Washington, March 16 : The lawyer defending Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who killed African-American man George Floyd last year while under custody, requested that his client’s trial be postponed, citing potential judicial bias in the wake of a settlement between Minneapolis city and the victim’s family.
“I am gravely concerned with the news that broke on Friday (March 12) related to the civil settlement,” Xinhua news agency quoted Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, as saying to Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill during a hearing on Monday.
“The fact that this came in the exact middle of jury selection is perplexing to me.”
Nelson claimed that the $27 million settlement between the Minneapolis City Council and the Floyd family could negatively affect the impartiality of the jurors in the Chauvin trial, which has been scheduled for March 29.
The jury selection, which has already delayed the trial, began last week and would continue as planned, according to Cahill.
As regards to Nelson’s point, Cahill said the concern was “legitimate”, but that he didn’t see “any evil intent” in the city council’s decision to unanimously vote for the settlement, which was hailed by the Floyds’ lawyer as “the largest pre-trial settlement in a wrongful death case ever would be for the life of a Black man”.
ChauvinC, who was filmed pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes leading to the latter’s death on May 25, 2020, faces second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder charges.
The three other former officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, who were on the scene also face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Their trial is expected to begin in August.
Floyd’s death was ruled a homicide, with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report revealing he died from “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression”.
Floyd’s death triggered last year’s massive protests against racial inequality and police brutality, across many US cities and also internationally.
The incident followed the high-profile cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; and others that have driven the Black Lives Matter movement in recent years.