Derek Chauvin attorney asks for trial delay, change of venue after Minneapolis settlement

Derek Chauvin attorney asks for trial delay, change of venue after Minneapolis settlement
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Defense lawyers for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in George Floyd's death, on Monday requested court proceedings be paused and the trial relocated following news of a civil settlement the city reached with the Floyd family.

“I am gravely concerned with the news that broke on Friday related to the civil settlement,” Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, told Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill. “The fact that this came in the exact middle of jury selection is perplexing to me, your honor." 

Nelson argued that the seven jurors who have already been selected and the prospective jurors could be swayed by the record $27 million settlement announced Friday, damning their jury’s ability to be impartial.

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Prosecutor Steve Schleicher agreed the settlement being announced last week while jury selection was happening wasn’t ideal, but countered that proceedings should continue. 

“All I can say to the court is there are some things the state of Minnesota and this prosecution team can control, and there are some things it cannot control,” Schleicher said. “We cannot control the civil aspect of the case, we cannot and do not control the Minneapolis City Council, and we certainly cannot and do not control the news cycle."

Cahill said Nelson’s point was “legitimate,” though he didn’t see any “evil intent” in the city council unanimously voting for the settlement Friday.

Jury selection would continue as planned, but the defense’s request for a continuance and relocation of the trial would be considered, the judge concluded. 

Selection of the jurors for the high-profile case began last Tuesday. A third-degree murder charge was reinstated by Cahill on Thursday after the Minnesota Supreme Court greenlighted the decision Wednesday evening.

In all, Chuavin faces counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

Floyd, 46, was pronounced dead at an area hospital on May 25 after Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, even after he was unconscious. Graphic cellphone footage showed Floyd pleading with Chauvin multiple times, saying that he couldn’t breathe before becoming unresponsive.

Floyd’s death was a catalyst for a summer dominated by nationwide Black Lives Matter protests and unrest.  

The settlement reached between Minneapolis and Floyd’s family is the largest pre-trial settlement in a civil rights wrongful death case in American history.

"When George Floyd was horrifically killed on May 25, 2020, it was a watershed moment for America," Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the Floyd family, said at a press conference Friday afternoon. “It was one of the most egregious and shocking documentations of an American citizen being tortured to death by a police officer … having his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.”