Firm founder and CEO Jerry W. Blackwell led the in-court prosecution of Derek Chauvin with the support of several colleagues at the firm, each of whom played critical roles behind the scenes. In much the same way the firm handles complex civil litigation, a group of talented and dedicated professionals with broad experience and expertise was assembled early-on. The Chauvin Trial team included:
Widely recognized as one of the country’s leading civil trial lawyers, Mr. Blackwell was asked by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to contribute his courtroom expertise as a special prosecutor on behalf of the State of Minnesota. With his characteristic skill and insight, Blackwell was able to bring the perspective of an experienced litigator to the complex issues involved in the prosecution. Well before he gave the opening statement, Blackwell had already guided the prosecution team in development of the trial themes, witness selection, preparation and order, and the overall strategic approach. Blackwell’s world-class courtroom skills were on display for a national TV audience, and his masterful examinations of both lay and expert witnesses won accolades from commentators across the country. With a characteristic approach honed by many years of trial experience, Blackwell was able to present complex medical evidence as well as personal, emotional testimony in a way that connected with jurors and everyone viewing at home.
Having served as a Minnesota state court judge in Ramsey County District Court for several years prior to joining Blackwell Burke, and having argued more than 120 cases before the Minnesota Supreme Court and Minnesota Court of Appeals as an appellate attorney, Mr. Atwal actively participated in the extensive motion practice and appeals leading up to trial. As the only former judge on the prosecution team, Atwal’s insights, based on his experience presiding over high-profile criminal trials, provided tremendous strategic insight and guidance to the prosecution team at every stage of the proceedings.
Desweon (Des) Hinds
As an experienced paralegal with the firm since its inception, Ms. Hinds was no stranger to the demands of preparing for a complex trial. With her signature skill and unflappable aplomb, she played a central role in coordinating the pre-trial activities. Hinds participated in almost all of the interviews and witness preparations for expert witnesses, documenting them for the disclosure requirements of criminal procedure. When the trial commenced, Hinds was a key player in coordinating the logistics of witness preparation and presentation, and providing the lawyers in the courtroom with the real-time support they needed to make everything run smoothly.
With more than 40 years of civil litigation experience, much of it focused on challenging scientific and medical issues, Mr. Gordon was able to play a key role in identifying and preparing medical expert witnesses. Given the fiercely contested issues of medical causation—a common feature of much of the civil litigation in which Gordon has been involved—it was a natural fit. As he regularly does, Gordon was able to dig into the complex medical issues, identify the requisite medical specialties involved, and recruit and work with world-class experts who could make these issues understandable to a lay jury.
As a long-time partner in the firm, Ms. Young has been involved in many large, complex civil trials, where she has developed an expertise in working with expert witnesses to synthesize complex concepts into information that is clear and understandable for the jury. She also works extensively with outside specialists to develop graphics and other aides to make the testimony even more accessible. While the actual testimony and arguments, as well as the use of the extraordinarily effective demonstrative exhibits, may have taken only three weeks of in-court trial time, they were the product of countless hours of Young’s skill and hard work over many months of preparation.