr. Chauvin ‘did not participate’ and which ‘he could not reasonably have foreseen’ intervened: Fentanyl.” (Id.)

“It is clear from the evidence that Mr. Floyd was under the influence of narcotics when he encountered the officers and that he most likely died from an opioid overdose. . . . His body contained a lethal dose of fentanyl—[1ng/ml—as well as methamphetamine, at the time of his death.” Indeed, Chauvin quotes the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, telling the prosecutors on June 1, ‘If he were found dead at home alone & no other apparent causes, this could be acceptable to call an OD [overdose].’ [2] But Chauvin’s attorney does not quote the next note: “Baker. I am not saying this killed him.” (Emphasis added.)

Moreover, Chauvin’s attorney does not quote Dr. Baker’s actual autopsy report (5/26/20) that was titled “Cardiopulmonary Arrest complicating Law Enforcement Subdual, Restraint, and Neck Compression” or the County Medical Examiner’s Press Release (05/26/20) with the same statement for “Cause of Death” plus ‘How injury occurred: Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s)’ and ‘Manner of death: Homicide.’[3]

Also not quoted by Chauvin’s attorney were the June 10 report by the Defense Health Agency concurring with the ‘autopsy findings and the cause of death certificate’ by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. Or the findings of Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson, who were retained by the attorneys for the Floyd family, that found that Floyd ’died of traumatic asphyxia due to the compression of his neck and back during restraint by police’ and ‘Manner of Death’ was ‘homicide.’ State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020).[4]

Chauvin’s attorney admits in this brief that Floyd “told officers that he had suffered from COVID-19.” Moreover, Chauvin arrived at the scene with fellow ex-officer Thao, who testified during an interview by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and FBI, that when he and Chauvin were driving to join Lane and Keung at the scene they were told on the phone that someone who had appeared to be intoxicated had passed a fake bill at Cup Foods and after arrival Thao had heard Floyd say he had had COVID-19 while he was in the back seat of a squad car before he went to the pavement outside the car and Thao had been worried that Floyd was on drugs.

Chauvin’s attorney boldly states that even though Lane and Keung may have observed signs of Floyd’s overdose and medical trauma, “none of this information was shared with Mr. Chauvin. Therefore, “Chauvin was unaware of the potential dangers of using MRT on Mr. Floyd.” (Chauvin Memo at 25-26 (emphasis in original).) This appears to be an unfounded overstatement of the record.


Given the recent filing of this Chauvin motion, as of noon on September 9, the State had not yet responded to this motion, but clearly it will oppose same before the court considers and rules on the four dismissal motions on the briefs and record.


[1] Defendant’s Notice of Motions and Motions To Dismiss, State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020);  Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant’s Motion To Dismiss, State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020); Defendant’s Exhibit List in Support of Motion To Dismiss for Lack of Probable Cause, State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020); Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report (5/26/20) (Ex. 20),  State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020); Hennepin County Attorney’s Office memos of interviews of Dr. Andrew Baker (Hennepin County Medical Examiner) on 5/26/20, 5/27/20 & 5/31/20, (Ex.6), State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020); Notes from Hennepin County Attorney’s [6/1/20] interview with Dr. Andrew Baker{Hennepin County Medical Examiner], (Ex.6), State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020); Hennepin County Attorney’s Office summary of communications with Chief Tim Longo, University of Virginia Police Department (5/26/20-6/3/20) (Ex.6), State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020); Defense Health Agency autopsy summary report (6/10/20) (Ex. 19), State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020); Summary of autopsies of Floyd by Drs. Baden and Wilson on behalf of Floyd Family (7/2/20) (Ex.6), State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020). See also Raice & Ailworth, George Floyd’s Death Likely Caused by Drug Overdose, Argue Derek Chauvin’s Lawyers, W.S.J. (Aug. 28, 2020); Bailey, In new filing, Derek Chauvin previews his defense, but also seeks dismissal of charges, Wash. Post (Aug. 29, 2020); Olson, Chauvin lawyer: Restraint didn’t kill Floyd, ill health and drug abuse did, StarTribune (Aug. 29, 2020).

[2] Chauvin Memo at 22; Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Notes from Notes from [6/1/20] interview with Dr. Andrew Baker{Hennepin County Medical Examiner], (Ex.6), State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020).

[3] Affidavit of Matthew Frank Exs. 4 & 5 (Aug 10, 2020), State v. Lane, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12951 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 10, 2020).

[4] Summary of Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson’s findings (7/2/20), (Ex.6), State v. Chauvin, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12646 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 28, 2020) (Exs. 6, 19)


Judge Cahill’s Memorandum Opinion Explaining His Order for Release of BodyCam Videos  

On August 11, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill issued a Memorandum Opinion providing the factual findings and legal conclusions [1] for his August 7th Order granting the motion of the Media Coalition for copies of two of the BWC (body-worn camera) videos of George  Floyd’s arrest and killing.[2]

Preliminarily the Judge said, with citations of decisions by the U.S. and Minnesota Supreme Courts, “Cases that generate intense public interest and media scrutiny highlight the tension between two fundamental rights: the right guaranteed under the federal and state constitutions to criminal defendants to receive a fair trial before an impartial jury, on the one hand, and the right of the public and press to attend public trials, on the other hand.” Moreover, “The open processes of justice serve an important prophylactic purpose, providing an outlet for community concern, hostility, and emotion,” as was true in this very case. (P. 4.)

“The Court is committed to the management of pretrial proceedings and the eventual trial(s) not only to vindicate the public’s and press’ right of access guaranteed by the First Amendment, the common law, and court rules but also Lane and his fellow co-defendants’ Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial, and this Court’s and the parties’ interests in seeing that justice be done by a fair and objective jury determining the facts based solely on evidence that will be admitted at trial.” (P.8.)

In so doing, the court has conducted “all hearings in these cases in public . . . [with] overflow courtrooms to facilitate the presence of interested members of the public and press.” The court “has also created special websites for each of these cases in which all publicly-available documents that have been filed . . are made available to the public and press by remote access.” (P. 9.)

The court had issued a Gag Order on July 9th in an attempt “to mitigate what some colloquially characterize as efforts ‘to try the case in the press, to seek to avoid or at least to ameliorate the prospects of unduly tainting the prospective jury pool engendered by the intense media interest and reporting on these cases, and to seek to vindicate the Defendants’ rights and the State’s interest in ensuring justice is done in these cases by a fair and impartial jury deciding whether the Defendants or guilty or not guilty on the State’s charges based solely upon the evidence produced during trial, not based upon media reporting, public speculation, and extraneous information, inadmissible at trial, circulating during the months of pretrial preparation.” (Pp. 10-11.) [3]

The Memorandum Opinion then set forth its legal reasoning for its conclusions: (1) the Media Coalition has standing to intervene (pp. 11-13); (2) the media and the public have a right under the common law and court rules to obtain copies of the BWC videos, under cited U.S. and Minnesota Supreme Court decisions and Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure and Rules of Public Access to Records of the Judicial Branch. (Pp. 13-19.)

Important for the court, “based on the representations [of all counsel] were the following ” all council expect the [two BWC videos in question] . . . will be admitted into evidence at the trial, that allowing members of the public and the press to obtain copies of those BWC videos does not, at this stage of the proceedings, present a substantial likelihood of interfering with the fair and impartial administration of justice and the defendants; rights to a fair trial.”

The court did not find it necessary to decide whether the media had a first amendment right to obtain copies of the videos. (Pp. 19-22.)

In a footnote, the court noted that “the fractious, highly partisan, and segmented niches served by the modern-day media and journalists . . . should resoundingly dispel the notion that journalists, as a profession, can be depended on ‘to produce complete, accurate accounts of what transpires.” (Fn. 8 at 7-8.)


 This was a well-reasoned and written opinion.


[1] State v. Lane, Opinion on Order Granting Motion of Media Coalition To Obtain Copies of Publicly-Filed Body-Worn Camera Video Evidence, (Court File No. 27-CR-20-12951, Hennepin County District Court, Aug. 11, 2020); Xiong, Judge says he withheld broad distribution of bodycam videos in George Floyd killing to preserve fair trial, StarTribune (Aug. 12, 2020).

[2] State v. Lane, Order Granting Motion of Media Coalition To Obtain Copies of Publicly-Filed, Body-Worn Camera Video Evidence, (Court File No. 27-CR-20-1295, Hennepin County District Court, Aug. 7, 2020); Court Orders Public Release of Bodycam Footage of George Floyd Arrest and Killing, dwkcommentaries.net (dwkcommentaries.net (Aug. 8. 2020).

[3] See Gag Order in George Floyd Murder Cases, dwkcommentaries.com (July 9, 2020).