As NR’s Zachary Evans reported last week, the City of Minneapolis announced that it will pay $27 million to the family of George Floyd to settle a federal civil-rights suit arising out of his detention and death last May 25. The announcement was patently timed to prejudice the difficult, resource-intensive jury-selection process in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murdering Floyd.
Earlier, Chauvin and the three other former police officers implicated in Floyd’s death moved for a change of venue. They contend that they were using lawful force against a suspect who was resisting a legitimate arrest and was high on dangerous drugs, but that they cannot get a fair trial in Hennepin County due to the antics of city officials, who have been generating pretrial publicity for months. So far, Judge Peter Cahill has denied those motions, but they have been renewed in recent days after the intense publicity that followed the settlement. In fact, some previously qualified jurors have had to be disqualified due to media coverage of the settlement. They acknowledged that they would be influenced by the city’s implicit finding that Chauvin and the other defendants are criminally responsible, triggering what’s said to be the largest such pay-out in history.
It raises anew the question of whether Chauvin will receive due process in the state prosecution. We used to understand that constitutional obligation when the unpopular defendants involved were terrorists. But will a former cop get a fair trial? I consider what’s at stake in a column at Newsweek today.