Court denies Chauvin's request for a public defender to handle appeal

The state Supreme Court rejected the ex-officer's claim that he's too poor to pay for a private lawyer


By Rochelle Olson
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin failed to show he lacks the means to pay for a private defense attorney to handle the appeal of his convictions in the murder of George Floyd, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea signed the order rejecting Chauvin's claim that he's too poor to pay for a lawyer to appeal his convictions on charges of third-degree murder, second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter.

In this April 15, 2021, file image taken from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, address Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
In this April 15, 2021, file image taken from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, address Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

Chauvin, who is serving a 22 1/2-year sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights, already submitted his notice of intent to appeal, raising 14 issues with the state Court of Appeals.

His request for an appellate public defender was included in that appeal. He claims his debts exceed his limited assets, according to court documents.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who oversaw Chauvin's trial, previously determined that Chauvin is ineligible for a public defender. Now Gildea has upheld that decision.

A defendant is deemed too poor to obtain counsel if "the defendant, through any combination of liquid assets and current income," is unable to pay for private counsel, Gildea wrote, citing state law.

She noted that the defendant bears the burden of proving eligibility for a public defender.

She said Chauvin failed to prove he lacked the resources.

The chief didn't reveal the nature or amount of Chauvin's assets or debts, but both she and Cahill came to the same conclusion.

It's unclear what the denial of a public appellate defender will mean for Chauvin's appeals in the most high-profile case in modern state history.

Gildea's order said he can reapply for a public defender if his financial situation changes.

Chauvin's trial attorney, Eric Nelson, was paid by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. But the association won't cover the appeal.

Nelson declined to comment on whether he would represent Chauvin on appeal. No defense lawyer was listed on Chauvin's initial appellate filing.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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