Legal observers call Chauvin verdict a bigger victory for prosecutors than expected |

Legal observers call Chauvin verdict a bigger victory for prosecutors than expected

Charles Molineaux
Updated: April 21, 2021 07:46 AM
Created: April 20, 2021 10:51 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Local legal observers say the case against former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was extremely strong although they called it a bigger than expected victory for prosecutors.

"Little surprised they found him guilty on the top count,” admitted defense attorney Peter Pullano.

On Tuesday, a Minneapolis jury convicted Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the May 2020 death of George Floyd, who died after Chauvin held him down for more than 9 minutes with a knee on the back of Floyd’s neck.

Pullano says the conviction on second-degree murder, or what in New York might be called "felony murder" seemed a tough hurdle but that the video of Chauvin holding Floyd down was unstoppably persuasive.

“The video truly makes the difference and not just in this case,” Pullano explained. “We are finding it in pretty much every case across the country. There is so much more video. There’s so many more things that are just instantly proven.”

Legal observers say Chauvin does have some approaches for appealing his conviction, an appeal which is practically automatic, like public comments before the verdict from California Congresswoman Maxine Waters and even President Biden.

“President Biden made a statement during the course of the trial, which may or may not be decided to be disrespectful of the court system but it could be grounds for appeal in that it may prejudice the jury,” said retired appellate court judge Joseph Valentino. “The judge even commented that he was not too happy about Congresswoman Waters's comment.”

Another point for appeal could be the location of the trial in Minneapolis, where much of the outrage and unrest over Floyd's death was centered. Early in legal proceedings, the judge denied requests to move the trial elsewhere.

“The ambient outrage can be a factor,” Pullano said. “Sometimes there are real tough-looking folks sitting in the courtroom itself. That can be a factor for the jury, maybe even a more immediate and dangerous threat to a juror. And yet we have a way that we get through it.”

Former Rochester Police Chief Cedric Alexander said the verdict is not any big dramatic step because this particular case was so extreme, and the evidence so gross, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

"This has to be a beginning of reform and reimagining policing in this country,” Alexander said. “This is not the end. We are just getting started." 

A conviction on the most severe charge, second-degree murder, could get someone up to 40 years in prison. In the case of a first-time offender like Chauvin, the sentence is often closer to 15 years but prosecutors are expected to ask for more than that.

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