Defense attorney for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with the murder of George Floyd, asked the judge Monday to delay the ongoing trial, saying the city’s announcement of a record $ 27 million settlement dollars for Floyd’s family could be a benefit. a fair trial impossible.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson also raised the possibility of renewing his previously unsuccessful motion to move Chauvin’s trial to another city.
The settlement announced by the city of Minneapolis last Friday and Chauvin’s criminal trial are apparently completely disconnected. But the timing of the payment, which comes while the trial is still in the jury selection process, surprised some.
On Monday, Nelson said: “I am very concerned about the news that was released on Friday.” He said he thought it “has incredible potential to contaminate the jury group.”
There was tension at the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis on Monday, where the building is surrounded by barriers and guards in what some observers see as an aggressive gesture of fortification, the courtroom itself being severely restricted due to the pandemic.
The judge, Peter Cahill, expressed his frustration with the timing of the settlement announcement last Friday, calling it “unfortunate.”
Cahill said he would call seven jurors sitting down last week to ask if they had seen any news of the deal and if it would affect their fairness.
“I would like city officials to stop talking so much about this case,” the judge said, before resuming jury selection Monday morning. “At the same time, I don’t see any ill intent that they are trying to alter the criminal case.”
Floyd’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Chauvin and the city of Minneapolis last year. The city held a press conference to announce the deal, which included emotional comments from Floyd’s brothers and Mayor Jacob Frey.
Meanwhile, Nelson also noted that the son of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Jeremiah, is on the city council that unanimously approved the deal and questioned the timing, though he said he was not making any accusations.
Keith Ellison leads the prosecution team and has often been present in the courtroom.
During a pause in the jury selection, Ellison stopped at Nelson’s table and said, “Is there anything else anyone wants not to accuse me of?”
Nelson looked at Ellison but didn’t respond.
Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis, deferred questions about the timing of the settlement to city attorney Jim Rowader, who declined to comment.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said the state had no control over Frey and the city council.
The Floyd family’s attorney, Ben Crump, called the $ 27 million the largest pretrial settlement in history for a civil rights claim.
Cahill agreed to consider the request for a delay.
Previously, he denied a request to move the trial, saying that coverage of Floyd’s death was so widespread that it was “unlikely to heal the stain of damaging pre-trial publicity.”
Floyd, a black man, was pronounced dead on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, knelt against his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd begged for his life.
Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter and denies the charges.
The first potential juror questioned Monday was quickly fired after volunteering that he had heard about the settlement and surmised it meant the city did not believe he would win the civil case.
“When I heard that, I almost gasped at the amount,” he said, adding that he couldn’t promise he would be able to ignore it.
Potential jurors later questioned did not mention hearing about the settlement, and neither the lawyers nor the judge asked directly if they were aware.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism