Chauvin seeks probation for Floyd death, state wants 30 years

(Reuters) -Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin asked a judge on Wednesday for probation after being convicted for the murder of George Floyd, while the prosecution said his crime “shocked the Nation’s conscience” and he should be imprisoned for 30 years.

In a motion filed with Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, lawyer Eric Nelson said Chauvin’s actions in pinning Floyd to the pavement during an arrest was “best described as an error made in good faith” based on his training.

“Mr. Chauvin asks the Court to look beyond its findings, to his background, his lack of criminal history, his amenability to probation, to the unusual facts of this case, and to his being a product of a ‘broken’ system,” Nelson wrote.

The lawyer asked the judge for a so-called dispositional departure resulting in probation or a downward durational departure, which he said would lead to a sentence less strict than the 128 months to 180 months suggested by state guidelines.

In their own filing, prosecutors argued that Chauvin acted with cruelty, among other aggravating factors, and therefore deserved twice the upper limit of the sentencing range, or 30 years in prison.

“His actions traumatized the community, prompting an outpouring of grief and protest across Minneapolis and the State. And his actions shocked the conscience of the Nation,” prosecutors in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office wrote.

A Minneapolis jury in April found Chauvin, 45, guilty of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter after hearing three weeks of testimony in a highly publicized trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.

He is being held at a maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, while awaiting sentencing.

Last month, Cahill found that prosecutors had shown there were four aggravating factors in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.

The judge said Chauvin, who is white, abused his position of trust and authority and treated Floyd with particular cruelty. He committed the crime as part of a group with three other officers and did so with children present, Cahill ruled.

Floyd’s May 25, 2020, death – after he was handcuffed on a Minneapolis street with Chauvin’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes – prompted massive protests against racism and police brutality in many U.S. cities and other countries.

In Wednesday’s motion, Nelson said the fact that the officers on the scene called for an ambulance “served to mitigate any cruelty” in the treatment of Floyd. Chauvin, he noted, remained on the scene until medical assistance arrived.

“Mr. Chauvin has established that he is particularly amenable to probation and is a prime candidate for a stringent probationary sentence plus time served,” Nelson wrote.

Chauvin has been in prison since his April 20 conviction.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne and Jonathan Allen; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)

Minnesota judge finds aggravating factors in George Floyd murder

(Reuters) – A Minnesota judge has ruled that aggravating factors were involved in the death of George Floyd, opening the possibility of a longer sentence for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Chauvin, a white former officer convicted in a Minnesota state court of murdering Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, during an arrest last May, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.

In a six-page ruling dated Tuesday, District Court Judge Peter Cahill found that prosecutors had proven Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority, treated Floyd with particular cruelty, committed the crime as a group and did so with children present, all aggravating factors.

“The slow death of George Floyd occurring over approximately six minutes of his positional asphyxia was particularly cruel in that Mr. Floyd was begging for his life and obviously terrified by the knowledge that he was likely to die but during which the defendant objectively remained indifferent to Mr. Floyd’s pleas,” Cahill wrote.

A jury convicted Chauvin, 45, of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter on April 20 after hearing three weeks of testimony in a highly publicized trial.

Floyd’s death after he was handcuffed on a Minneapolis street with Chauvin’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes prompted massive protests against racism and police brutality in many U.S. cities and other countries last summer.

Three other former officers who were at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death and are set to go on trial on Aug. 23.

Cahill, who presided over the trial, will also sentence Chauvin, who technically faces a combined maximum 75 years in prison if the sentences run consecutively. State guidelines, however, give judges leeway to impose sentences that are far less harsh.

Prosecutors on April 30 asked Cahill to consider several aggravating circumstances in Floyd’s death so that he could make “an upward sentencing departure” in the case.

While Cahill accepted most of the prosecutors’ arguments that aggravating circumstances were present, he rejected one of them, finding that they had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Floyd was “particularly vulnerable.”

Also pending before Cahill is a May 4 request for a new trial in which Chauvin’s lawyer argued that his client was deprived of a fair trial because of prosecutorial and jury misconduct, errors of law at trial and that the verdict was contrary to the law.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Aurora Ellis and Howard Goller)

Minneapolis judge says no to moving trial of ex-policeman in Floyd death

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – The judge in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd, denied Chauvin’s request to delay or move his trial out of the county on Friday morning.

Chauvin’s lead lawyer, Eric Nelson, has complained to the court that publicity around the trial has tainted the jury pool in and around Minneapolis, not least the city’s announcement last week it would pay Floyd’s relatives $27 million to settle their wrongful-death lawsuit.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ruled against Chauvin from the bench on Friday, saying that delaying or moving the trial would make it no easier to seat an impartial jury.

“I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity in this case,” Cahill said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Judge in George Floyd police trial calls timing of $27 million settlement unfortunate

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – The judge in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the arrest of George Floyd, said on Monday it was unfortunate the city had announced a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family on Friday in the midst of jury selection.

Judge Peter Cahill of the Hennepin County District Court said he would soon recall the seven jurors seated last week to ask whether they had seen news of the settlement and whether it would affect their impartiality.

“I wish city officials would stop talking about this case so much,” the judge said before resuming jury selection on Monday morning. “At the same time, I don’t find any evil intent that they are trying to tamper with the criminal case.”

The trial in a heavily fortified tower in downtown Minneapolis is being closely watched as a bellwether of the way U.S. law enforcement agencies use force and violence in policing Black people.

Chauvin, who is white, was captured in a bystander’s video with his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, cried out for his life and his mother, who had recently died. The death ignited global protests against racism and police brutality. Chauvin and three other police officers were fired the day after the arrest.

Floyd’s family filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against Chauvin and the city of Minneapolis last year. The city held a widely viewed news conference with family members on Friday to announce the $27 million settlement, described by Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Floyd’s family, as one of the largest-ever settlements of its kind.

Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lead lawyer, said the news was “profoundly disturbing” to the defense.

“By my count, this is the third highly prejudicial press leak or press release that has very suspicious timing, to say the least, and has an incredible propensity to taint a jury pool,” he told the court before jury selection resumed.

Besides asking to recall the seven jurors already seated, Nelson asked the judge to reconsider his request to move the trial to a different county, which Cahill said he would consider.

‘ALL OVER THE MEDIA’

Prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general’s office told the court they had no control over the city’s mayor, council or news media.

“You would agree that this is unfortunate, wouldn’t you?” the judge asked prosecutors. “That we have this reported all over the media when we’re in the midst of jury selection?”

A spokeswoman for the city said she would inquire whether Mayor Jacob Frey had any comment.

The first potential juror to appear in court on Monday, who appeared to be a white woman in her 50s, said the size of the settlement made an impression on her and that she was familiar with civil litigation from her work in human resources.

“My guess is that with that large of a settlement the city did not feel it would prevail in court,” she told the judge, who went on to dismiss her.

Jurors seated last week include four white men, one of them Hispanic; one white woman; a woman of mixed race; and a Black man who immigrated to the United States about 14 years ago. All but one are in their 20s and 30s, the court said. Judge Cahill has promised the jurors anonymity for the duration of the trial.

An eighth juror was picked later on Monday: a Black man in his 30s who has worked in the banking industry and said he likes writing poetry and coaching and watching sports.

He said he strongly supported the message of the Black Lives Matter movement, and that he was able to be impartial in weighing Chauvin’s conduct.

“I don’t think he had any intention of harming anyone,” he said of Chauvin, “but somebody did die.”

Chauvin, 44, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty, saying he followed his police training.

All potential jurors who have appeared so far said they know who Chauvin is and what the video shows him doing; most said they had formed a negative opinion of him, though some said they could remain open to the possibility his actions were not criminal.

The court is planning to have opening arguments commence on March 29. Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)

Minneapolis to pay $27 million to settle George Floyd’s family lawsuit over deadly arrest

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – The city of Minneapolis will pay $27 million to settle a lawsuit by the family of George Floyd over his death in police custody, a case that stirred national protests over racial injustice and police brutality.

Mayor Jacob Frey will join other elected officials and members of Floyd’s family on Friday afternoon for a news conference to discuss the settlement, the city announced.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in May as Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s dying pleas for help were captured on widely seen bystander’s video, which helped spark one of the largest protest movements ever seen in the United States.

The trial of Chauvin, who was fired by the police force, began earlier this week in Hennepin County’s district court on charges of murder and manslaughter. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty and said he properly followed his police training.

Judge Peter Cahill has set aside about three weeks for jury selection in the high-profile case. So far, six jurors have been seated.

Last year, Floyd’s relatives sued the city, Chauvin and three other police officers involved in federal court, saying police used excessive force against Floyd in violation of his constitutional rights.

The settlement announced on Friday includes a $500,000 contribution from Floyd’s family to the community at the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd died, which has been barricaded against police access by residents and is filled with flowers and other tributes to Floyd.

Chauvin was helping arrest Floyd on the evening of May 25 on suspicion of his using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at the Cup Foods grocery store at the intersection.

The other three officers are due to go on trial later this year on charges of aiding and abetting Chauvin in Floyd’s death, which was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. The Minneapolis Police Department fired all four officers the day after the deadly arrest.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen, Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Judge grants motion to reinstate third-degree murder charge against officer on trial for George Floyd’s death

By Jonathan Allen and Gabriella Borter

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – A Minnesota judge granted a request by prosecutors on Thursday to reinstate a charge of third-degree murder against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is on trial already facing second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Judge Peter Cahill’s decision comes after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that he must reconsider a third-degree murder charge against 44-year-old Chauvin, whose trial got underway with jury selection this week in Minneapolis.

Chauvin already faces a more serious charge of second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison, as well as a charge of second-degree manslaughter.

The reinstatement of a third-degree murder charge was a victory for state prosecutors, who had sought the additional lesser murder charge in part to afford them an extra path to a conviction should the jury find the evidence does not support the most serious charge. The third-degree murder charge carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Videos show Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes on a sidewalk outside a grocery store on May 25 as the Black man pleaded for his life and then stopped moving. Police were arresting him on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill at the store.

Floyd’s death outraged people around the world and helped fuel one of the largest protest movements ever seen in the United States, with daily demonstrations against racism and police brutality.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Minnesota court rules judge must reconsider third-degree murder against former policeman in George Floyd case

By Jonathan Allen and Brendan O’Brien

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – A Minnesota court of appeals ruled on Friday that the judge in the case against Derek Chauvin, who is facing criminal charges for the killing of George Floyd last May, must reconsider a third-degree murder charge against the former police officer.

The trial of Chauvin was due to begin with jury selection in Minneapolis on Monday, though that could be delayed as Judge Peter Cahill of the Hennepin County district court must now weigh again the reinstating of the third-degree murder charge.

Chauvin already faces a more serious charge of second-degree murder, as well as a charge of second-degree manslaughter.

Videos show Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes on a sidewalk outside a convenience store on May 25 as Floyd, a Black man, pleaded for his life before becoming motionless. Police were arresting him on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill at the store.

Floyd’s death outraged people around the world and helped fuel one of the largest protest movements ever seen in the United States, with daily demonstrations against police brutality and racism.

Lawyers for Chauvin, who could not immediately be reached for comment, have told the court they intend to argue that Chauvin acted appropriately according to his duties and training as a police officer.

State prosecutors had originally included the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, under a statute with a complex recent legal history.

Lawyers for Chauvin had successfully argued it should be dropped on the basis that the statute requires the “death-causing act” not be directed at a single individual. But the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled in a separate case that third-degree murder could be applied even if the “death-causing act” is directed at a specific person, and ruled on Friday that this precedent binds the district court.

In its order, the appeals court said Judge Cahill could still consider any additional arguments offered by Chauvin’s lawyers for having the third-degree murder charge dropped.

Three other police officers at the scene face charges of aiding and abetting the murder of Floyd in a separate trial due to start later this year. All four police officers were fired after Floyd’s death.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in Minneapolis and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Minneapolis policeman accused in Floyd killing to stand trial without three other defendants

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – The former Minneapolis policeman accused of killing a Black man by kneeling on his neck will stand trial alone, without three officers accused of aiding and abetting the alleged murder, a Minnesota judge ruled Tuesday, in part because of COVID-19 concerns.

Judge Peter Cahill said in his ruling that the space limitations in the court house “make it impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions in a joint trial involving all four defendants,” given the number of lawyers and support personnel expected.

Derek Chauvin, who is white, has been charged with second-degree murder and other lesser charges in the May 25 death of George Floyd, after pinning his neck to the ground for nearly nine minutes. Videos of the incident set off nationwide protests over police brutality and racism in law enforcement.

Chauvin’s criminal defense attorney, Eric L. Nelson, was not immediately available to Reuters for comment.

Prosecutors were surprised by Cahill’s ruling, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement that all four officers should face charges in the same trial.

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision,” Ellison said. “We believe that all four defendants should be tried jointly,” he said.

Ellison said that the evidence against all the defendants is similar and that holding more than one trial could, “retraumatize eyewitnesses and family members.”

Chauvin’s trial is scheduled to begin March 8 and the other three officers will be tried in August, court papers say.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Judge hears arguments in George Floyd case, as protesters chant ‘Black Lives Matter’ outside

By Nick Pfosi

(Reuters) – All four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd appeared in court on Friday, with the prosecution arguing their trials should be combined and the judge weighing a request to move the cases outside the city.

Derek Chauvin, who faces the most serious accusations, was wearing a gray suit and dark shirt and tie for his first in-person court appearance since he was charged with murder for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes on May 25.

Chauvin, who is white, was not shackled and appeared thinner than in the bystander videos that captured the incident, according to a media pool report. His hair was cut short and he wore a blue surgical mask due to the novel coronavirus.

The death of Floyd, who was Black, sparked worldwide protests against racism and calls for police reforms nationwide that are still ongoing, reignited in recent weeks by incidents in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Rochester, New York.

About 100 protesters had gathered outside the heavily fortified Family Justice Center, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “no justice, no peace” as the hearing, which started at 9 a.m. CDT (10 a.m. EDT), got underway inside.

The other three former officers on the scene – J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao – are charged with aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder. Kueng, Lane and Thao all appeared in court wearing dark suits, according to the pool report.

All four men oppose a motion by prosecutors to consolidate their cases into one trial.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank said in court the cases should be combined, arguing that separate trials could delay justice for years and would traumatize Floyd’s family, according to KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse.

Addressing the request by all four defendants to move their trials outside of Minneapolis due to concerns about pretrial publicity, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said he believed a questionnaire would need to be sent to potential jurors to see how they have been affected by the publicity around the case, Raguse wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by Nick Pfosi in Minneapolis and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Protester’s arrest leads to crowd forming at Pittsburgh mayor’s home

(Reuters) – Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he had “serious concerns” over the tactics used in the arrest of a 25-year-old protester on Saturday, after the detention led a crowd of demonstrators showing up at the mayor’s home on Sunday.

Matthew Cartier, 25, was arrested on Saturday at a Black Lives Matter protest. A video cited by CBS News showed armed officers putting Cartier into an unmarked van; police say he interfered with public safety.

Local media footage showed a crowd gathering outside Peduto’s home on Sunday, carrying signs with slogans such as “Defund the Police”.

The crowd of about 150 marched to outside the mayor’s house after rallying in Mellon Park, according to local media reports.

Police said Cartier was arrested because he stepped in front of cars, tried to direct traffic and blocked an intersection used for hospitals and the University of Pittsburgh.

He was charged with failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and obstructing highways and other public passages. Cartier was released on recognizance bond Sunday.

“We did it with the tactics and tools necessary to do it safely for not only the individual being arrested, for the public at large and for the protesters their selves,” an official from the Pittsburgh Police told the media.

The American Civil Liberties Union said on Sunday that officers were “in clear violation of their own guidelines.”

“The ACLU of Pennsylvania has never suggested that the snatch-and-stash arrest of a peaceful demonstrator is ever acceptable,” Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement.

Protests against racism and police brutality have spread across the United States and around the world after the May 25 death of George Floyd, an African-American man, who was killed when an officer knelt on his neck for about nine minutes.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru. Editing by Gerry Doyle)