New developments are ramping up in the George Floyd murder investigation. According to The New York Times, Department of Justice prosecutors recently impaneled a grand jury and interviewed fresh witnesses in the ongoing investigation into Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.
The findings come days before a state trial for Chauvin is slated to begin on March 8, and months after the DOJ-led investigation stalled under the Trump administration.
The burden of proof lies on whether prosecutors can prove that the defendant willingly used unreasonable force, in turn violating someone’s constitutional rights.
Former Attorney General William Barr stated he preferred to wait for the state’s findings before moving when asked why the investigation was in limbo. Earlier this month The Times revealed Barr rejected a plea deal from Chauvin which warranted at least 10 years in jail.
If Chauvin is acquitted in state court the focus would then likely shift to the federal proceedings, which could include civil rights violations. However, federal civil rights prosecutions have become increasingly disappointing, especially for Black community members who rarely see justice served in the ongoing incidents of police-involved killings. The Justice Department has investigated and failed to charge police officers involved in several high-profile killings of Black community members, including Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown.
“George Floyd’s death spurred a renewed and re-energized civil rights movement,” Benjamin Crump, Floyd’s family lawyer said in a statement. “It’s appropriate and gratifying that the Department of Justice under President Biden is taking racial justice seriously.”
This particular investigation will turn a watchful eye towards the Biden administration and Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland, if he is confirmed by the Senate. Biden and his administration have voiced support in reshaping the criminal justice system, but the upcoming investigation will either strengthen or distance supporters of Floyd who are still triggered by his harrowing death captured on camera. DOJ investigations into the murder of Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake are slated to continue under the newly appointed attorney general.
On Tuesday prosecutors asked a court of appeals to consider reinstating third-degree murder charge in the state’s trial against Chauvin. Chauvin will face trial separately from the three officers who are also charged in the case.