Updated: July 20, 3:40 p.m. | Posted: July 19, 5:36 a.m.
Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his conviction for second-degree murder in the killing of George Floyd, now that the Minnesota Supreme Court has declined to hear the case, his attorney said Wednesday.
The state’s highest court without comment denied Chauvin’s petition in a one-page order dated Tuesday, letting Chauvin’s conviction and 22 1/2-year sentence stand. Chauvin faces long odds at the U.S. Supreme Court, which hears only about 100 to 150 appeals of the more than 7,000 cases it is asked to review every year.
Floyd, who was Black, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed a knee on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes on the street outside a convenience store where Floyd tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. A bystander video captured Floyd’s fading cries of “I can’t breathe.” Floyd’s death touched off protests worldwide, some of which turned violent, and forced a national reckoning with police brutality and racism that is still playing out.
Chauvin's attorney, William Mohrman, told The Associated Press that they were “obviously disappointed” in the decision. He said the most significant issue on which they appealed was whether holding the proceedings in Minneapolis in 2021 deprived Chauvin of his right to a fair trial due to pretrial publicity and concerns for violence in the event of an acquittal. He said they will now raise that issue with the U.S. Supreme Court.
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“This criminal trial generated the most amount of pretrial publicity in history,” Morhmann said. “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.”
Mohrman asked the Minnesota Supreme Court in May to hear the case after the Minnesota Court of Appeals in April rejected his arguments that he had been denied a fair trial. The Minnesota attorney general’s office, in a response last month, asked the Supreme Court to let that ruling stand instead.
“Petitioner received a fair trial, and received the benefit of a fulsome appellate review,” prosecutors wrote at the time. “It is time to bring this case to a close.”
Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement 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.”
Morhman asked the Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court to throw out the ex-officer’s conviction for a long list of reasons, including the decision by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill not to move the trial out of Minneapolis despite the massive pretrial publicity, and the potential prejudicial effects of unprecedented courthouse security.
After his conviction on the state charge, Chauvin pleaded guilty to a separate federal civil rights charge and was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison, which he is serving in Arizona concurrent with his state sentence. Three other former officers who assisted Chauvin are serving shorter state and-or federal sentences for their roles in the case.
Only Tou Thao, who held back the concerned crowd, still faces sentencing in state court. That's scheduled for Aug. 7. Thao rejected a plea agreement and, instead of going to trial, let Cahill decide the case based on written filings by each side and evidence presented in previous trials.
Cahill convicted Thao in May of aiding and abetting manslaughter. Minnesota guidelines recommend four years on the manslaughter count, which Thao would serve concurrently with his 3 1/2-year federal sentence.
Associated Press correction: This story was first published on July 19, 2023. It was updated on July 20, 2023, to correct the last name of Chauvin’s attorney. It is Morhman, not Mohrmann.