Lawyers on both sides are weighing whether a $27M civil settlement, announced last week between Floyd’s family and the city of Minneapolis, will derail their intended outcome of the trial.
Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson contends that the settlement could include far-reaching effects on the trial, particularly on the jury’s perception of Chauvin. He requested that the trial be delayed and moved out of Hennepin County.
According to The Washington Post, Nelson considered the “suspicious timing” of the announcement, arguing it was “highly prejudicial” against his client.
“The fact that this came in the exact middle of jury selection, it’s perplexing to me,” Nelson said. “Whose idea was it to release this information?”
Nelson has asked Judge Peter A. Cahill to question the jurors already seated and inquire over whether the settlement news would deter their impartiality. Lawyers requested that potential jury members refrain from reading the news after they were first summoned in December.
“I wish city officials would stop talking about this case so much,” Cahill said. “But at the same time, I don’t find any evil intent that they are trying to tamper with this criminal case.” Cahill also agreed to consider the motion’s request.
Two more jurors were selected on Monday, bringing the total to nine. Five more will be selected. To date, five are white while four are minorities. Of the total only three are women. On Monday one of the jurors selected was a Black sports coach in his 30’s. The other juror selected on Monday, a white woman in her 50’s, said she believes that “all lives matter” during her questioning.
While the defense remains concerned around Chauvin’s right to a fair trial, the focus also belongs to Floyd whose family members are reminded of his absence daily.
Prosecutors are worried that the settlement announcement could blowback negatively on their arguments as well, if jury members conclude that Floyd’s family received justice in the form of a monetary payment and decline to convict Chauvin of the charges against him, second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
“All I can say to the court is there are some things that the state of Minnesota and this prosecution team can control, and there are some things that the state cannot and does not control,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said. “We can control the witnesses we call. We can control the evidence that we bring in. We can control the motions, but we cannot and do not control the civil aspect of the case. We cannot and do not control the Minneapolis City Council, and we certainly cannot and do not control the news cycle.”
“I don’t even know which way that cuts — if that cuts for us, if that cuts against us,” he continued.
According to WCCO, the announcement also confused legal experts.
“Most jurors I think would perceive [the settlement] as the city’s belief that Chauvin did murder George Floyd and that they are liable,” Mary Moriarty, the former chief public defender in Hennepin County said.
City officials have yet to comment publicly about the timing of the settlement announcement.