A courtroom sketch of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer facing murder charges in the death of George Floyd. Picture: REUTERS/JANE ROSENBERG
A courtroom sketch of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer facing murder charges in the death of George Floyd. Picture: REUTERS/JANE ROSENBERG

New York — The judge in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in last year’s arrest of George Floyd, will ask jurors on Wednesday about their knowledge of the city’s settlement with Floyd’s family.

Mayor Jacob Frey joined some of Floyd’s relatives at a news conference on Friday to announce the city would pay them $27m to settle their federal wrongful-death lawsuit against the city, one of the largest settlements of its kind.

Chauvin’s lead lawyer, Eric Nelson, has complained to the court that publicity around the settlement makes it harder to seat a jury that can be impartial.

Every potential juror so far has told the court they know who Chauvin is and almost all have seen video of the white police officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd, a black man, begged for his life. The case sparked global protests against police brutality and racism.

“You have elected officials — the governor, the mayor — making incredibly prejudicial statements about my client, this case,” Nelson told the court on Tuesday. “You have the city settling a civil lawsuit for a record amount of money. And the pre-trial publicity is just so concerning.”

He has asked Hennepin County district judge Peter Cahill to revisit the defence’s earlier request to delay and move the trial to another county, which Cahill has said he will consider.

Cahill agreed with Nelson’s request to recall the seven jurors already seated to see if the settlement news might bias them. They were due to appear one by one by video-conference on Wednesday morning.

Cahill said earlier news articles, including some reporting that Chauvin had agreed to plead guilty to federal charges in 2020, were more “problematic” than the settlement news.

Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to charges brought by the Minnesota attorney-general’s office of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter, and has said he correctly followed his police training. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge.

Prosecutors oppose Nelson’s efforts to move the trial or dismiss jurors who heard about the settlement.

“I think that this $27m settlement has, frankly, been overblown,” Steve Schleicher, a lawyer for the prosecution, told the court, saying many jurors interviewed since had shown no knowledge of the settlement.

The court has seated nine jurors since the trial began last week, including two men who identify as black, a woman who identifies as mixed race, and a man who identifies as Hispanic.

The court plans to have opening arguments commence on March 29.

Reuters

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