The judge presiding over the closely watched Derek Chauvin trial pushed back on Tuesday against reports that the court had quietly given city officials its blessing to hand George Floyd’s family a record-breaking $27 million wrongful death settlement.
Mr Chauvin’s lawyers argue the timing of the settlement, which occurred amid jury selection, will prejudice the case.
“The bottom line is this is a federal lawsuit. This court was not involved,” Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A Cahill said in court on Tuesday.
“I think the city is trying to dump their responsibility back in the court where it does not belong,” he added.
Previously, the Washington Post reported that Minneapolis officials consulted with Hennepin County Chief District Judge Toddrick S Barnette, who gave them the go-ahead on the settlement, the largest in the city’s history and one of the biggest ever in a policing death.
But on Tuesday, Judge Barnette’s colleague, Judge Cahill, overseeing the Chauvin trial, dismissed this description of events.
“A I recall in my discussions with Judge Barnette, the answer was, ‘We can’t tell you what to do,’” Mr Cahill said. “And I think he expressed the concern that we have about doing such a thing in the middle of jury selection. So there is no approval by this court. We had no authority to approve any release at this time.”
On Friday, the city of Minneapolis approved a record-breaking $27 million settlement with the family of George Floyd, who Mr Chauvin is charged with murdering, after he kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest last May.
At the time of the award, Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey and Mr Floyd’s family celebrated the decision, arguing it marked a watershed moment in addressing police brutality.
“It’s not just enough for America to say that Black lives matter,” Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who represented the family, said of the settlement. “We have to show that Black lives matter by our actions.”
Following the announcement, Eric Nelson, Mr Chauvin’s attorney, said the timing of the deal could be “incredibly prejudicial” on the outcome of the trial, which is still in its early stages.
“I am gravely concerned with the news that broke on Friday related to the civil settlement,” Mr Nelson said in court at the time. “The fact that this came in the exact middle of jury selection, it’s perplexing to me, your honour.”
Mr Nelson asked to push back the date of the trial to later this month, while raising the potential of renewing his previous motion of moving the trial to another city. Judge Cahill says he’ll likely rule on the request for a delay on Wednesday.
The Hennepin County Court and city of Minneapolis did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.
*story by The Independent