The legal proceedings surrounding George Floyd‘s murder case could be moved to a whiter part of Minnesota, the presiding judge warned. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill made that possibility abundantly clear during a series of pre-trial hearings on Monday, inserting a new element of doubt in what on the surface seems to be an open-and-shut case of excessive force turned deadly.
Defense attorneys for the four cops accused in the killing of Floyd have complained about anti-police rhetoric from public officials and prosecutors. In response, Cahill said a change of venue is all but inevitable unless all the biased chatter ends, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
Stopping short of issuing a gag order, Cahill said putting a clamp on the talking is “in everyone’s best interest.” He admonished those who have already presented their cases to the court of public opinion. “What they’re doing is endangering the right to a fair trial,” Cahill said. “They need to understand that.”
Moving the trial out of Minneapolis means that it would take place in an even whiter part of Minnesota, seeing as the lion share of Black people living in the state call Hennepin County home. That prospect came after the Minneapolis council moved to defund the city’s police department, a move that statistics show has not been embraced in other parts of Minnesota — potentially where Floyd’s case could be moved if Cahill holds true to his words.
Taken together, moving Floyd’s case into a whiter portion of the state that is pro-police amid widespread scrutiny of laws enforcement could foster an environment that does not deliver justice for a handcuffed Black man who died face-down on the pavement with a cop’s knee on his neck over the nonviolent (and still unproven) suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill.
Stranger things have happened in America’s courts of law.
Floyd died on Memorial Day after now-fired Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin applied deadly pressure with his knee to Floyd’s neck despite Floyd’s repeated pleas for his life and assertions that he could not breathe. Onlookers filming the death that a medical examiner called a homicide told Chauvin he was killing Floyd, but the police officer, with hands in his pockets as he casually killed an unarmed Black man in broad daylight, would not be deterred.
Chauvin was eventually arrested and charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other officers involved — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — have also been fired, arrested and charged for their roles in not stopping Chauvin from killing Floyd.
According to Census data, the city of Minneapolis is 19 percent Black. Hennepin County, in which Minneapolis sits, is 13 percent Black. Next up is Ramsey County at 12 percent Black. But after that, the numbers plunge for the worse, with the next most-racially diverse county in Minnesota being Dakota County, with 7 percent of its residents being Black.
The logic here is that the less-white potential jury pools become, the more sympathetic they may be to the defendants, thus increasing the chances of acquittals or hung juries. Most Black and white Americans believe Black people are treated less fairly than white people, according to the Pew Research Center. However, the same data gleaned from that research found that “Black Americans are far less likely than whites to give police high marks for the way they do their jobs.”
Floyd’s killing has been a catalyst for the nationwide protests against racism, police violence and what is often times the deadly combination of the two.
This is America.