Derek Chauvin trial faces delay after $27m Minneapolis settlement with George Floyd family

Justin Vallejo
New York
Monday 15 March 2021 18:56
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Expert laments timing of Minneapolis settlement with Floyd family

The timing of a $27m settlement by Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd could delay the start of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial.

Mr Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter, and jury selection is currently underway, with seven of the 14 jurors selected.

Judge Peter Cahill is considering a motion from Mr Chauvin's defence team to push the 29 March start date back after the "unfortunate" timing of the settlement, which came in the midst of jury selection.

"I am gravely concerned with the news that broke on Friday related to the civil settlement," Erick Nelson, the attorney for Mr Chauvin, said in court.

“The fact that this came in the exact middle of jury selection, it’s perplexing to me, your honour.”

Mr Nelson asked for a continuance over the "incredibly prejudicial" announcement on Friday by the Minneapolis council, while raising the potential of renewing his previous motion of moving the trial to another city.

Judge Cahill agreed that the timing was unfortunate and that both the defence and the state had a "legitimate concern" about the settlement being reported across the media while the court was in the middle of jury selection.

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“I wish people would – city officials would stop talking about this case so much, but at the same time I don’t find any evil intent that they intended to tamper with this criminal case,” Judge Cahill said. “It’s unfortunate, and I wish they hadn’t done it, but I don’t sense any evil intent in the timing.”

Judge Cahill said jury selection would continue while he considers the motion to delay, and that the seven previously-selected jurors would return to the court to be questioned on whether the settlement would affect their ability to serve.

The first juror questioned on Monday was excused for cause after saying she presumed the record settlement meant the city wouldn't win the civil case, and that she could not be fair to Mr Chauvin.

"When I heard that, I almost gasped at the amount,” she said.

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday held a press conference with mayor Jacob Frey, members of Mr Floyd's family and their attorney Ben Crump to announce the $27m civil settlement.

Mr Nelson said the timing of the press conference goes "straight to the heart of the dangers of pretrial publicity".

"It's amazing to me, they had a press conference on Friday, where the mayor of Minneapolis, on stage with city council, and they're using very, what I would say, very well-designed terminology. 'The unanimous decision of the city council,' for example," Mr Nelson said.

While Judge Cahill said it was disturbing to have the settlement reported while they were in the middle of jury selection, prosecutors argued that the trial should continue as planned.

"I don't know which way it cuts," prosecutor Steve Schleicher said.

"The problem is that it cuts," Judge Cahill said in response.

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