The judge, as well as Chauvin’s defense, lamented how news of a $27 million settlement between Minneapolis and George Floyd’s family could sway jurors in Chauvin’s criminal case.
A judge overseeing the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, said he is concerned that a multi-million dollar settlement between the city and Floyd’s family could influence jurors.
According to Reuters, Judge Peter Cahill of Hennepin County District Court said he plans to recall seven jurors for questioning. Cahill plans to ask the jurors whether they have heard that Minneapolis plans to award Floyd’s family $27 million, and if such news has impacted their impartiality in Chauvin’s trial.
Cahill, notes Reuters, had earlier lamented the settlement’s impact upon Chauvin’s case.
“I wish city officials would stop talking about this case so much,” Cahill said on Monday. “At the same time, I don’t find any evil intent that they are trying to tamper with the criminal case.”
Reuters calls how Chauvin, a White man, had confronted Floyd over allegations that he had tried to cash a bogus check at a nearby store.
While Floyd did not offer significant resistance to any of the responding officers, a bystander recorded video showing Chauvin pinning an already-handcuffed Floyd to the ground. For nine whole minutes, Chauvin drove his knee into Floyd’s neck, even as 46-year old man pled for life.
“I can’t breathe,” Floyd repeatedly said.
Floyd’s recorded killing sparked a wave of unrest across the United States, with protests against police brutality and systemic racism held in most every state.
Chauvin, along with three other Minneapolis police officers, were fired the day after Floyd’s death.
While Chauvin had reportedly been in talks to clinch a plea deal shortly after his arrest, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office recommended against it, fearing a plea could create bad publicity and drive further protests.
Nevertheless, Chauvin’s attorneys now say that news of the city’s settlement could lead to a worse outcome for Chauvin, who’s accused of third-degree murder among other offenses.
“By my count, this is the third highly prejudicial press leak or press release that has very suspicious timing, to say the least, and has an incredible propensity to taint a jury pool,” attorney Eric Nelson told the court.
However, it may not be easy for Nelson to find replacements.
According to The New York Post, Chauvin’s defense has already had to dismiss at least one prospective juror.
The prospective juror, a woman who works in human resources, said she had heard news of the settlement and felt she could no longer be partial.
“Generally,” she said, “the preponderance of evidence in civil cases leans towards guilt.”
Nelson has asked the court to consider replacing the current seven jurors, and has also requested that Chauvin’s trial be moved to another county; Judge Cahill has agreed to at least consider both.