Eric J. Nelson is a criminal defense lawyer from Minnesota, United States. He was 46 years old when he represented Derek Michael Chauvin, one of the four former Minneapolis Police Department officers charged in the death of African-American security guard George Floyd.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was found guilty on all three counts on April 20, 2021.
Originally, Chauvin was represented by Thomas “Tom” Kelly of Kelly and Jacobson. Nelson replaced Kelly, who told Reuters he gave up Chauvin’s case for medical reasons.
On the first day of Chauvin’s trial on March 29, 2021, prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell revealed that Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck on May 25, 2020 for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, not 8 minutes and 46 seconds as originally reported. In Nelson’s opening, he claimed many interviews and documents would prove his client is not guilty and said, “The evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”
Nelson is a frequent speaker on criminal law throughout Minnesota and he serves as a judge for moot court and mock trial competitions. He is a contributing author to the Minnesota Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Deskbook, a comprehensive source for DWI attorneys in Minnesota.
Licensed since May 2001, Nelson has been practicing criminal defense since December 2001 and is admitted to practice before all state courts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, USA and the federal bar in Minnesota and the eastern and western districts of Wisconsin. Here are 13 things about the lawyer:
- From 1988 to 1992, he attended Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota.
- From 1993 to 1996, he attended Eastern College in St. Davids, Wayne, Pennsylvania, USA. He graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in history.
- From 1998 to 2000, he attended William Mitchell College of Law, now called the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, in Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, where he earned his Juris Doctor degree.
- In 2001, he was admitted to practice law in Minnesota. In the same year, he became a member of the Douglas Amdahl Inn of Court.
- In February 2005, he became a managing partner of the Halberg Criminal Defense firm, the largest firm in Minnesota with 10 lawyers exclusively doing criminal defense work.
- He was selected to Rising Stars from 2005 to 2013. He was selected to Super Lawyers from 2014 to 2020.
- In 2006, he became a member of the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.
- In 2007, he was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin. He represented clients in Dunn, St. Croix, Barron and Washburn counties including Mark Kevin Johnson, a pastor of the Creek Community Church in Maple Grove, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin who pleaded guilty after being cited for engaging in prostitution.
- In 2009, he was admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Court District of Minnesota. In the same year, he represented former Hopkins High School basketball player Anthony DiLoreto, who was accused of participating in a bank robbery in Wisconsin in August 2008. DiLoreto pleaded guilty and was given a three-year probation and 90 days in jail.
- In 2012, he represented former Minnesota Vikings professional football player Joe Senser‘s wife Amy Senser, who was convicted for the 2011 hit-and-run death of Laotian immigrant Anousone Phanthavong, a chef in the Minneapolis restaurant True Thai. Amy was sentenced to 41 months in prison in July 2012 and was released from prison in April 2014.
- In 2013, he unsuccessfully defended Roger Holland, who was charged with murdering his pregnant wife and their unborn child and convicted of first-degree murder and second-degree murder.
- In 2015, he joined the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) Legal Defense Fund (LDF) Attorney Panel. In the same year, he represented Levi Acre-Kendall, who was acquitted after being accused of stabbing a fisherman to death during a fight along the St. Croix River in Wisconsin.
- In 2018, he was hired as co-counsel with Earl Gray to defend Lindstrom, Chisago County, Minnesota resident Carl P. Anderson, who was charged with second-degree murder for shooting his neighbor Donn Allan Johnson during a dispute over access to a private lake in February 2017. Anderson was acquitted in May 2018.