Minneapolis Announces $27 Million George Floyd Settlement In Middle Of Jury Selection In Criminal Case
We may find out tomorrow, when jury selection resumes, if the defense raises the issue. Tune in for Andrew Branca’s daily coverage for Legal Insurrection.
There is a pattern of high profile wrongful death case settlements being announced in close proximity to a criminal trial involving the death. It happened in the death of Trayvon Martin just a couple of months before the George Zimmerman trial, and in the death of Freddie Gray as pre-trial proceedings against police officers were starting. Both criminal cases ended in not guilty verdicts (Zimmerman, Baltimore Police).
The jury selection in the criminal case against police officer Derek Chauvin started last week, and continues this week with the trial starting March 29. On Friday, March 12, 2021, the City of Minneapolis announced a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family, after 7 jurors already had been seated, and more remain to be seated.
I assume this is not the first time in history a municipal civil settlement of wrongful death claims was announced in the middle of criminal trial proceedings involving the death, but I’m not thinking of another high profile example off the top of my head. (If readers find such an example, please post in the comments.)
This settlement announcement raises questions for the ongoing trial, as KARE 11 TV reports:
On Friday afternoon, a news conference with attorney Ben Crump and Floyd’s relatives ran simultaneous to ongoing jury selection at the Hennepin County Government Center. Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, said the case remains “painful and hurtful, but today is a huge step in the healing process.”
Retired Judge LaJune Lange, who served in the Fourth District Judicial Circuit, called the $27 million a “truly historic settlement.” She points out, however, that the civil case follows a completely separate track from criminal proceedings against Chauvin and the three other officers charged in Floyd’s death…
However, legal expert Mike Bryant, who is not involved in the case, said it’s “very odd” to have a settlement occur in the middle of jury selection for a murder and manslaughter trial. He said the civil case might indirectly come up during witness testimony.
“It would come up, probably, in a situation where someone from Floyd’s family is testifying about him,” Bryant said. “That would probably be the most obvious way it could come up, if it comes up at all.”
But Bryant doesn’t think it would necessarily help one side over the other.
“You can make the argument both ways. You can make the argument [from the defense] it was about money, or you can make the argument [from the state] that the city is sending the clear picture that the police officers did something wrong and that’s why we’re paying them what we are,” Bryant said. “So, there’s two parts to it. Hopefully, it’s something the jury can keep out of their mind.”
I think the above discussion downplays the significance. which some lawyers think is problematic:
DAVID SCHUMAN: Prospective jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial can still get questioned about their thoughts on the settlement. Mary Moriarity, the former chief public defender in Hennepin County, says no one knows how the news will affect the seven already seated, though.
MARY MORIARTY: Most Jurors, I think, would perceive that as the city’s belief that Chauvin did murder George Floyd and that they are liable.
DAVID SCHUMAN: It’s assumed that it’d be very difficult to insulate any jury from hearing about the settlement. Joe Tamburino, a criminal defense attorney not affiliated with the case, lays out some options Chauvin’s team has.
JOE TANBURINO: They could make a motion for a mistrial based on an argument that there was some influence on the jury. They could make a motion to change venue. They could also ask to have the seven jurors who have been picked so far for the jury to come back and be requestioned.
We may find out tomorrow, when jury selection resumes, if the defense raises the issue. Tune in for Andrew Branca’s daily coverage for Legal Insurrection.DONATE
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