The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Friday to pay an unprecedented $27million to settle a civil lawsuit from George Floyd’s family over his death in police custody, even as a seventh juror was selected for former officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.
Moments after the settlement vote, Council President Lisa Bender, who previously sparked controversy by calling for the city police department to be abolished in the wake of George Floyd’s death, offered her condolences.
‘I do want to, on behalf of the entire City Council, offer my deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd, his friends and all in our community who are mourning his loss,’ the Democrat said in a statement. ‘No amount of money can ever address the intense pain or trauma caused by this death to George Floyd’s family or the people of our city.’
Bender explained the council voted for the record breaking settlement because ‘our efforts at incremental reform have failed. Period.’
It also includes $500,000 for the neighborhood where Floyd was arrested.
The news of the settlement was announced even as jury selection continues in the murder trial of Chauvin, who killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes last summer.
The City of Minneapolis on Friday agreed to pay a $27million settlement to George Floyd’s family, as jury selection continued for a fourth day for the trial of Derek Chauvin (right)
Moments after the settlement vote, Council President Lisa Bender, who previously sparked controversy by calling for the city police department to be abolished in the wake of George Floyd’s death, offered her condolences
Chauvin is the police officer seen kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25. Shortly afterward, Floyd was pronounced dead at the scene
Bender gained national attention over the summer with her efforts to dismantle the Minneapolis police force in the wake of Floyd’s death – demanding a demilitarization of the police, and recommending moving funds for the police to different city departments. She hoped to eventually disband police departments in favor of other services such as social work.
However, the plans were unpopular and sparked an angry backlash from other lawmakers and the public. A City Council commission later voted to delay the vote on defunding police on the ballot – a move Bender called ‘disappointing.’
Bender has since announced she’s not running for reelection.
On Friday, after the news of the Floyd settlement, Floyd family attorney Ben Crump held a news conference with family members and city officials, where he called the settlement ‘one step on the journey to justice.’
Crump, in a prepared statement, said it was the largest pretrial civil rights settlement ever, and ‘sends a powerful message that black lives do matter and police brutality against people of color must end.’
Floyd’s family filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in July against the city, Chauvin and three other fired officers charged in his death. It alleged the officers violated Floyd’s rights when they restrained him, and that the city allowed a culture of excessive force, racism and impunity to flourish in its police force.
The lawsuit sought unspecified compensatory and special damages in an amount to be determined by a jury. It also sought a receiver to be appointed to ensure that the city properly trains and supervises officers in the future.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump announced the record-breaking settlement during a press conference on Friday
‘I hope that today will center the voices of the family and anything that they would like to share,’ Council President Lisa Bender said. ‘But I do want to, on behalf of the entire City Council, offer my deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd, his friends and all of our community who are mourning his loss.’
Meanwhile, a seventh juror has been seated following a lengthy voire dire that crossed over from the morning and into the afternoon session of Friday’s jury selection.
The single mother-of two, white and in her early 50s, described herself as being in the ‘C-class’ of executives and works in healthcare advocacy.
She admitted to knowing Attorney General Keith Ellison and having had work dealings with his office, but neither defense nor prosecutors viewed this as any impairment to her service.
STATE OF MINNESOTA V DEREK CHAUVIN – THE CHARGES
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, which in Minnesota can be ‘intentional’ or ‘unintentional.’
The second-degree murder charge requires prosecutors to prove Chauvin caused Floyd’s death while committing or trying to commit a felony — in this case, third-degree assault.
Prosecutors must convince the jury that Chauvin assaulted or attempted to assault Floyd and in doing so inflicted substantial bodily harm.
Prosecutors don’t have to prove that Chauvin was the sole cause of Floyd’s death – only that his conduct was a ‘substantial causal factor.’
If the prosecution can prove Chauvin committed third-degree assault on Floyd, he can be convicted of Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors are fearful that Chauvin will escape conviction for second-degree murder, that carries a maximum 40 year sentence.
But because Chauvin does not have any prior convictions, sentencing guidelines recommend he serve no more than 25.5 years behind bars.
The manslaughter charge has a lower bar, requiring proof that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through negligence that created an unreasonable risk, and consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death.
In other words, Chauvin should have been aware that through his actions he was placing Floyd at risk of dying even though it may not have been his intent to kill him, according to prosecutors.
If convicted of second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota, the charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
But sentencing guidelines for someone without a criminal record call for no more than four years behind bars.
Third-degree murder would require a lower standard of proof than second-degree.
To win a conviction, prosecutors would have to show only that Floyd’s death was caused by an act that was obviusly dangerous, though not necessarily a felony.
That would result in a maximum sentence of 25 years.
But there are caveats.
Chauvin has no criminal history, which means he will probably end up serving about 12.5 years whether he is convicted of second or third-degree murder.
Her selection marks the half-way point in the selection process that will see 12 jurors and two alternates seated.
She is the second woman to be seated on the panel that now consists of three white men, one Hispanic man, one black man and one bi-racial woman.
Angela Harrelson, George Floyd’s aunt, was in court to hear the juror who said that she had ’empathy’ for both Floyd and Chauvin and that she could not believe that anybody had gone into that day with the intention of it ending as it had – with one man dead and another on trial for his murder.
Earlier today, another prospective jury member was dismissed after expressing a negative view of the former police officer.
Chauvin, dressed in a light-grey suit and black tie, appeared in Hennepin County Court in Minneapolis and was introduced to the prospective jurors by his defense attorney, Eric Nelson, before both donned their face masks and the selection process got under way.
Nelson used one of his 15 challenges to dismiss a female would-be juror, a recent college graduate, after she said she had seen bystander video of Floyd’s arrest and closely read news coverage of the case.
In response to a jury pool questionnaire, she said she had a ‘somewhat negative’ view of Chauvin, and that she thought he held his knee to Floyd’s neck for too long.
‘I could only watch part of the video, and from what I saw as a human, I, that did not give me a good impression,’ she said. She said she did not watch the bystander video in its entirety because ‘I just couldn’t watch it anymore.’
The woman repeatedly said she could put aside her opinions and decide the case on the facts, but Chauvin’s attorney was not swayed and let her go.
Four days into jury selection, six people have been seated — five men and one woman. Three of those seated are white, one is multiracial, one is Hispanic and one is black, according to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill.
Cahill has set aside three weeks for jury selection, with opening statements no sooner than March 29.
Floyd was declared dead on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against the black man’s neck for about nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond, leading to a nationwide reckoning on race.
Friday’s quick dismissal echoed others earlier in the case for similar reasons. On Thursday, one woman was dismissed after she said she ‘can’t unsee the video’ of Chauvin pinning Floyd.
Nelson pressed the woman hard on whether she could be fair despite her strong opinions.
Asked how the events of last summer had affected the community, she replied: ‘Negatively affected because a life was taken. Positively because a movement has come from it and the whole world knows.’ Asked about the property damage during the unrest, she said, ‘I felt that was what needed to happen to bring this to the world’s attention.’
‘Looking in your heart and looking in your mind can you assure us you can set all of that aside, all of that, and focus only on the evidence that is presented in this courtroom?’ Nelson asked.
‘I can assure you, but like you mentioned earlier, the video is going to be a big part of the evidence and there’s no changing my mind about that,’ she replied.
Meanwhile, a man who said he has a ‘very negative’ impression of Chavuin nevertheless became the sixth juror selected for the trial on Thursday.
The man, who told attorneys he could set that aside and consider the evidence in the case, was the only juror chosen in a day most notable for the judge restoring a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin.
Three of those seated on the jury panel are white, one is multiracial, one is Hispanic and one is Black, according to Judge Cahill.
Cahill’s restoration of the third-degree murder charge came at the start of Thursday’s proceedings, a day after Chauvin failed to get appellate courts to block the charge, handing jurors one more option for a conviction if they choose.
Cahill had earlier rejected it as not warranted by the circumstances of Floy’ds death, but an appellate court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds.
Two attorneys representing Floyd’s family – Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci – released a statement on Thursday praising the decision by the judge to reinstate the third-degree murder charge.
‘We’re gratified that the judge cleared the way for the trial to proceed and for Chauvin to face this additional charge,’ the two attorneys said in a statement to DailyMail.com.
‘The trial is very painful and the family needs closure. We’re pleased that all judicial avenues are being explored and that the trial will move forward.’
The sole juror picked Thursday described himself as an outgoing, family-oriented soccer fan for whom the prospect of the trial is ‘kind of exciting.’
Chauvin (pictured in court on Friday) faces charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree murder in connection with Floyd’s death in May
Four days into jury selection, five men and a woman have been picked for the panel, with eight more slots remaining before opening arguments get under way
Eric Nelson on Friday dismissed a would-be juror after she admitted to having a ‘somewhat negative’ opinion of his client
Three of those seated on the jury panel are white, one is multiracial, one is Hispanic and one is Black, according to Judge Cahill
In this image taken from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, listen to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill during pretrial motions on Thursday
The man said he’s also a fan of true crime podcasts and TV shows. He acknowledged under questioning from Nelson, the defense attorney, that he had a ‘very negative’ impression of Chauvin.
The man wrote on his questionnaire that he had seen the widely viewed bystander video of Floyd ‘desperately screaming that he couldn’t breathe’ even as other officers stood by and bystanders shouted that Chauvin was killing him.
Yet asked whether he could set his opinions aside and stick to the evidence presented in court, he replied: ‘I’m willing to see all the evidence and everything, hear witnesses.’
Other five jurors include a white, Minnesota man in his 30s who described himself as a’ very logical person who tries to eliminate emotion as much as possible’; a married IT manager in his 30th who emigrated from West African 14 years ago and said he supported the Black Lives Matter movement; a white chemist who thinks BLM is ‘too extreme’ and hasn’t seen the Floyd video; a woman of color who’s related to a cop and thinks BLM has ‘turned into propaganda’; and a white man who works as an auditor.
A National Guard soldier, left, stands guard while another security person, right, relaxes in a tent at the Hennepin County Government Center, Friday
A National Guard soldier leans against a cement barrier at the highly-protected Hennepin County Government Center, where Chauvin’s trial continues with jury selection.
The prosecution so far have made two unsuccessful attempts] to argue that the defense was striking jurors on the basis of race.
Prosecutors made a Batson challenge in response to the defense decision to exercise their first peremptory challenge of the day on Thursday on a male juror who identifies as Hispanic.
The challenge – which the prosecution also attempted on the first day of the selection process – alleges that potential jurors are being discriminated on the basis of race.
Rejecting the prosecution’s contention Judge Cahill said, ‘I don’t find that this was race based. The juror was very torn and you could tell he had difficulty (accepting the presumption of innocence)..and unlike any other prospective juror he described the video to a World War II occupying force.’
Potential jurors’ identities are being protected and they are not shown on livestreamed video of the proceedings.
Chauvin and three other officers were fired. The others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges. The defense hasn’t said whether Chauvin will testify in his own defense.