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The judge in Floyd’s death case limits the facts and declines to move the trial forward.

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The judge in Floyd's death case limits the facts and declines to move the trial forward.
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The judge in Floyd's death case limits the facts and declines to move the trial forward.

The judge in Floyd’s death case limits the facts and declines to move the trial forward.

 

After the announcement of a $27 million payout for Floyd’s family raised questions about a biased jury, a judge rejected a prosecution motion to delay or move the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer convicted in Floyd’s death.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said in a separate decision that the jury will be allowed to hear minimal evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest, but only evidence related to Floyd’s death in 2020. Floyd swallowed drugs after police approached him, he said, and there are some parallels between the two cases.

Derek Chauvin’s defense suffered a setback as a result of the rulings. Because of fears that the jury pool had been contaminated by the settlement announcement, his counsel, Eric Nelson, had tried to halt or move the trial.

When the city of Minneapolis overwhelmingly accepted the payout to settle a civil case over Floyd’s death last week, jury selection was halfway complete. The timing of the deal, according to Nelson, was profoundly upsetting and unjust, jeopardizing Chauvin’s right to a fair trial. Chauvin faces murder and manslaughter charges.

However, Cahill, who has called the timing “unfortunate,” believes that a postponement will do little to address the issue of pre-trial publicity. He said there isn’t a spot in Minnesota that hasn’t been impacted by the trial’s publicity.

A prosecution attempt to have the year-old arrest heard at trial was previously dismissed by the court. But this week, he heard new claims about drugs discovered in January during a second search of the police SUV in which the four officers tried to place Floyd in 2020.

He said Thursday that medical proof of Floyd’s physical responses, such as his dangerously high blood pressure when he was checked by a paramedic, and a brief clip from an officer’s body camera footage, will be permitted. Floyd’s “emotional conduct” in 2019, such as crying out to his mother, he said, would not be admitted.

Floyd calling out for his girlfriend, saying he had been shot before, crying, and placing what appeared to be pills in his mouth, according to Nelson, are significant parallels between the experiences.

The prosecution was clearly searching for a backdoor way to frame Floyd as a bad guy, according to prosecutor Matthew Frank, and the only relevant question in Floyd’s death is how he was handled by police.

Floyd, a Black man, was pronounced dead on May 25 after Chauvin, a white man, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s murder, which was caught on camera by a bystander, sparked weeks of sometimes-violent demonstrations around the country and prompted a national reckoning on racial justice.

The trial only required two more jurors. According to the court, the 12 jurors seated through Thursday was equally divided by ethnicity, with six white jurors, four black jurors, and two multiracial jurors. Alternates will be selected for the final two jurors.

If the jury is full, opening statements will be held on March 29. Despite reports that the city will pay Floyd’s family $27 million, the process was on track to end nearly a week early.

A white registered nurse in her 50s told the court that she would not use her medical skills in Chauvin’s appeal, and a Black woman in her 60s said she didn’t see the entire bystander video of Floyd’s arrest and didn’t know enough about Chauvin or Floyd to form an opinion.

The 12th juror, a white woman in her 40s who works in commercial insurance, said she has consulted with people who struggle with alcohol and that she will be suspicious of someone who uses drugs because they might act violently or aggressively while under the influence.

She does not agree, however, that anyone who uses drugs or refuses to cooperate with police should be handled harshly. “I don’t believe there should be repercussions of abuse if anyone takes drugs,” she said.

Three other police officers will stand trial in August on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

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