The jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the death of George Floyd on Tuesday, but the fight is not over for Chauvin’s defense team, which will likely use Rep. Maxine Waters’ comments on the case as one reason the trial was not fair.
"There’s so much and so many different directions for the defense to go," Randy Zelin, head of the criminal practice at Wilk Auslander LLP and an adjunct professor of law at Cornell University, told Fox News.
The first step will be to file post-trial motions with the trial judge to have the case thrown out, which Zelin noted are typically summarily denied.
Next comes the sentencing process, which includes an investigation conducted by the probation department and a comprehensive workup presented to the judge. Both the prosecution and defense teams will present their cases.
The state has sought to have an aggravated sentence imposed via the Blakely motion.
After the sentencing, the appeal time starts.
Zelin said the defense will argue for appeal on the basis that Chauvin did not get a fair trial for a number of reasons, including pretrial publicity, failure to change the venue and intra-trial publicity – including Waters’ comments and even potentially comments made by President Biden.
The defense will likely also bring up the fact that jury members saw the video before it was introduced into evidence, Zelin said, and that members were unfairly burdened by the idea that Minnesota would "burn to the ground" if Chauvin was not convicted.
As previously reported by Fox News, Chauvin’s attorney argued on Monday that Waters’ comments, in addition to other external factors, were grounds for a potential mistrial.
"And now that we have U.S. representatives … threatening acts of violence in relation to this specific case, it's mind boggling," Attorney Eric Nelson said, as he attempted to argue that the jury may have been unduly influenced by external factors.
Judge Peter Cahill conceded with Nelson that "Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned."
Cahill also said that he wished elected officials would stop referencing the case "especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law" so as to let the judicial process play out as intended.
Waters urged protesters in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where Duante Wright was recently shot by a police officer, to "stay in the street" as she joined the protests on Saturday and violated the local curfew.
"We've got to stay in the street and we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational," Waters said, referencing a scenario where Chauvin is not convicted. "We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business."
Biden on Tuesday said he was "praying the verdict is the right verdict."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pointed to comments from both Biden and Waters as proof that a fair trial is sometimes "difficult" to carry out.
"It is certainly not helpful for a member of Congress, and even the president of the U.S. to appear to be weighing in in public, while the jury is trying to sort through this significant case," McConnell said.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death. He was found guilty on all three counts.