State vs. Chauvin: Who’s who in the courtroom?
Potential jurors in the Derek Chauvin case were introduced to the judge and the attorneys in the case Tuesday morning as jury selection began. Because the trial is being broadcast, the general public has had an opportunity to watch the prosecutors and Chauvin’s attorney debate pre-trial motions. Here’s a look at the key players in the case, and their backgrounds working in the criminal justice system in Minnesota.
Leading the prosecution team is attorney Matthew Frank. Frank oversees the criminal division of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. He has worked in the AG’s office for 21 years, leading the criminal division for the last 14 years. Frank has prosecuted murder cases all over the state of Minnesota. In August 2020, he led the successful prosecution of Lois Riess, the Blooming Prairie woman who murdered her husband and fled to Florida, where she killed again in order to hide her identity.
Jerry Blackwell was brought onto the case by the AG’s office and is working pro bono. A respected trial attorney, Blackwell has tried cases across the country. He founded the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. Last year, Blackwell won the state’s first-ever full posthumous pardon for Max Mason, the African American man was wrongly convicted of rape in connection to the Duluth Lynching’s of 1920.
Also working pro bono on the case is Steve Schleicher, a partner at Maslon LLP. Schleicher served 13 years as an attorney in the US Attorney’s Office in Minnesota, prosecuting all levels of federal crimes. In 2016, he led the prosecution of Danny Heinrich, the man who admitted to kidnapping and killing Jacob Wetterling.
Eric Nelson is Derek Chauvin’s attorney and is a managing partner at Halberg Criminal Defense. He is part of a group of attorneys hired by the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis to defend its officers when they are charged with a crime. Nelson has represented clients charged with all types of crimes. In 2012, he defended and later appealed the conviction of Amy Senser, the wife of former Vikings player Joe Senser who hit and killed a Minneapolis chef in 2011.
Judge Peter Cahill
The Honorable Judge Peter Cahill is presiding over the case. Cahill was appointed to the bench in 2007. He worked as a prosecutor in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, rising to the role of chief deputy attorney before his appointment. Prior to that, he worked in private practice and has experience as a public defender. Cahill served as Hennepin County’s Chief Judge from 2012 – 2016.