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What We Know About Eric J. Nelson, the Lawyer Representing Derek Chauvin

Derek Chauvin’s lawyer Eric J. Nelson is one of a dozen defense attorneys in Minneapolis who represent police officers charged with misconduct and work on a rotation basis. Mr. Nelson, 46, took charge of Mr. Chauvin’s defense last summer, after the former officer’s first lawyer retired.

Before taking on Mr. Chauvin’s case, Mr. Nelson’s most famous client was Amy Senser, the wife of the former Minnesota Vikings tight end Joe Senser. She was convicted of vehicular homicide for a 2011 hit-and-run accident that left a man dead near a freeway exit ramp and was sentenced to 41 months in prison.

He has also defended a former high school basketball star for his role in a bank robbery, and a pastor who was charged with soliciting a prostitute after getting caught in a sting operation.

Over his career, Mr. Nelson has developed a specialty in defending clients accused of driving while intoxicated and has lectured on D.W.I. law and the manufacturing of methamphetamine, according to his bio on his law firm’s website.

Over the last three weeks of jury selection, Mr. Nelson appeared in court each day with Mr. Chauvin and an assistant, Amy Voss. The three people on the defense side of the courtroom was a sharp contrast to the multiple lawyers who have appeared so far for the prosecution, including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, and several high-powered outside lawyers who are working pro bono for the state, including Neal Katyal, a Washington, D.C. lawyer and former acting solicitor general during the Obama Administration.

Yet Mr. Nelson has not been working alone: other lawyers who regularly represent police officers in Minneapolis have been helping him behind-the-scenes, including the defense attorneys for the other three officers involved in the incident that led to Mr. Floyd’s death. Those officers face aiding and abetting charges, and are scheduled to face trial in August. Mr. Chauvin’s defense is paid through the legal defense fund of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer’s Association.

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