After the family of George Floyd received a $27 million settlement Friday from the city of Minneapolis stemming from his death in police custody, the attorney for the police officer charged in Floyd’s death is asking for a continuance in the jury selection process.
“Defense attorney Eric Nelson expressed deep concern that jurors already chosen and those yet to be chosen will be prejudiced should they learn of the settlement, thereby denying his client his right to a fair trial,” The Star Tribune reported.
Nelson is the attorney for Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with second and third-degree murder in Floyd’s death. The third-degree murder charge was initially dropped by Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who is presiding over the trial, but was reinstated last week after an appeal by state prosecutors.
Nelson argued that the timing of the civil settlement was “curious,” and that it would be very difficult to seat impartial jurors after the city’s decision to pay the Floyd family $27 million – essentially admitting wrongdoing on behalf of Chauvin and the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). Three other officers have been charged with lesser crimes stemming from Floyd’s death.
“I am gravely concerned with the news that broke on Friday related to the civil settlement,” Nelson reportedly told Cahill Monday. “The fact that this came in the exact middle of jury selection is perplexing to me, your honor.”
He also said that the settlement “has incredible propensity to taint the jury pool.”
He says he plans to bring back the seven jurors who have already been seated to find out if the settlement has impacted their partiality. He also agreed to consider the defense’s continuance, and the possibility of moving the trial to another part of Minnesota.
The jury selection continued Monday while Cahill mulled the motion for a continuance.
The latter decree by Cahill – moving the trial to a new location- has significant implications, as the city of Minneapolis has spent a great deal of time and effort preparing for the fallout from the high-profile trial, including an indefinite deployment of the National Guard to maintain order.
Still, one juror was already excused Monday after hearing about the civil court settlement in the news.
“I think my mind is made up,” the potential juror, a Minneapolis woman told The Star Tribune.
“I’ve just been exposed to so much information,” she said. “With this particular officer, I honestly don’t think I can be [an impartial juror].”
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