The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to review the appeal of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The apex court's decision solidifies Chauvin's sentence of 20 years for his role in the 2020 incident that triggered worldwide protests.
Derek Chauvin, once a member of the Minneapolis Police Department, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd. This case drew international attention after a video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck went viral, leading to widespread protests. Chauvin's attorney, William Mohrman, later filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the fairness of the trial.
Mohrman contended that the widespread publicity of the case and the mounting outrage within the community made it practically impossible for Chauvin to receive a fair trial in Minneapolis, where the incident and the subsequent trial took place.
Due to the extensive pre-trial coverage, Mohrman stated that most potential jurors were already familiar with the case, which may have influenced their perception of Chauvin’s guilt.
Mohrman's argument hinged on the concern that nearly 75-80% of the jurors expressed fears for their safety due to their involvement in the trial. This, he argued, indicated a compromised trial environment where jurors might feel pressured to render a guilty verdict.
William Mohrman's appeal on behalf of Chauvin was rooted in the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to a fair trial. He emphasized that this includes being tried in a location where jurors are not influenced by extensive pre-trial publicity or community sentiment. Mohrman stated:
"Under the Sixth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, every criminal defendant is guaranteed a right to a fair trial, and part of that fair trial-right is not to be tried in a location where the jurors have either been exposed to extensive pre-trial publicity, or there has been such community outrage and the like that the jurors, before they even were impaneled before the trial, would have concluded the defendant’s guilty, or would have been pressured into rendering a guilty verdict."
Mohrman also pointed out that when a fair trial is jeopardized due to these factors, the Supreme Court's precedents typically require a change of location or venue for the trial.
The case of George Floyd's death and Derek Chauvin's subsequent trial garnered global attention, sparking protests against police brutality and systemic racism. The video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck was seen by millions and became a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement. This widespread public awareness was a core element of Mohrman's argument for Chauvin's appeal.
Despite these arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to hear the appeal leaves Chauvin's conviction standing. This decision underscores the high court's discretion in selecting cases and often reflects on the broader legal implications of the issues at hand.
In addition to the state conviction, Derek Chauvin also faces a separate federal civil rights conviction that carries a sentence of over 20 years to be served concurrently. This aspect of Chauvin's legal battles remains a separate and distinct legal challenge with its own set of appeals and procedures.