Eric J. Nelson is one of a dozen defense lawyers in Minneapolis who work on a rotation basis to represent police officers charged with misconduct. Mr. Nelson, 46, took charge of the former police officer Derek Chauvin’s defense over the summer, after his 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 hit-and-run accident in 2011 that left a man dead near a freeway exit ramp and was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
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 past 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 are a sharp contrast to the multiple lawyers who have so far appeared for the prosecution, including Minnesota’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, and several high-powered outside lawyers who are working pro bono for the state, including Neal Katyal, a lawyer from Washington, D.C., and the 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 lawyers for the other three officers involved in the incident that led to Mr. Floyd’s death. Those officers face aiding and abetting charges, and their trial is scheduled in August. Mr. Chauvin’s defense is paid through the legal defense fund of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer’s Association.