Earlier this week, the attorney for Derek Chauvin requested that the ex-Minneapolis Police officer’s trial be moved from Hennepin County due to the risk of a prejudiced jury.
“You have elected officials — the governor, the mayor — making incredibly prejudicial statements about my client, this case,” Eric Nelson told Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill. “You have the city settling a civil lawsuit for a record amount of money. And the pre-trial publicity is just so concerning.”
Chauvin is accused of killing George Floyd last May during an arrest. The incident, caught on camera, sparked nationwide outrage and a summer of rioting in his name. He faces second and third-degree murder charges, among lesser charges.
But last week, the city of Minneapolis settled a civil lawsuit with the Floyd family, worth a record $27 million.
That happened amid the jury selection for Chauvin’s trial, and made national news.
Nelson fears that the settlement could have prejudiced the seven jurors who were seated last week. He asked the court to pause the jury selection process while the news of the civil settlement blows over, and asked the court to move the trial.
Cahill is expected to make a ruling on both motions Friday, but the jury selection has continued throughout the week. Cahill also said he would question the seven jurors who were seated before the civil settlement news, to make sure their impartiality had not been compromised.
Cahill already denied a change in venue request in November. At that time, he wrote that he did not believe Chauvin would receive a fairer trial outside of Minneapolis, noting that it would be nearly impossible to find any Minnesotan who had not heard about Floyd’s death.
In lieu of attempting to find jurors who have not heard about the case, the jury selection process has instead focused on jurors’ attitudes towards police and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The first juror picked Wednesday, a man who works in sales management and who grew up in a mostly white part of central Minnesota, acknowledged writing on his questionnaire that he had a ‘very favorable’ opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement and a ‘somewhat unfavorable’ impression of the Blue Lives Matter countermovement, yet ‘somewhat agreed’ that police don’t get the respect they deserve,” Spectrum News reported. “He said he agrees that there are bad police officers.”
Quoting David Schultz, a visiting professor of law at the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Post noted that if convicted, there is a possibility that Chauvin could win an appeal on the grounds that he did not receive a fair trial.
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