MINNEAPOLIS—The lawyer for the former officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd asked the judge to delay the trial and consider a change of venue in the wake of a $27 million settlement by the city of Minneapolis with the family of Mr. Floyd.
Judge Peter Cahill, who is hearing the case, said jury selection would continue in the wake of the settlement, but said he would consider the motion to delay the start of the trial, which is currently set for March 29.
Eric Nelson, the attorney for former officer Derek Chauvin, called the timing of the settlement—which came Friday in the middle of jury selection for the case—problematic for the defense.
“The fact that this came in the exact middle of jury selection, it’s perplexing to me, your honor,” Mr. Nelson told Judge Peter Cahill on Monday morning.
Mr. Nelson also asked the judge to sequester the jurors for the remainder of the case, to reinterview the seven jurors chosen so far to ask whether they had read news of the settlement and to provide the defense with extra strikes of potential jurors during the rest of jury selection.
The judge agreed that the timing of the settlement announcement was unfortunate for the purposes of the trial. The Friday announcement came at a press conference attended by several city council members and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey along with members of Mr. Floyd’s family and several of their lawyers.
“I wish people would—city officials would stop talking about this case so much, but at the same time I don’t find any evil intent that they intended to tamper with this criminal case,” Judge Cahill said. “It’s unfortunate, and I wish they hadn’t done it, but I don’t sense any evil intent in the timing.”
The prosecution argued that a change of venue wouldn’t be warranted in the case, since the news of the settlement was carried nationally.
“There are some things that the state of Minnesota and this prosecution team can control and there’s some things that the state cannot and does not control,” said prosecution lawyer Steven Schleicher. “We cannot and do not control the Minneapolis City Council and we certainly cannot and do not control the news cycle.”
The case against Mr. Chauvin is the first stemming from the May 25 death of Mr. Floyd. In a widely circulated video, Mr. Floyd can be seen face down on the ground and losing consciousness as Mr. Chauvin places a knee on his neck for around 8 minutes as the three other officers assist him.
The county medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and listed the cause as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.” The county autopsy indicated Mr. Floyd suffered from heart disease and had drugs in his system. The defense has argued that the drugs and heart disease caused Mr. Floyd’s death, noting the medical examiner found no evidence of injury to his neck and back.
Mr. Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder—unintentional, while committing a felony; third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter. He has entered a plea of not guilty. Jury selection is scheduled to last another week. Opening arguments for the four-to-six week trial are set for March 29.
The other three officers were charged with abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter and are expected to face trial in August. Lawyers for all four have made filings indicating they aren’t guilty.
Write to Joe Barrett at email@example.com
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