Courtroom to classroom: Summer course at Mitchell Hamline studies Chauvin trial

Derek Chauvin (right) with his attorney, Eric Nelson (left), in court on Wednesday, April 7.  (FOX 9)

The Derek Chauvin trial captivated the world and was the first time a trial in Minnesota was recorded and televised. Now, just over a month after Chauvin was convicted, students at Mitchell Hamline School of Law are looking back at the complex case to better understand the twists and turns of this unprecedented and high-profile case.

"There’s just an abundance of learning opportunities in one trial coupled with it’s right here in our back yard," defense lawyer and adjunct professor Rick Petry said.

Petry and former U.S. Attorney John Radsan put together a course for this summer called "advanced criminal law: cops on trial." They say, after watching the trial on television they realized how many relevant lessons could come from the process. Plus, they say, students and aspiring lawyers, were eager to talk about the case.

"The class was put together based in part on demand from students," Petry said.

Petry says throughout the summer course they’ll look at how publicity and COVID-19 impacted the trial. They’ll also study the path the third-degree murder charge Chauvin was convicted took through the appeals court process. Plus, they say, by examining video of the trial they can show students what the presentation of a case actually looks like.

"As folks who are interested in how the law works and as becoming practitioners it really is just a unique incredibly valuable opportunity for us," student Joe Erickson said.

The course is a combination of in-person students and online learners who attend via Zoom. Petry says several of their students are members of law enforcement and some of them live out of state, so the online option gives more students access to this unique course.

"It’s so different, a real trial. The real things that lawyers have to do are so different than what we see on T.V. on your favorite show on Thursday night," Petry said.