Eric Nelson is not working alone to protect Derek Chauvin. The police statutory fund backs him up with 12 lawyers and $ 1 million.

Derek Chauvin’s trial at the death of George Floyd appears to be a combination of accumulated prosecutions by the Minnesota Attorney General’s office and a lonely defense counsel fighting seemingly endless resources.

Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, is on one side of Judge Peter Cayhill’s court with Chauvin and Amy Voss (Nelson is his “assistant” but licensed lawyer). standing. A few feet away, there are four state prosecutor replacement crew members, including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Despite its appearance, Nelson rarely works solo.Nelson, private lawyer for the company Halberg Criminal DefenseThere is a lot of help from Minneapolis Police and Police Officers AssociationLegal Defense Fund.

According to MPPOA Secretary-General Brian Peters, the group, Minnesota’s largest federation of executives and unions, is paying up to 12 other lawyers working behind the scenes. Therefore, Nelson has the support and a large amount of cash to spend on trials that are expected to be carried out for at least a month, Peters said.

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“You know the match. The twelve lawyers on our side are working so well that Eric is not proceeding with this proceeding alone.”

Despite Chauvin’s dismissal from Minneapolis Police the day after Floyd’s death on May 25, the statutory fund bears financial weight, including the salary of lawyers. The police chief fired a few hours after watching a viral video of Chauvin pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.

The video sparked protests and violent riots over police violence against black civilians in Minneapolis and across the country. And soon, the video led to an accusation against Chauvin.

Derek Chauvin’s lawyer states that the murder trial is “not racial.” His own line of questions suggests that this is not the case.

Chauvin, who is currently guilty of two and three murders and two manslaughter charges, will be sentenced to approximately 10 to 15 years in prison if convicted as the first offender. There is a possibility. Term of office of the year.

“When you’re staring at a barrel of long imprisonment, and when you’re fighting for your freedom, you know you’re going to get help wherever it’s available. “said Thomas Needham, A Chicago lawyer who defended a police officer accused of illegal activity. “Our system says he is eligible for defense and he is eligible for the best defense he can afford.”

For some, including Peters, Chauvin is due to such a powerful defense. Especially from the MPPOA statutory fund that Chauvin paid as a member during his 19-year police career.

ACLU agrees to some extent.

However, the emergence of a police organization paying to protect the dismissed policeman-that Chauvin was entitled because he was working when Floyd died-gave the wrong message. I’m worried that I’ll send it.

“Cauvin certainly has the right to strict defense,” said Somil Trivedy, senior lawyer for ACLU’s criminal law reform project. But he does not think that “unions can simultaneously bring confidence in the debate about meaningful reforms and then promote advocacy for Derek Chauvin’s actions.

“The police union showed me the card so that people could see what they were doing in the Derek Chauvin case and comment on the reform with a grain of salt. hoping.”

Needham argued that it was an unfair view.

“The idea that he was fired and why they are still defending him. It’s all wrong because labor and management are two different aspects,” Needham said. “So the management decided that he should be fired, but the union gave up and disagreed with the management’s decision. In cases like (Chauvin’s), they were about what to do with their resources. They have to make their own decisions. “”

It is “David against Goliath”. Or is it?

A tense exchange of staffing and funding when prosecutor Steve Schleicher was interrupted in the middle of a decision, angry that the Floyd family’s $ 27 million civil settlement had recurred during the jury selection. It was held in.

“How many lawyers … are you working for the state in this case, Mr. Schleicher?” Kay Hill asked. “10, 12?”

Schleicher said, “I don’t have that number, in your honor, but I know the police federation, the union, is funding the defense of the defendant.”

Cahill makes it easier for the state to handle incidental issues, such as dealing with press conferences surrounding the security of trial and settlement issues, and filing affidavits and allegations on these issues. Suggested to do.

In this screenshot, defense lawyer Eric Nelson (left) stands with Derek Chauvin (right), and Nelson's assistant Amy Voss (behind) is a jury at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis on March 23. Introducing candidates.

In this screenshot, defense lawyer Eric Nelson (left) stands with Derek Chauvin (right), and Nelson’s assistant Amy Voss (behind) is a jury at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis on March 23. Introducing candidates.

“There are many lawyers in the state regarding this proceeding, and there is the fact that you can sit outside the court and start crushing things,” Cahill said. “Mr. Nelson … doesn’t have the same level of support.”

In fact, Nelson does.

Peters, along with more than a dozen lawyers helping prepare the case, investigation, and trial, MPPOA spends more than $ 1 million on Chauvin’s case from a statutory fund paid by state-wide officers in various unions. He said he expected.

The Legal Defense Fund has helped Chauvin with Floyd’s death and is charged with aiding three other police officers, Thomas Lane and J. It may also be used by Quen and Tow Sao.

“Whenever you’re dealing with a state or federal government as a lawyer, in every criminal case it’s David against Goliath,” Lane’s lawyer said. Earl Grey.. “They (government) have all the power, all the money, all the investigators … Therefore, in the case of criminal defense, they are vulnerable.”

Who works for the state?

Chauvin was initially charged by the Hennepin County law firm before Governor Tim Walz ordered Ellison to take over the case. Not all bills are up-to-date, according to the Attorney General’s office, but as of Thursday, AG payments were just over $ 112,572, excluding salaries. Many celebrities, some private lawyers, work for prosecution for free.

Among them is Schleicher, who presented much of the state’s side during the jury selection. Former US Federal Attorney General, Trial and Appeals Lawyer, Maslon LLP..

There will also be Matthew Frank, Head of the Attorney General’s Criminal Division. He is characterized as a chief prosecutor with a 21-year term. He previously worked as an assistant county lawyer and a public defender, so he knows both sides of the legal equation.

“It’s like reliveing ​​history again.”: George Floyd’s Death Derek Chauvin Trial Compared to Rodney King 30 Years Later

Others include Jerry Blackwell’s founding partners Blackwell Burke PA.. In addition to criminal proceedings, he has filed complex product liability, tort and commercial disputes.Neil Katyal, Partner of International Law Firm Hogan Lovells, And the former Deputy Secretary of State for Attorney and Former Deputy Chief of Attorney.And Lola Velázquez-Aguilu, Proceedings and Investigation Advisor Medtronic, And a former prosecutor of the Federal Attorney’s Office in Minnesota.

Who is defending Derek Chauvin?

Chauvin’s case was originally assigned to Tom Kelley, who successfully defended another Minnesota police officer. Jeronimo Janez, With the death of Philland Castile..

Castile, 32, was shot deadly in the driver’s seat of a car near the State Capitol. The 2016 shootings were also captured in a video and delivered to millions of viewers on social media. However, Janez was acquitted in 2017 and the Castiles reached a $ 3 million settlement.

Kelly’s number was called in a rotation at Chauvin’s MPPOA. However, he was expected to retire soon. So, according to Peters, the case went to Nelson, managing partner of Halberg Criminal Defense.

Other lawyers who have a full-time job but are available to Nelson Members of the MPPOA Legal Fund..

When the news that Nelson took over the case was reported, some focused on his experience defending those facing drunk driving charges. Peters immediately condemned Nelson’s definition.

“You don’t participate in this panel to defend a DUI case. He has experience in several murder trials,” Peters said. “And it’s a mistake to say he’s working on this alone. He has a lot of support behind the scenes. You may not be able to see it in court every day.”

Eric Ferkenhoff is a Midwestern Criminal Justice Reporter on the USA TODAY Network.

This article was originally published in USA TODAY: Derek Chauvin Trial: Police Fund Supports Defendant Lawyer Eric Nelson

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