Derek Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson asked the court Monday to delay Chauvin’s criminal trial and move the venue in the wake of a $27 million civil settlement between Minneapolis and George Floyd’s family.
In a hearing Monday, Nelson said he is “gravely concerned” by the announcement, calling it “incredibly prejudicial.”
“It’s amazing to me, they had a press conference on Friday, where the mayor of Minneapolis is 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. It just goes straight to the heart of the dangers of pretrial publicity in this case,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the court should “strongly consider” their request to delay the trial and move it outside of Hennepin County. He also asked for extra peremptory strikes and re-questioning of jurors who had been selected.
“The fact that this came in the exact middle of jury selection – it’s perplexing to me, your honor, whose idea it was to release this information when it was released,” he said.
The request came as the second week of jury selection got underway in the trial of Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer accused of killing George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Floyd’s final moments, recorded on video, led to widespread protests against police brutality and racism under the Black Lives Matter banner as well as incidents of unrest and looting.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. He has also pleaded not guilty to third-degree murder, a charge reinstated in the case last week.
Jury selection in the case began on March 9, and seven jurors had been seated in the case during the first week. Fourteen total jurors are needed, including two alternates.
Judge previously rejected moving trial
In response to the defense requests, prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher acknowledged that the timing of the settlement was “unfortunate” but pushed back against the proposed remedies.
Judge Peter Cahill, who is overseeing the trial, said he would call the seven jurors already selected in the case back and question them about the settlement, but he denied the motion for extra strikes. He said he would take the defense motion for a delay under advisement.
“I wish city officials would stop talking about this case so much,” he said, “but at the same time, I don’t find any evil intent that they’re trying to tamper with this criminal case.”
The defense has previously requested that the trial be moved out of Minneapolis, but Cahill preliminarily rejected the request in November.
The consequences of the settlement were made clear with the first juror questioned on Monday. The juror told the judge she “almost gasped” when she heard about the $27 million settlement and said she could not be fair to Chauvin. She was excused from the jury for cause.
The timing of Floyd’s settlement was in contrast to one reached in the 2019 case of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who was accused of fatally shooting a woman who had called 911. Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter on April 30, 2019, and the city announced a $20 million settlement several days afterward.
Of the seven Chauvin jurors selected so far, four are white, one is Black, one is Hispanic, and one is mixed race, according to how the court says they self-identified on their jury survey. Five of the jurors are men and two are women.
Testimony is slated to start in the trial no earlier than March 29.