Judge Peter Cahill, who is presiding over the trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin—who is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of George Floyd—has ruled that Chauvin’s trial will not be delayed or relocated after requests from defense attorneys. Chauvin’s lawyers argued last week that the announcement of the $27 million settlement Floyd’s family was granted after filing a civil lawsuit would unfairly prejudice the jury if the trial is held at its scheduled time.
CNN reports that defense attorney Eric Nelson said he found it “perplexing” that the settlement was announced during jury selection because, apparently, he thinks news shouldn’t be reported at the time it actually happens unless he finds it to be convenient for his client. So Nelson requested a new date and a new venue for the trial. Cahill basically said, “Nah.”
“Unfortunately I think the pretrial publicity in this case will continue no matter how long we continue it,” Cahill said. “And as far as a change of venue, I do not think it that would give the defendant any kind of a fair trial beyond what we are doing here today. I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case.”
They could have moved the trial to the other side of the planet and they’d still be hard-pressed to find a place where people haven’t been well-exposed to the publicity of this case.
So the judge ruled that jury selection will continue on Monday and the trial is still expected to begin on March 29.
But before those of us who wish to see police officers held accountable for police violence get to celebrating too much, it should be mentioned that not all of Cahill’s ruling went in the prosecution’s favor.
On Thursday, The Root reported that Chauvin’s attorneys requested that the jury be allowed to see evidence from a 2019 arrest of George Floyd in order to show a pattern of behavior that allegedly involved Floyd putting drugs in his mouth after being confronted by police officers. Cahill also ruled Friday that some of the evidence in that arrest will be admissible.
Floyd’s 2019 arrest came a little more than a year before Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd told Chauvin and three other officers he couldn’t breathe.
Cahill ruled that a portion of a body camera video from the 2019 arrest that shows an officer approaching the car, a photo of pills in the crack of the seat and comments Floyd made to a paramedic about what drugs he took and the timing of the drugs are admissible.
“The whole point here is we have medical evidence on what happens when Mr. Floyd is faced with virtually the same situation. Confrontation by police at gunpoint, followed by a rapid ingestion of some drugs,” the judge said.
Accounts of Floyd’s emotional behavior and comments he made about his mother in 2019 will not be admitted.
“There is a modus operandi to conceal drugs in part by ingesting them, but also of doing so in a very stressful circumstance—that is being pulled out of a car at gunpoint and handcuffed,” Cahill said in his ruling.
It’s worth mentioning that CNN reports that, according to Hennepin County District Court records, Floyd was not charged with a crime after the arrest.
But don’t worry; I’m sure this isn’t just a ploy to prejudice the jury against drug addicts.