The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota was the epicenter of global protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by police officers last May. Now, the city is preparing for the trial against one of the officers who was involved with his death.
On March 8, the three-week jury selection process will begin in the trial against former police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes.
In the immediate aftermath of the killing that sparked massive protests across the city of Minneapolis, the nation, and world, Chauvin reportedly agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder and, as part of the deal, go to prison for more than 10 years.
At the last minute, former Attorney General William Barr rejected the deal. Barr had a say in whether the deal would be accepted or not because Chauvin reportedly requested to serve his prison sentence in a federal facility and wanted to avoid federal civil rights violation charges. According to new details released by law enforcement officials, Barr worried that a plea deal might be considered lenient and fuel more protests at the time. Additionally, the officials say Barr wanted to give local and state authorities more time to figure out what legal course of action they wanted to take.
Now, the city is preparing for trial against Chauvin and the uncertainty surrounding its outcome.
The news outlet reported that some workers in the downtown area of Minneapolis have been advised to not go into work during the trial because of increased security, including National Guard troops who are being deployed to the area.
Governor Tim Walz added a $4.2 million line item in a recent budget for security while the trial is conducted, and a $35 million fund to reimburse local police departments that might be called on if protests break out.
“This is the most famous police brutality prosecution in the history of the United States,” former prosecutor and Georgetown University professor Paul Butler said.
The nation’s criminal justice system does not have a track record of holding police officers who use excessive force that result in the deaths of people accountable, and Chauvin’s trial has the potential to see what, if anything, has changed since officers involved in the deaths of Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and so many others.
The 1992 acquittal of four police officers caught on video brutally beating Rodney King sparked riots in Los Angeles that lasted several days. The ruling was a turning point for many, a catalyst in the understanding that even video evidence of brutality was not enough to hold police accountable.
Prosecutors in the trial against Chauvin have asked for a delay in proceedings, citing the possibility of demonstrators gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic and potentially spreading the virus.
The state is also appealing the court’s decision to separate the trial of Chauvin from the other officers on the scene when George Floyd was murdered. Some legal experts say that this decision could help Chauvin since his would-be co-defendants can’t point the blame solely on Chauvin.
The Times’ reporting states that defense attorneys for the other officers are shifting their strategies and aiding in his defense. If Chauvin is acquitted, then the other former officers would probably not have to stand trial at all. Their trial, in which the men face charges for aiding and abetting, is currently scheduled to begin in August.
A judge ruled that cameras will be allowed in the courtroom, a first for the state of Minnesota, though the pandemic and added security measures will limit the number of people allowed to attend.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has objected to the cameras being present during the trial, noting in a court motion that “an innocent bystander who saw George Floyd’s murder does not deserve –– absent his or her consent –– to be rocketed onto the public stage.”
Some officials fear that media attention could spur white supremacy extremist groups to come to the city.
The community surrounding the Cup Foods convenience store where George Floyd was killed, known as George Floyd Square, is preparing for the trial, keeping a countdown until the days before the trial is set to begin.
Eliza Wesley, known as “the gatekeeper” of the memorial, told the Times the sign’s purpose “is so we know exactly how many days to the trial, so we can be prepared. We want it to be peaceful. We don’t want white supremacists coming down here.”
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