UPDATED 3:45 PM PT – Friday, March 19, 2021
The issue of pre-trial publicity in the high-profile case of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was shot down in court. The judge presiding over the trial denied the request to delay or change the venue.
On Friday, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill made the ruling. It came after Chauvin’s defense team claimed the city’s $27 million settlement with the family of George Floyd tainted the jury’s impartiality and chance for a fair trial. However, Cahill said that he didn’t think there was any place in the state of Minnesota that hadn’t been subjected to “extreme amounts of publicity on this case.”
Half the jurors were already chosen when the city of Minneapolis unanimously approved the payout to Floyd’s family. The judge called the timing of the settlement unfortunate.
Chauvin lawyer: It was highly prejudicial for the city to hold a press conference in the exact middle of jury selection and award $27M to George Floyd’s family
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) March 15, 2021
The record payout was announced in a press conference with the Floyd family, civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the mayor of Minneapolis.
— Angenette Levy (@Angenette5) March 12, 2021
In a separate ruling and in another blow to the defense, the judge said only some video from George Floyd’s arrest back in 2019 could be used as evidence if it relates to his fatal 2020 arrest.
BREAKING: Judge Cahill to allow portion of 2019 arrest where an officer approaches the car where #GeorgeFloyd is placed in handcuffs after being approached by police at gunpoint. Floyd ingested pills in that instance as he did on May 25, 2020 #DerekChauvinTrial @LawCrimeNetwork
— Angenette Levy (@Angenette5) March 19, 2021
“The only thing that is relevant — again, we have to keep in mind for the cause of death, any other purpose for which this is offered is not relevant and is unduly prejudicial and outweighs the probative value,” Judge Cahill stated. “But as to the point of cause of death and medical condition, May 6 is relevant.”
The judge also acknowledged there were several “remarkable” similarities between the two incidents. Chauvin’s defense requested the footage be entered as evidence as it reportedly shows Floyd swallowing drugs while struggling with police just one year before his fatal arrest.
Chauvin’s lawyers argued the video was fair game and ultimately the jury will decide how to interpret it.
“If I’m making the inference that Mr. Floyd was resisting arrest in the course or he was exaggerating his condition or he was actually experiencing a medical condition that went unrecognized by police officers,” defense attorney Eric Nelson noted. “The state can theoretically bring in evidence that says, ‘hey here is an alternative explanation for that.’”
Meanwhile, the jury of 12 is now complete with six white, four black and two multiracial jurors. The last two jurors chosen will serve as alternates.
Opening statements are set for March 29.