The jury issued a verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin April 20, convicting him of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter for the 2020 killing of George Floyd.
Following the reading of the verdict, viewer Travis K. asked if the conviction could be overturned because of pressure on the jury.
Can Chauvin appeal his conviction?
Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, appeals rules beginning on page 152
Lee Hutton, national trial attorney and adjunct professor at University of Minnesota Law School
Ted Sampsell-Jones, professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota
Rachel Moran, law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis
Derek Chauvin can and most likely will appeal his conviction; however, that doesn’t mean he will win the appeal.
WHAT WE FOUND
Chauvin has 90 days following the date of his conviction to appeal the decision, according to Minnesota rules. An appeal would not automatically grant him release from his incarceration. His defense would argue its appeal to a panel of three judges, and the judges must issue a decision within 90 days of hearing his arguments, a Minnesota Courts webpage says.
Chauvin could ask for a range of remedies in his appeal, including complete acquittal, a lesser sentence or a mistrial. That last one is what legal experts think he will request.
“The biggest argument will just be that he was denied his constitutional right to an impartial jury,” said Ted Sampsell-Jones, a law professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota.
The jury was partially sequestered during the trial, which means the jurors were supervised within the courthouse but allowed to go home at night. Judge Peter Cahill told them to avoid the news during the course of the trial, but various news announcements during the trial could be used in arguments that the jury was prejudiced.
During the jury selection process, Minneapolis announced a $27 million settlement with George Floyd’s family and a couple of jurors were dismissed because the announcement affected their ability to be impartial. During the trial, Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a police officer in a Minneapolis suburb and protests in the area followed. And days before deliberation began and the jury entered full sequestration, Representative Maxine Waters said protesters should “get more confrontational” if Chauvin wasn’t found guilty on all three charges.
The defense requested a mistrial in response to Waters’ comments. While Judge Cahill denied the request, he did mention that the comment could be grounds for an appeal.
“I’ll give you Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Cahill said.
“It's very unlikely that's going to result in an actually successful appeal,” Sampsell-Jones said of Waters’ comment, adding that he believes Judge Cahill simply made an “offhand remark.”
Rachel Moran, a law professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis and a former appellate attorney, explained why it’s unlikely that would be enough to win an appeal.
“You would need evidence from a juror or jurors that they heard the statement and that it impacted their decision,” Moran said. “Without evidence that it impacted the jury's verdict, you're kind of just shouting into the void.”
National trial attorney and University of Minnesota Law School adjunct professor Lee Hutton said that could change if a juror speaks publicly and indicates something off-limits came up during deliberation or swayed their verdict.
“If a juror says, ‘hey, without a doubt, I was going to find him guilty,’ that could possibly lend the defense an opportunity to declare a mistrial.”
But none of the experts believed the odds were high of that happening and Chauvin winning an appeal. Hutton said, “I would be very surprised if the Court of Appeals disturbs the verdict.” Moran said, “I don't see it being likely.” And Sampsell-Jones concluded, “he's got valid, non-frivolous claims to appeal. But that's very different from saying that he's going to win.”
According to the non-profit Post Conviction Project, 90% of appeals in the United States are denied.
“The Court of Appeals is very hesitant to disturb the finding of a jury,” Hutton said.
If Chauvin is denied by the Court of Appeals, he could appeal further to the Minnesota Supreme Court. But the Minnesota Supreme Court does not have to hear the case, and often doesn’t. The Minnesota Courts website says the Minnesota Court of Appeals decides the final ruling in about 95% of appealed cases annually, and just five percent of appealed cases are heard by the state’s supreme court.
More from VERIFY: What's next for the sentencing of Derek Chauvin