Murder Charge Row Clouds Start of Accused Floyd Killer’s Trial (2)

March 8, 2021, 3:56 PM; Updated: March 8, 2021, 9:40 PM

Jury selection in the trial of George Floyd’s accused killer is in flux over whether third-degree murder will be added to the charges facing Derek Chauvin, a former police officer.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals March 5 reversed Judge Peter Cahill’s initial refusal to restore the third degree murder charge, sending the case back to him to reconsider. Adding the third degree charge to the trial would require Chauvin to fend off two murder charges in addition to a second-degree manslaughter charge. Defense attorney Eric Nelson said he plans to appeal the circuit court’s decision to the state Supreme Court, but he opposed delaying jury selection.

Cahill pushed back the start of jury selection until Tuesday after prosecutors told him they would be asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals for a delay while the state supreme court weighs questions related to reinstating third-degree murder charges against Chauvin.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and the prosecution Monday asked the Court of Appeals to halt the trial until Minnesota’s highest court weighs in. The state argues in its motion that allowing the trial to go forward while the third-degree murder charge is unsettled would create uncertainty that could lead to appeals if Chauvin is convicted.

Footage of then-officer Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck May 25 prompted calls to hold him and other officers on the scene—who are slated to be tried later this year—criminally responsible.

The jury selection process is expected to last roughly 3 weeks, with the trial potentially beginning March 29. Potential jurors will be asked a myriad of questions aimed to weed out bias.

Matthew Frank, Minnesota’s assistant attorney general, urged Cahill to delay the selections, concerned that if the charges are refiled, the process would have to be repeated. Frank added, though, that the prosecution didn’t intend on interfering or slowing anything down.

“We’d simply be repeating some of the voir dire,” he said. “It would complicate the process and build some repetition into it.”

(Updated with judge's decision to delay jury selection in the first and third paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Ayanna Alexander in Washington at aalexander@bloomberglaw.com; Adam M. Taylor in Washington at ataylor@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Childers at achilders@bloomberglaw.com

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