The long struggle for equal justice for all Americans has reached a fever pitch that promises real change in the coming months and years. Unfortunately, the movement was sparked by the death of George Floyd due to brutal policing tactics. Attorney Ben Crump has taken up the George Floyd case, along with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, in order to drive a movement toward equality, police reform, and justice for communities of color.
The Murder of George Floyd
Imagine being killed over $20. George Floyd’s death was sparked by a 911 call that accused him of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a Minneapolis deli, according to reports from the New York Times. Police officers arrived and, within a mere 17 minutes, George Floyd had lost consciousness. Officer Derek Chauvin used tactics in violation of the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies. Chauvin pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground with his knee pressed against Mr. Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Video of the incident shows that Chauvin did not let up even when Mr. Floyd lost consciousness and could not possibly be construed as resisting.
The image of a white police officer’s knee pressing a black man’s neck until he could not breathe and eventually passed away has captured the attention of people across the nation, leading to protests in all 50 states and a nationwide demand for racial equality and justice.
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Attorney Ben Crump Gets Involved
A pioneer and fierce advocate for justice, equality, and civil rights, attorney Ben Crump quickly took on George Floyd’s case, as well as the murder of 25-year old Ahmaud Arbery by a father-son vigilante team and the murder of Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician, by police intruding into her home.
These cases rightfully sparked outrage over police brutality and overreach, as well as the lack of police discipline, as officers routinely are put on paid leave or receive proverbial slaps on the wrist after these kinds of heinous acts. Below is a timeline, to be updated weekly, of the events that have since transpired in the George Floyd case and our country’s push to eradicate systemic racism in our police and power structures.
The George Floyd Legal Team
Ben Crump, Lead Attorney
President & Founder | Ben Crump Law
William Pintas, Chief Legal Strategist
Partner | Pintas & Mullins Law
Chief Strategist | Ben Crump Law
Scott Carruthers, Attorney
Managing Partner | Ben Crump Law
Chris O’Neal, Attorney
Partner & Chief Integration Officer | Ben Crump Law
Antonio M. Romanucci, Co-Counsel
Founding Partner | Romanucci & Blandin, LLC
Jeff Storms, Co-Counsel
Partner | Newmark Storms Dworak LLC
Laura J. Mullins, Attorney
Partner | Pintas & Mullins Law
Devon M. Jacob, Co-Counsel
Owner & Attorney | Jacob Litigation, Inc.
Aleah Severin, Attorney
Attorney | Pintas & Mullins Law
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A Timeline of Events
This section will be updated on a weekly basis to keep you informed of the major events in the George Floyd case and related civil rights movement.
Feb. 23, 2020: Ahmaud Arbery Is Murdered
While jogging in a Georgia residential neighborhood, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery is gunned down by a (white) father and son team who reportedly yelled racial slurs after shooting Arbery, according to CNN.
March 13, 2020: Breonna Taylor Is Murdered
After breaking into her home, police officers engaged in a shootout with Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, who claimed that he believed the police officers to be armed intruders. In an era in which killers like George Zimmerman have avoided justice using the “stand your ground” law, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police officers who allegedly failed to announce themselves before breaking into her apartment. After her boyfriend, who is licensed to carry a firearm, shot at what he suspected were burglars, according to NBC News, the unannounced police officers fired 20 rounds into the apartment, murdering Ms. Taylor.
May 25, 2020: George Floyd Is Murdered
On May 25th, Mr. Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin cutting off his airways for nearly nine minutes. Combined with the outrage over the senseless killings of Ms. Taylor and Mr. Arbery, George Floyd’s death motivated crowds in every state to protest against police violence.
May 26, 2020: Ongoing Protests
Peaceful protests, punctuated by occasional bouts of rioting and/or looting on isolated occasions, continue to occur around the nation. Citizens are demanding justice, appropriate punishment for officers involved in these murders, and lowered funds for police departments in an effort to demilitarize the police.
May 29, 2020: Chauvin Charged
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, which has since been upgraded to second-degree charges, according to ABC News. If found guilty, he will face a sentence of up to 35 years in prison.
June 2, 2020: Ben Crump Speaks on CNN
Attorney Ben Crump appeared on CNN, urging for Chauvin’s initial charges to be upgraded to first-degree murder and for the remaining (former) officers to be charged as well. While calling for peaceful protests and an end to violence, Mr. Crump acknowledged the upwelling of righteous anger and continues to push for justice.
June 3, 2020: Other Officers Charged
The three remaining police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd were subsequently fired from the police force. Officers who stood by and watched as Chauvin kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes were charged with second-degree aiding and abetting felony murder as well as second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter. The four await trial.
June 3, 2020: Ben Crump Speaks to ABC News
Following the charges against the former officers who watched as George Floyd was murdered, Attorney Ben Crump called for the nation to “take a breath” for peace and justice. “Let’s take a breath to heal this country,” Mr. Crump said.
June 4: The George Floyd Memorial Service
A memorial service was held for George Floyd on Thursday, June 4th. Attorney Ben Crump was present for the historic moment, as pictured below.
June 8, 2020: Public Viewing
A public viewing for George Floyd was held in Houston, Texas at the Fountain of Praise Church, where members of the public paid their respects to this murdered man who has become a symbol for progress, equality, and reform. Mr. Floyd is expected to be buried in Houston next to his mother.
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Attorney William Pintas Joins the Fight for Justice
At the request of George Floyd’s family in early June, respected attorney William Pintas has joined the Ben Crump legal team as Chief Legal Strategist. He will work alongside Ben Crump to gather evidence and formulate a plan to get the George Floyd family the recognition, compensation, and justice they deserve.
June 9, 2020: George Floyd Is Buried
As anticipated, Mr. Floyd was laid to rest on June 9, 2020, in Houston, where his mother is also interred. Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather paid the family’s funeral expenses.
June 12, 2020: Minneapolis City Council Announcement
As reported by CNN, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted to dismantle the current policing system and replace it with a “transformative model.” The specifics of the plan are still under consideration, but the council expressed the belief that the current system is not reformable and needs total replacement.
June 15, 2020: Released Transcripts Show Concern
On Monday, June 15, 2020, audio transcripts were released, showing a 911 dispatcher and two unidentified callers expressing concern over the treatment of George Floyd. The 911 dispatcher, who was monitoring surveillance cameras that captured George Floyd’s murder, reported to his supervisor that “I don’t know if they had to use force or not,” and remarked, “call me a snitch if you want to.”
Two other people called in the incident, including a firefighter, who said, “I literally watched police officers not take a pulse and not do anything to save a man, and I am a first responder myself, and I literally have it on video camera.” The second unidentified caller told the 911 operator that the police “just killed this guy that wasn’t resisting arrest.”
June 17, 2020: Update on United Nations Appeal
George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, appeared via video in an address to the United Nations Human Rights Council, pleading with the panel to intervene and help address police brutality and racial discrimination in the United States. The urgent meeting, requested by the African Group of 54 member states from the continent of Africa.
Mr. Philonise Floyd said to the council, “My family and I had to watch the last moments of [my brother’s] life. When people dared to raise their voice and protest for my brother, they were tear-gassed.” Protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd continue to take place across the globe.
June 19, 2020: The Washington Post Reports on Ben Crump
An article in the Washington Post talked about the work of attorney Ben Crump in many civil rights cases over the years. The report included a discussion of the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. As part of his work on these cases, Attorney Crump went to Louisville and successfully asked the city council to ban no-knock warrants. This type of warrant is what resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor. Banning it means that Louisville is starting to take police violence seriously.
The Washington Post described the role that Ben Crump has in the modern civil rights fight. Quoting the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Post called Ben Crump “black America’s attorney general… because we don’t feel like we have one.” These three cases led by Attorney Crump are just the start of a new push for fairness, no matter the color of a person’s skin.
June 20, 2020: George Floyd’s Case Brings Other Deaths to Light
The U.S. continues to see protests in the name of George Floyd. As people look closer at past cases, other instances of police violence are coming to light. The New York Times reports that victims like Cameron Lamb, Modesto Reyes, Derrick Scott, and others have begun to enter the public eye. One troubling example is the murder of Nicolas Chavez. He was a mentally ill Latino man who was shot multiple times by police while on his knees. Video of the shooting, put on YouTube by a neighbor, has sparked more outrage at police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
People of color have suffered for a long time at the hands of the legal system in America. They have been victims of police violence and wrongful convictions due to jury prejudice. Yet the fight for justice goes on. Black and brown people deserve true equality in the eyes of the law. As attorney Ben Crump fights for George Floyd, he hopes to continue the movement toward equality and peace.
June 25, 2020: Ben Crump Takes on the Case of Jamal Williams
More cases of police violence have come to light since the death of George Floyd. One such example is the death of Jamal Williams. A 22-year-old Mr. Williams was admitted to the Community Hospital for psychiatric care. After a struggle with two security guards, both Mr. Williams and one of the security guards (Ryan Askew) were dead.
The first reports by the Northwest Indiana Times, which were based on a false police statement and have since been fixed, said that Mr. Williams took Mr. Askew’s gun and shot him. A second guard, Benny Freeman, then shot Mr. Williams. New reports say that when Freeman shot and killed Mr. Williams, he accidentally shot and killed Mr. Askew. Mr. Williams did not have control of any gun.
Attorney Ben Crump has taken on the case. He pointed out how deeply sad it is that Mr. Williams was killed at the hospital, where he sought safety and care. “We demand full transparency and accountability,” he said.
June 26, 2020: Officer Removed After Mocking George Floyd’s Murder
Officer Joseph DeMarco was seen mocking the death of George Floyd and has been removed from the New Jersey Department of Corrections. He was suspended without pay after being caught on video at a Black Lives Matter rally. DeMarco and another white man acted out the death of George Floyd, with one placing his knee on the other’s neck. The NJ Department of Corrections called the act “hateful and disappointing.”
Due to “the nature of the charges,” the local police officers’ union decided not to support DeMarco, according to ABC News.
June 28-29, 2020: Ex-Officers Ask for Media Access and Are Denied
On June 28, the men charged with the murder of George Floyd asked District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill to allow cameras and reporters into the courtroom for the pre-trial hearing. Minnesota law only allows this arrangement when all parties agree. The State, believing that it might “taint” the local jury pool, did not agree. As such, the judge denied the request.
The judge’s decision only applies to the pre-trial hearings, as reported by ABC News Channel KTSP. Trial coverage will be decided later.
June 29, 2020: Second Pre-Trial Hearing Results
As the Associated Press reports, the second hearing in the George Floyd murder case set the trial date for March 8, 2021. However, if the accused men file a motion to be tried separately, new trial dates would be necessary.
Judge Peter A. Cahill asked for public officials to remain quiet about the case. According to the judge, statements about George Floyd’s murder can make it hard for attorneys to find a jury free of bias. The judge said that the trial might need to take place at another location. The next pre-trial court date is scheduled for September 11.
June 29, 2020: Ben Crump Is Featured in USA Today
In support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, attorney Ben Crump wrote an opinion piece in USA Today. Unfortunately, the writing was prompted by more evidence of racial division, antagonism, and injustice within the nation’s police force.
Officers in Wilmington, North Carolina, were caught on dashcam, proclaiming that they were excited to systematically kill black civilians. The words, laced with derogatory terms and profanities, were “We are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them fu—– ni—–. I can’t wait. God, I can’t wait.” Such talk is shocking, but even more sobering is that these cops were simply the ones who happened to make these statements. When you catch some, there are surely others out there.
Ben Crump, in his opinion letter, emphasized the need for accountability. The now-former officers who uttered the statements were fired from the Wilmington police force, which is a start. But more needs to be done to prevent this mentality in the first place. As attorney Crump said, until a profound change happens in the hearts and minds of the nation, “the body count of Black Americans will continue to rise.”
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would require police officers to engage in all the steps necessary to de-escalate situations before using deadly force. It also mandates the use of body cameras and dashcams, which can help hold police accountable. But as attorney Crump pointed out, the Wilmington police’s words call into question the tactics that are used. “Could it be that… officers [actively look] for an opportunity to start slaughtering us?” Ben Crump’s question demands an answer; it demands action. Hopefully, Congress will act soon to begin the healing that this nation needs.
July 13, 2020: Ben Crump Marches for Joel Acevedo
Attorney Ben Crump and his team are representing the family of Joel Acevedo, a young Hispanic man who was killed by an off-duty police officer who placed him in a chokehold for 10 minutes. The case is eerily reminiscent of George Floyd’s murder and shows just how widespread police violence is across the nation.
On Monday, July 13, Ben Crump met with community activists in Milwaukee to march across the city and demand the release of body camera footage and audio recordings of the 911 call associated with Mr. Acevedo’s death. “We won’t rest until we get #JusticeforJoel!” Attorney Crump tweeted. The officer who killed Joel Acevedo, named Michael Mattioli, has been on paid leave since the incident. He currently faces charges of first-degree homicide and a disciplinary review, the first step toward terminating his employment.
July 13, 2020: Officers Charged with George Floyd’s Murder Object to Gag Order
On Monday, all four defendants in the George Floyd murder trial filed objections to the court’s order restricting meetings with the press. In particular, Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao’s attorneys argued that since their clients have not spoken with media outlets, the court’s gag order prevents them from engaging in their right to free speech. The attorneys for the four accused men proclaim that the media coverage puts their clients in a bad light, and the gag order does not allow their clients to voice their own cases.
As reported by CBS Minnesota, the court’s gag order was put in place because the judge believes that further engagement with the media will potentially taint the jury pool. Despite the objections, the gag order remains in place, preventing everyone involved in the trial from talking with the press.
July 15, 2020: Ben Crump Files Lawsuit on Behalf of George Floyd’s Family
Attorney Ben Crump and co-counsel Antonio Romanucci officially filed a lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and the four former officers charged with George Floyd’s murder. The news comes on the heels of the release of police body cam footage of the killing. In the lawsuit, the attorneys for the family of George Floyd allege that the officers in question violated his Fourth Amendment right against unnecessary and unreasonable force. The takedown and knee-to-the-neck tactics of the former officers, according to the lawsuit, constitute excessive and illegal force.
National Public Radio (NPR) quotes Ben Crump: “While all of America is dealing with the public health crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, Black America has to deal with another public health pandemic of police brutality.” Calling this the “tipping point” for police brutality cases, Attorney Crump revealed to reporters that the purpose behind the lawsuit is to monetarily punish the city and its former officers.
This lawsuit will make it cost-prohibitive in the future to kill black people as wantonly and with as much disregard for human life as the charged former officers showed in this case. The exact amount of damages sought by George Floyd’s family is not explicit in the lawsuit.
Attorney Crump announced the filing of the lawsuit in a press conference, which can be seen on YouTube. In the video, Crump recalls the words written in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal, and asserts that it is time to “make the Constitution real for all Americans.”
July 30, 2020: Derek Chauvin’s Tax Charges Show Stunning Disparity in Justice
The officer who allegedly killed George Floyd over a reported counterfeit $20 bill now faces tax evasion charges totaling over $21,000. That alone could be a headline worthy of serious reflection on police overreach, systemic violence, and racism.
Yet, an even more apt depiction of the disparity in our justice system, and the lack of weight given to the lives of less wealthy Americans and people of color, has been highlighted by Forbes contributing writer Benjamin Willis. In his recent article on Derek Chauvin’s tax charges, he points out that the ex-officer, if convicted of all charges, would be up against the following maximum penalties:
- 40 years in prison for the second-degree murder of George Floyd
- 45 years in prison for nine felony counts of tax fraud
Look at those numbers again. The murder of a black man accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill is apparently worth five years less prison time than, as Mr. Willis points out, “relatively minor tax fraud.” But the ugly picture of the state of our nation’s justice system does not end there.
Many, including Mr. Willis, believe that the tax charges are being used to ensure a conviction for Derek Chauvin. It is notoriously difficult to convict a police officer for a killing that happens on their watch (even though we have body camera footage of George Floyd’s death). Sadly, the best way to see Chauvin behind bars might be to put more emphasis on his tax-related felonies.
As an even more sobering thought, remember that Chauvin’s tax charges stem from several years of alleged tax fraud and evasion. While George Floyd was killed over $20 at the scene, Chauvin has walked free for years with no repercussions. Perhaps, if Chauvin’s crime was policed as rigorously as alleged crimes committed by poorer people of color, George Floyd would be alive today.
August 3, 2020: Attorney Ben Crump Comments on Leaked Body Camera Footage
Though the body camera footage of George Floyd’s death has yet to be officially released by the judge presiding over the case, a leak allowed the Daily Mail to get video snippets. In them, Chauvin can be seen insisting that George Floyd should not be rolled onto his side to help his breathing, even as another officer mentions potential health risks. Worse, the police can be seen coming into the situation with guns drawn.
Attorney Ben Crump noted this display of violence. “The police officers approached him with guns drawn, simply because he was a Black man,” said Crump, as quoted in the Mercury News. “As this video shows, he never posed any threat.”
Attorney Ben Crump, Chief Legal Strategist William Pintas, and the rest of the team representing George Floyd’s family will continue to pursue justice for George Floyd. As the nation mourns, we have this time as Americans to reform our system so that it protects the most vulnerable and truly offers justice for all.
August 11, 2020: Body Camera Footage Released to Public
Body camera footage from the arrest and killing of George Floyd has been officially released to the public. The full video shows a “cascade of everything going wrong,” according to the New York Times. Here are additional details we now know from the video footage:
- Ex-officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck for a total of 9.5 minutes.
- George Floyd expressed fear and was in emotional distress because (he told officers) a police officer had shot him in the past.
- Ex-officer Thomas Lane produced a weapon and pointed it at Mr. Floyd within six seconds of Mr. Floyd opening his car door.
- The police did not explain the reason for stopping Mr. Floyd before aiming a gun at him and shouting expletives.
These details are alarming and show just how deep the injustice of Mr. Floyd’s death runs. Additionally, even the paramedics who arrived on the scene long after Mr. Floyd had lost consciousness, and possibly a pulse, did not cover themselves in glory.
They waited three minutes and performed four more pulse checks before starting chest compressions on Mr. Floyd. This is an intolerable mistake that shows the flippancy with which black lives, and specifically low-income black lives, are treated by those in positions of power.
August 11, 2020: Attorney Ben Crump Files Lawsuit Over the Arrest of a Florida Boy
The narrative has long been that police killings and mistreatment of black adults happen because officers “fear for their lives.” Though this in itself shows inherent, systemic racism, the propensity toward disproportionate violence against people of color runs even deeper. Such is the case in the arrest of an eight-year-old Florida student whose family attorney Ben Crump recently filed a lawsuit against law enforcement and the school district.
The child, who has been diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses including anxiety, depression, ADHD, and severe Oppositional Defiant Disorder, was placed in the classroom of a substitute teacher who was unaware of his Individualized Education Plan. Nor did the teacher have the proper training to interact with him, according to Ben Crump and his legal team.
When the boy would not sit in the manner requested by the teacher, she attempted to manipulate him and physically move him to a new seat. After he told her not to touch him, and the teacher did not relent, the boy punched his substitute teacher in the chest.
A child lashing out is not unheard of, but the response to this situation was alarming. According to USA Today, the school called the police, who showed up in the classroom, attempted to handcuff the child, and took him to the station. He was charged with felony battery, told that he had made a serious mistake, and had his mugshot, fingerprints, and DNA taken before being locked in a jail cell for several minutes.
Though charges were dismissed after the boy underwent counseling, significant trauma was undoubtedly done to the child. The local police department said that “standard operating procedures were followed,” and the officers did nothing wrong.
August 18, 2020: Officer’s Attorney Accuses George Floyd
With the latest release of officers’ body camera footage in the George Floyd case comes new challenges from defense attorneys. The attorney for charged ex-officer Thomas Lane points to the disappearance of “a white spot” on Mr. Floyd’s tongue as evidence that he swallowed a synthetic opioid called fentanyl. According to Fox 5 Atlanta, attorney Earl Gray suggests that the white spot was a 2 milligram tablet of the drug, which would have been enough to cause a lethal overdose.
George Floyd’s autopsy was conducted by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. It is true that evidence of fentanyl and methamphetamine use was found in Mr. Floyd’s system. Yet it is difficult to imagine that a defense attorney can tell the exact dosage of a drug (or even identify that there was a tablet in Mr. Floyd’s mouth) based on a brief image in a body camera video.
Attorney Gray’s argument is that Mr. Floyd “contributed to his own death” by consuming drugs and refusing to follow officers’ orders. Yet the body camera footage shows anything but a dangerous man. Mr. Floyd appears scared throughout the footage, crying and begging (ex-)officer Lane not to shoot him because he had been shot by a police officer in the past.
It also shows Mr. Floyd warning officers about his medical conditions, including claustrophobia. In the video, he appears to be a traumatized man, further exacerbated by Lane brandishing a firearm at him within seconds of tapping on his window. It is entirely reasonable for a person to break down in fear at the sight of a gun when he has been shot in the past in similar situations.
Further, this latest argument from Lane’s attorney showcases a deeper problem with the way we think about police violence in this country. Even if Mr. Floyd did swallow a tablet of an unspecified drug at the scene, is that enough to warrant a death sentence? Wouldn’t a knee placed on the neck of a person who had not swallowed a drug also cut off the airway? Why is the first option to use excessive, lethal force against a person? After all, isn’t the whole raison d’être of the police to “protect and serve?” Or is that merely for a portion of the populace, and not for lower-income people and communities of color?
The legacy of George Floyd is the push for justice and equality for all citizens of this nation. Attorney Ben Crump and his legal team will continue to fight for these ideals even amidst accusations meant to distract from the key elements of this case.
August 23, 2020: The Shooting of Jacob Blake
In a year filled with racial tension and significant protests over police violence and brutality (particularly against people of color), more fuel has been added to the fire this summer.
On Sunday, August 23, 2020, Kenosha, WI man Jacob Blake intervened in a street argument between various parties. According to witnesses, he arrived in an SUV and attempted to break up the disagreement. When police arrived on the scene, video footage shows Blake being tackled by police. Later, he frees himself and begins walking toward his SUV with officers in pursuit, guns drawn.
Sadly, the incident ended with Mr. Blake being shot seven times in the back while lying across his vehicle’s front seat. His three children were in the rear of the SUV, screaming as Kenosha police officers shot their father (it bears repeating) in the back.
Attorney Ben Crump has taken up the representation of Blake’s family, who report that Jacob Blake is currently alive but paralyzed below the waist. Doctors are unsure whether the paralysis is permanent or temporary, according to ABC News. Ben Crump summarized the situation like this: “[Blake was] simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident.”
The shooting has sparked further outrage, protests, and debate. Kenosha police union president, Pete Deates, called statements from public officials condemning the shooting “wholly irresponsible” and pointed to “intricacies” of the incident that were not caught on camera. The video does show Mr. Blake disobeying officers’ orders and walking toward his vehicle. While there is no evidence that a weapon was either in the vehicle or on Mr. Blake’s person, it is possible that the police feared he was trying to produce a gun.
Questions remain. First, should walking away from a police officer be a death sentence? As many protestors have pointed out, police aren’t supposed to shoot “guilty” people either. Second, why do incidents of non-black people disobeying police orders usually not end in shootings? If the officers feared Mr. Blake was retrieving a weapon, why did they not use a taser or other non-lethal techniques? Finally, why were their guns drawn when Mr. Blake was unarmed?
In the coming days, some of these questions may be answered. However, deeper issues remain at the heart of this country’s police procedures that require a significant overhaul. As Karissa Lewis, national field director of the Movement for Black Lives, opined, “There’s no amount of training or reform that can teach a police officer that it’s wrong to shoot a Black man in the back seven times while his children watch.”
August 28, 2020: Ex-Officer Asks Judge to Dismiss Charges
The past week has shown the fundamentally irreconcilable ways in which the accused ex-police officers and the prosecutors of George Floyd’s murder case see the facts. In a sense, it is a microcosm of the larger divide across the nation, as protestors for the sanctity of black lives clash with those who treat accused vigilante murderer Kyle Rittenhouse as a hero.
Attorneys for Derek Chauvin, the former officer whose knee remained on George Floyd’s neck until Mr. Floyd was dead, asked the court to dismiss all charges against him because “there is no probable cause” to support the accusations, according to CNN.
The other ex-officers have also filed motions to dismiss. This comes after the body camera footage of Mr. Floyd’s murder was released, showing the act and eyewitnesses begging the police to check Mr. Floyd for a pulse. No probable cause? The alleged murder is on video.
On the other side of the matter, the prosecution has indicated that it will seek upward sentencing departures for all officers involved. This, they say, is because the nature of George Floyd’s killing is heinous enough to warrant increased punishment. According to the prosecution, Mr. Floyd was treated “with particular cruelty.”
The judge has not ruled on any motions to dismiss.
August 28, 2020: Attorney Ben Crump Remarks on Jacob Blake’s Treatment
Last Friday, attorney Ben Crump gave an official statement on the treatment of Jacob Blake. The Kenosha, WI man was shot seven times in the back in front of his children. He was then hospitalized and pronounced paralyzed (whether this is permanent or temporary paralysis is yet to be seen). Despite his paralysis, Mr. Blake was handcuffed to the hospital bed by his arms and legs.
Allegedly, the handcuffing was due to outstanding warrants for Mr. Blake’s arrest. However, the warrants have been vacated.
Attorney Ben Crump addressed reporters. “Fortunately, a man who is paralyzed and fighting for his life after being shot seven times in the back, will no longer have to deal with the pain of having his ankles and wrist shackled and the traumatic stress of being under armed guard.”
September 8, 2020: Ex-Officers File Motion to Separate Trials
In late August, the prosecution in the George Floyd murder case filed a motion to combine the trials of all four officers involved in killing Mr. Floyd. As of Sept. 8, all four ex-officers and their defense attorneys have officially opposed their trials’ joinder.
Fox 9 reports that attorneys for Thomas Lane argued that if the cases were joined, he would not receive a fair trial and that the jury would be inherently prejudiced against him. This, his attorney stated, is because the ex-officers have different and competing defense strategies, and “all officers have a different version of what happened and officers place blame on one another.”
Echoing this sentiment, the attorney for J. Alexander Keung stated that “just because all four of the individuals charged in this case are police officers does not mean that the officers were acting in concert.” However, the body camera footage seems to suggest that the accused all arrived at the scene together, as part of the same police department.
They treated George Floyd’s reticence to follow Lane’s commands as an affront to their collective authority and took orders from the senior officer on the scene, Derek Chauvin. It may seem odd to some Americans that the officers who allegedly acted in concert to end a man’s life declined to be tried together for those actions.
The State argued that the cases ought to be tried together for several reasons — the foremost reason is to ensure a speedy trial. Having the cases separated when they all relate to the same incident would place an undue burden on prosecutors, state prosecutors said.
Additionally, and perhaps more crucially, having separate trials may represent real psychological and emotional harm for the family and friends of George Floyd. According to the State, conjoined proceedings will protect the survivors from enduring the reopening of emotional wounds again and again.
Furthermore, the defendants have all filed requests to move their trials outside of Hennepin County. The next court date is set for Sept. 11. No ruling has been issued on these motions at this time.
The defendants have all filed requests to move their trials outside of Hennepin County as well. The next court date is set for September 11th. No ruling has been issued on these motions at this time.
September 11, 2020: George Floyd Murder Trial Motions Hearing
On Friday, September 11, the court opened for a motions hearing in the George Floyd murder trial. Defense attorneys for the ex-officers accused of the killing argued several points, including calls for the trial to be moved to a new county and split up so that each defendant’s case can be heard separately.
As reported in the New York Times, Derek Chauvin’s attorney has begun to build a defense that pins the blame on the other ex-officers accused (specifically, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane). These two ex-officers were the first to arrive on the scene, both relatively inexperienced compared to Chauvin.
Chauvin’s lawyer said that they should have de-escalated the situation before Chauvin arrived, and he would not have had to resort to the neck restraint that kept George Floyd from breathing. This argument comes as more evidence of Chauvin’s past, extensive use of this dangerous technique has arisen. The neck restraint has been banned by Minneapolis police departments and others around the country in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s murder.
The court also disqualified several prosecutors from taking on the case, including the county attorney. According to MPR News, the ruling was issued following revelations that the prosecutors met privately with the county’s medical examiner to discuss George Floyd’s autopsy results.
It appears that at least some of the prosecutors will appeal the decision, as county attorney Mike Freeman claimed the meeting was “completely routine” and said that the ruling “would make it nearly impossible for prosecutors to obtain, understand, and introduce evidence in a case.”
September 15, 2020: Historic Settlement for the Family of Breonna Taylor
Six months after the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, in her own home, by police in Louisville, KY, her family has some form of closure. Though the officers who shot her still have not been charged, the legal team led by Ben Crump reached a settlement deal with the city for $12 million in compensation.
Attorney Crump addressed the media on September 15, calling the settlement “historic.” He informed the media that this is the highest settlement paid for a Black woman’s wrongful death caused by the police.
He mentioned that it is possibly the highest amount of compensation awarded for the shooting of any Black person, regardless of gender (though he and his firm are still looking into this statistic).
Twelve million dollars will not bring back Breonna Taylor, and it will not fill the gap left behind in her family’s hearts. It is not a statement of Breonna Taylor’s worth, which, like every person wrongfully killed by a police officer, is priceless and irreplaceable. However, the settlement and its historic context show that many across the nation are finally starting to take the overreach of police and police brutality. Real, systemic change is, hopefully, close behind.
September 22, 2020: Wisconsin AG Nears End of Jacob Blake Case Probe
Jacob Blake, a Black man, shot in the back by police no fewer than seven times while in his vehicle’s front seat, is now paralyzed from the waist down. There is no indication as to whether he will regain full mobility at a later date.
There has been much controversy and speculation surrounding Mr. Blake’s shooting, with police department representatives claiming that he was reaching for a weapon (which was never found). On the other hand, attorney Ben Crump represents Mr. Blake and has said that Mr. Blake was simply trying to de-escalate a domestic disturbance when police arrived on the scene, tased him, and finally shot him in front of his children.
According to ABC News, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul announced that the initial probe into the shooting is nearing completion. Noble Wray, the Madison Police Chief, will further analyze the report before charges are filed.
September 23, 2020: Ben Crump Takes On Trevonyae Cumpian Case
Late last month, hotel employee Trevonyae Cumpian, 28, was held at gunpoint by Tempe police officer Ronald Kerzaya. The officer was reportedly on the lookout for an armed white suspect in a black shirt and tan pants. Cumpian, who is Black, was in his hotel employee uniform when he was held at gunpoint by Kerzaya, who demanded confirmation that Cumpian worked at the hotel before lowering his weapon. All this even though Cumpian did not resemble the suspect description, according to AZ Central.
One incident might be a simple misunderstanding, but Officer Kerzaya allegedly has a history of hyper-aggression against Black men. In 2019, he was at the center of a controversy involving Ivaughan Oakry, whom he shot with a Taser while the latter was in his own home holding his one-year-old child. To further exacerbate the situation, the police department initially resisted giving Kerzaya’s proper name and badge number in an apparent attempt to prevent Cumpian from learning about the officer’s previous actions against Oakry.
Represented by attorneys Ben Crump and Heather Hamel, Cumpian has filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against Tempe to cover the emotional distress he endured and future expenses for therapy. In an era of civil unrest, it is frankly absurd that Black men and women civilians are expected to de-escalate situations or risk being shot. At the same time, police (trained in de-escalation) act in hyper-aggressive ways with barely a slap on the wrist.
September 25, 2020: George Floyd Defendants Present New Arguments for Separate Trials
Last Friday, defense attorneys for all four defendants in the George Floyd murder trial were presented with new evidence by state prosecutors. This new evidence, as reported by FOX9, delves into the background of each defendant, specifically showing that certain officers engaged in misconduct in previous incidents.
For example, evidence presented by prosecutors includes previous incidents of excessive force by Derek Chauvin, prior misconduct reported by Tou Thao’s field training officer regarding attempts not to file proper reports, and files showing that J. Alexander Keung knew the proper way to restrain detainees.
Attorneys for the four defendants have said that the prosecution’s intentions to use individual background information as evidence necessitates separating the cases. However, the court 90 days from September 11, 2020 (when the initial objections to a joint trial were officially filed) before deciding how the trial will move forward.
September 28, 2020: Police Body Camera Technology Being Re-Evaluated
In the wake of high-profile cases like the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the body camera industry has started to reposition itself. CNN reports that leading market experts estimate an increase in the value of the collective body camera industry from $443 million in 2018 to over $1.5 billion by 2025. Importantly, though, this isn’t just a reflection of increasing numbers of police forces using body camera technology, but an improvement in the way that body cameras work.
Leading body camera manufacturer Axon has released a new line of cameras designed to present incidents like Breonna Taylor’s death (in which the officers who were wearing body cameras did not activate them). Now, the company says that an officer’s body camera will automatically turn on and begin recording when the officer draws a Taser or firearm. Additionally, the body camera streams to supervising officers in real-time, allowing them to make in-moment decisions and commands in the hopes of de-escalating the situation.
October 7, 2020: Derek Chauvin, Accused Murderer, Released on Bail
The police officer accused of murdering George Floyd by kneeling on the latter’s neck for nearly nine minutes has posted bail, according to AP News sources. Chauvin was able to post a $1 million bond, or 10% of the total bond, in accordance with Minnesota law. It is unclear where Chauvin got the required $100,000, though a spokesperson for the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said that none of the money came from the organization’s legal defense fund.
Conditions of Derek Chauvin’s bail include restrictions on his ability to own or possess firearms, as well as work in law enforcement or security capacities. He must refrain from having any contact whatsoever with members of George Floyd’s family. He is also unable to leave the state without explicit permission.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci spoke out about the bail arrangement, noting that Mr. Floyd’s family is not happy. According to the attorneys, this is another piece of evidence, a “painful reminder,” that Mr. Floyd’s family must await true justice yet to come.
October 14, 2020: Attorney Ben Crump Celebrates George Floyd’s Birthday with a Call to Action
Today would have been George Floyd’s 47th birthday, had he not been summarily executed by police. In honor of Mr. Floyd, attorney Ben Crump took to Twitter to encourage Americans to take action against institutionalized racism by:
- Making a voting plan
- Writing or calling senators in support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is proposed legislation that seeks to counteract and prune away discriminatory practices in policing nationwide. It also would increase the ability of prosecutors to hold police accountable for misdeeds and would address issues of transparency within police departments.
October 16, 2020: Judge Allows Previous George Floyd Arrest Video to Be Made Public
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill has ruled that video of George Floyd’s prior arrest in May 2019 can be made public despite protestations from the prosecution. In the judge’s ruling he noted that the video makes clear what has been known by the public for nearly the entirety of the George Floyd murder trial: namely, that Mr. Floyd had been arrested before.
According to National Public Radio, the prosecution asked for a 48-hour seal to be placed on the video to give both sides time to consider the implications of releasing it. However, the judge rejected this motion. The video reportedly shows that in his prior arrest, Mr. Floyd initially did not adhere to the officer’s commands. In the end, he and another individual did comply, leading to a relatively peaceful arrest.
The release of the video to the public merely represents the latest attempt to smear George Floyd and paint him as someone worthy of being killed over $20. Yes, he had run-ins with police in the past. But what the video actually shows is that he was willing to obey commands from police officers and place himself in their custody. In stark contrast to what the defense seems to think the video implies, it actually shows that, without the violent reaction of an officer like Derek Chauvin, Mr. Floyd would still be alive today.
Local news outlet CBS Minnesota reports that the video will not be allowed at trial, regardless of the decision to release it publicly.
October 20, 2020: Ben Crump Renews Call for New Breonna Taylor Trial
Revolt.tv reports on attorney Ben Crump’s latest push for justice in the Breonna Taylor case. Recently, an anonymous member of the grand jury in her trial spoke out against Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron via an attorney. The juror claimed that the members of the grand jury did not think that certain actions of the police were justified, but they were not presented with the option of bringing murder charges against the officers involved.
Attorney Ben Crump summed up this bombshell news: “[Daniel Cameron] didn’t allow the grand jury to do what the law says they have the right to do.” He added that the anonymous juror’s account gives credence to what Breonna Taylor’s legal team had already suspected. Hopefully, justice will ultimately prevail in this case, and a new grand jury trial will take place.
October 22, 2020: Third-Degree Murder Charges Against Derek Chauvin Dropped
In what some have seen as a minor setback in the George Floyd murder trial, Judge Peter Cahill of the Hennepin County District Court has officially dismissed third-degree murder charges against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. However, National Public Radio (NPR) explains the reason behind the move. Third-degree murder requires there to be probable cause that the offender’s actions put people other than the alleged victim at risk of harm. State prosecutors, the judge found, were not able to provide evidence that this was the case in the death of George Floyd.
However, the dismissal does not mean that Chauvin will not face trial. He still faces the more serious charge of second-degree murder. In total, the judge preserved eight of nine charges. Attorney Ben Crump took to Twitter to voice his confidence.
“… we’re gratified the court preserved 8 of 9 charges,” Attorney Crump wrote. “[Including] the more serious 2nd-degree murder charge for which we expect a conviction.”
Additionally, the other defendants in the case all presented motions to have their “aiding and abetting” charges dropped. Their attorneys cited a lack of probable cause for the charges. However, Judge Peter Cahill upheld the charges as they are. Though the main headline that grabs the attention of many will be that the third-degree murder charges against Chauvin were dropped, the true picture here is that the judge upheld eight of the nine charges against the former officers.
As of October 22, 2020, Judge Peter Cahill has still not ruled on the issue of whether the defendants will be tried separately or jointly. The latter is favored by the prosecution, while attorneys for the defense argue that they should all receive their own trials.
October 25, 2020: Ben Crump Pursues Racial Justice in the Javier Ambler II Case
Javier Ambler II, a black man, was killed in the custody of Texas’ Williamson County Sheriff’s office. Reportedly, he was chased by police after “failing to dim his headlights,” according to the Statesman. A Taser was used on Mr. Ambler a total of four times, and deputies (adhering to department policy) continued to use force on him even while he complained that he could not breathe. In the 28-page lawsuit filed against Williamson County, the family of Javier Ambler II also mention that the reality television show “Live PD,” which has since been canceled, had footage of the incident. This footage was subsequently destroyed, and Sheriff Robert Chody has been indicted on evidence tampering charges related to this destruction.
It is evident that Chody, as well as the department as a whole, encouraged a confrontational attitude and aggressive behavior among deputies in order to foster better TV ratings. Attorney Ben Crump has taken on the case, bringing it national attention. He summarized the push for justice this way: “Sheriff Chody and his deputies made it a greater priority to create reality television than to defend and protect…”
October 30, 2020: Attorney Ben Crump Joins a March to the Polls in North Carolina
As the days count down to election night, attorney Ben Crump has joined several marches and gatherings urging people to use their votes to promote racial and social justice. In addition to a march in Tennessee that also featured Dr. Jill Biden, he also took to the streets in his native North Carolina with a march to the polls in Greensboro, according to the Greensboro News & Record.
Addressing the gathered crowd, attorney Crump remarked that “our children’s future is on the ballot.” He also brought attention to the growing push for justice in cases like the shootings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tamir Rice. “If you want to know why we’ve got to vote like our children’s lives depend on it, you go watch that video of Tamir Rice because Tamir Rice’s blood is on the ballot,” he said.
The 2020 election cycle comes on the heels of months of protest over the death of George Floyd and other murders of unarmed black men and women. No matter the results in early November, society finally seems ready to push for significant criminal justice reform.
November 2, 2020: Ahmaud Arbery Murder Suspect Desires Bail
Ahmaud Arbery was a black man jogging in a Georgia neighborhood who was followed, approached confrontationally with a shotgun, and subsequently murdered. His death sparked outrage across the nation, especially as it took several months for charges to be filed against the three people present at the scene: Gregory and Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan. From footage captured on Bryan’s cell phone, it is clear that a shotgun blast from Travis McMichael’s gun is what killed Mr. Arbery. Gregory McMichael was also armed at the time with a handgun that he brandished but apparently did not fire, while Bryan had no firearm but instead tried to corner or “cut off” Mr. Arbery’s jogging route so that the trio could confront him.
Now, Bryan cites the release (on bail) of officers in the Breonna Taylor and George Floyd murder cases as evidence that his continued jailing while awaiting trial is “manifestly unjust,” according to the New York Post. Perhaps it is unjust that those officers who used their positions of power to kill unarmed black people have been released. That is not for us to decide, as the court has already made its decision. However, let us consider a few things that are even more “manifestly unjust” — pursuing a jogger while armed because he is a black man who scares you; scaring him by cutting off his route, showing him your weapons, and telling him to come talk to you; shooting the man when he understandably panics, murdering him and ending a young 25-year-old’s promising life; appointing yourself judge, jury, and executioner over a man who did nothing wrong—all based on the color of his skin.
These things are manifestly unjust. These actions require a response. Luckily, the courts seem to agree. Bryan was previously denied bail in July.
November 5, 2020: Judge Rules on Trial — Defendants Will Be Tried Together
After months of motions from defense attorneys to get the four ex-officers accused in the George Floyd murder case tried separately, Judge Peter Cahill of Hennepin County in Minnesota has ruled to strike down these motions. The defendants will all be tried jointly during one trial, rather than having four separate jury trials, as announced by NPR. Judge Cahill’s decision was lauded by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison:
“The rulings today represent another significant step forward in the pursuit of justice for George Floyd and for our community,” he said. In addition to announcing a single trial, Judge Cahill also ruled that the trial will take place in Minneapolis where the murder occurred. The Court will also allow live-streaming and media services to take place during the trial.
Part of Judge Cahill’s reasoning is that four separate trials would necessitate four separate juries. Additionally, the results of a first trial, which would be publicized, would increase the difficulty of finding an unbiased, impartial jury selection for subsequent trials.
Attorney Ben Crump released a statement about the judge’s ruling, which was later reported in the Star Tribune: “We never see Black defendants get a change of venue to increase the fairness of their trials,” Crump said. “The White officers involved in the death of George Floyd should rightly face a jury of their peers in the city where this tragedy took place.”
Other Rulings on Jury Issues
Judge Cahill’s court orders also address some of the reasons why defense attorneys wanted separate trials: namely, the safety of both the defendants and the jury. Some of the key changes made for this case include:
- There will be four alternate jurors, rather than the usual one.
- Jurors will be sequestered during the deliberation period.
- The public will not be made aware of the jurors’ identities until the trial is over, lowering the risk of harm or threats.
As the case moves forward, we are hopeful that the family of George Floyd will see justice served on the officers who so callously took his life. We are happy that this grieving family will only have to endure a single trial rather than four, and that the judge has not made special allowances simply because the defendants are former law enforcement officers.
May justice prevail.
November 17, 2020: Attorney Ben Crump Takes on Florida Police Violence Case
As reported in Statesville’s Record and Landmark, attorney Ben Crump has taken on yet another civil rights case involving police violence. The families of two Florida teens, A. J. Crooms and Sincere Pierce, have brought attorney Crump into the case to represent both of them. Their sons, aged 14 and 18, respectively, were killed by police officers after reportedly fleeing from a traffic stop.
This presents the question: is lethal force truly necessary when the alleged crime is merely a routine traffic stop? Of course, it is not advisable to flee from the police. But as young black men, understandably scared for their lives when in the presence of police officers, is running away from an officer an excuse for the police to become judge, jury, and executioner?
Details of the incident have not yet been released to the public, though the officer involved in the fatal shooting of the two teenagers has been placed on paid administrative leave. Still, it is difficult to imagine that two teen boys could have made an officer with a lethal weapon fear for his life more than the officer made them afraid. As a fierce advocate for justice, Ben Crump is dedicated to securing closure for the families of these two young men.
November 18, 2020: Prosecutors in the George Floyd Murder Trial Move to Submit Footage of Previous Excessive Force Used by Derek Chauvin
Ex-officer Derek Chauvin, charged with the murder of George Floyd, has a history of using excessive force. In 2017, he reportedly grabbed a non-compliant 14-year-old boy by the throat, threw him to the ground, and placed his knee on the child’s back. According to descriptions reported by the Guardian, Chauvin ignored the teenager’s pleas that he could not breathe in much the same way as he did in the George Floyd case. Prosecutors believe this shows a pattern of aggressive, overly forceful policing from Chauvin, though his attorneys claim that his actions were in line with department policy at the time.
The defense’s rebuttal of the motion to use these recordings as evidence highlights the serious police violence problem in many American cities. Surely a 14-year-old child, no matter how belligerent, does not require a chokehold, being thrown to the ground, and having a knee pressed into their back until they have difficulty breathing. Is that the kind of action we want our police taking? Is that truly “protecting and serving” the community?
Judge Peter Cahill has yet to rule on whether this footage will be allowed as evidence in the murder trial.
November 25, 2020: Reflecting on Six Months Since George Floyd’s Death
As attorney Ben Crump tweeted, today marks a half-year since the brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police officers who were supposed to protect and serve. Amid all the difficulties that have been thrown at the American people this year, including coronavirus and a contested election cycle, among other things, many of us have been spurred toward a drive for racial and social justice since Mr. Floyd’s death. His legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of all those who continue to be outspoken for fair and equal treatment and better standards on policing.
In honor of Mr. Floyd, his family and attorney Ben Crump have pushed for police reform through the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Currently, the proposed legislation has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is scheduled to be considered in the Senate.
On this six-month mark since George Floyd’s murder, it is appropriate to revisit what the proposed law that bears his name entails. Some of the key changes the bill seeks to make include:
- Creating a National Police Misconduct Registry in which to store complaints regarding officer behavior
- Lowering the federal prosecution criminal standard of police misconduct from “willful” acts to acts that were “knowing or reckless”
- Enforcing mandatory body cameras for police officers
- Establishing federal, state, and local protocols to reduce and eliminate racial profiling
- Limiting the ability of police officers to use qualified immunity defenses in private civil actions
These steps pave the way for a safer environment for black Americans, and for all Americans, by holding police officers more accountable for their actions. For too long, the power dynamic inherent in policing has been ignored by the law. An officer can shoot first and ask questions later because they “felt threatened,” but the fear apparent in George Floyd’s face is used as justification for his death. “He should have complied sooner” comes the response of some. Why not “the police, who had all the power in this situation, should have de-escalated matters?”
As tragic and senseless as the murder of George Floyd was, we hope that the legislation that bears his name will soon pass in the Senate. Regardless, our commitment to justice as a people must never cease and must always pay homage to our fallen brothers and sisters, like George Floyd.
If you would like to add your voice to the push for justice, click on the link to attorney Ben Crump’s tweet above. There, you can sign the petition and show support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
November 26, 2020: A Look at Minneapolis Police Reform
In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death, we have seen a push for police reform across the nation. Spearheaded by protests and court orders in Minneapolis, the movement for better policing has been at the forefront of policy discussion throughout the United States and beyond. A report by the Star Tribune catalogued some of the changes being made now and for 2021. These include:
- 10 counseling sessions for the mental health of police officers
- Development of a civilian mental health response team
- Early discussions of a warning system to flag police officers’ problematic behavior
- A more extensive review of body camera footage
- Ban of chokeholds
- More limited crowd control authorization protocols
Still, there is a long way to go before healing for the city (and the country at large) can truly begin. Communities United Against Police Brutality leader Michelle Gross expressed frustration at the lack of progress. Though the push for police reform was more intense than anything else she has seen in her 30 years of activism, she said, the actual process of reform is taking much longer than anticipated. Gross called the seeming stalemate on legal reviews and official adoption of these strategies “a disappointing revelation.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey agreed, stating that he also hopes for a speedier reform process in the future. However, the city is still divided on the right path forward, with only 40% agreeing with the City Council’s decision to lower police staffing levels. In the midst of the uncertainty, many councilmembers are urging the public to keep the faith and continue to support anti-violence initiatives.
December 1, 2020: Prosecutors in George Floyd Murder Trial Ask Judge to Reconsider Trial Recordings
In a somewhat shocking turn of events, the state prosecutors in the George Floyd murder trial have asked the Hennepin County District Court to reconsider earlier decisions to allow audio and video recordings at trial. CBS Minnesota reports that the State’s main argument is that unilateral approval of recording at trial may upset the balance of opinion in the courtroom. Additionally, the prosecutors state that they did not officially consent to recordings, which is required by the Minnesota General Rules of Practice.
At the very least, the prosecution would like the court to allow witnesses the chance to opt out of audio or video recordings when giving testimony. The Hennepin County District Court has yet to rule on this new motion. The trial of Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Keung, and Tou Thao for the death of George Floyd is set to begin in March 2021.
January 7, 2021: Ben Crump Speaks Out About Lack of Charges in Jacob Blake Case
In August of 2020, Jacob Blake was involved in a domestic dispute, and police arrived on the scene. After Mr. Blake returned to his vehicle, an officer shot him seven times in the back, leaving Blake unable to walk. Now, according to CBS News, the Kenosha, Wisconsin district attorney has decided not to file charges against the police officer who shot Blake. At its heart, the matter is about whether or not Blake was reaching for a knife at the time. The police say yes; Blake’s family says no.
However, as Blake family attorney Ben Crump noted in an interview, there is a sharp disconnect between the way black people like Mr. Blake are treated and the way white suspects are treated. Take, for example, white teenager Kyle Rittenhouse. After murdering several protesters, he was allowed to walk past police officers without harm in the summer of 2020. This treatment is starkly contrasted with that of Mr. Blake, who may have had a knife near him when he was shot seven times with his back to the police. There is no justification for this.
Ben Crump announced that the Blake family plans to file a lawsuit for excessive use of force under the §1983 civil rights laws to seek justice for Mr. Blake. Deciding not to charge the officer in question, he said, “does nothing to help this issue of mistrust” that is at the heart of the protests that swept the nation after George Floyd’s murder.
January 12, 2021: George Floyd’s Accused Murderer to Be Tried Alone
Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin will be tried separately from the other three defendants in the George Floyd murder case. District Court Judge Peter Cahill cited several reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic as the cause for making this change. According to the judge, the courtroom in which the trials are set to occur is not large enough to comply with the state’s COVID-19 regulations.
This decision comes as a minor blow to the prosecution, who was hoping to try all four defendants at once. “The evidence against each defendant is similar and multiple trials may retraumatize eyewitnesses and family members and unnecessarily burden the State and the Court while also running the risk of prejudicing subsequent jury pools,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, according to National Public Radio (NPR) reports. For that reason, he said, “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision to sever three of the defendants from the other.”
The time of the (now two) trials has also shifted. While Chauvin is set to begin trial in March of this year, the other three defendants have had their trial dates pushed back beyond the original June scheduling. This, according to Judge Peter Cahill, is because of concerns over the coronavirus vaccine rollout and the large number of people expected to attend the trial.
Regardless of when and how the trials occur, there is hope for justice. Attorney General Ellison stressed that the prosecution is looking forward to bringing the defendants to trial “whenever the Court deems fit.”
February 2, 2021: New Accounts Shed Light on Abusive Behavior of Derek Chauvin
Several people have come forward in recent weeks with stories of abuse at the hands of Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with murdering George Floyd. In his over 20 years on the police force, Chauvin reportedly had 19 complaints filed against him.
Among the new accounts is that of Zoya Code. Her story matches many of the details of Mr. Floyd’s murder, such as:
- She was detained on the ground.
- Chauvin kept his knee on her, making breathing difficult.
- He ignored her pleas to stop.
- When she became frustrated and told him to push harder, he did.
If the point was merely about keeping an accused person “under control,” surely there is no need to push harder. Increasing the pressure seems, to most rational observers, evidential that the point was to inflict pain and humiliation, as well as to assert dominance.
More instances of egotistical, abusive, and harmful behavior on Chauvin’s part were revealed by the New York Times. He reportedly knelt on Ms. Code’s neck even though she offered no resistance or physical threat. Then, he told his partner to restrain her legs. All this was done despite Ms. Code being handcuffed and on the ground at the time.
Prosecutors seek to include Ms. Code’s account, as well as those of five others, in the George Floyd murder trial.
February 4, 2021: State Prosecutors Seek Reinstatement of Third-Degree Murder Charges
When charges were initially filed against the former officers who killed George Floyd, the charge of third-degree murder was included. However, the court removed the charge after finding that the details of the situation did not mirror the charges’ requirements. Namely, District Court Judge Peter Cahill cited the lack of endangerment to someone other than Mr. Floyd precluded a charge in the third degree.
However, new rulings from an Appeals Court in the Mohamed Noor trial have potentially changed matters. According to KARE 11, prosecutors seek to reinstate third-degree murder charges for Derek Chauvin, as well as the other former officers charged in the George Floyd murder case. Though the appeals process for Noor has not yet concluded, prosecutors in this case are seeking to make this ruling precedential.
March 1, 2021: Court Will Rule on Third-Degree Murder Charges “Soon”
Prosecutors continue to push for the reinstatement of third-degree murder charges for Derek Chauvin, according to the Star Tribune. At issue are the following elements:
- Whether Chauvin’s actions were “eminently dangerous”
- Whether Chauvin’s actions demonstrate “a depraved mind”
- Whether the conviction of former officer Mohamed Noor for third-degree murder should be considered a precedent
Signs point toward the prosecution winning this battle, as judges at the hearing found flaws in the arguments of Chauvin’s attorney. Judge Michelle Larkin assured the court that a ruling is imminent, given that the trial for the murder of George Floyd is set to start in a week. If these additional charges are added, the defense may push for a later trial date in order to prepare.
March 2, 2021: New Court Ruling Limits Floyd Family’s Presence at Trial
In a disappointing ruling from Judge Peter Cahill, the court has decided to allow only one member of George Floyd’s family to be present at the trial of Derek Chauvin. Attorney Ben Crump tweeted about the ruling, saying that it capped a “deeply painful and emotional year,” but the family awaited the trial as a “critical milestone on the path to justice and a step toward closure.”
The reasoning behind Judge Cahill’s decision seems to be the worry over the spread of COVID-19. The courtroom was recently renovated to help assuage these fears, but limiting the number of people inside can also help. It should be noted that Derek Chauvin’s family also is only allowed one member at a time inside the courtroom.
March 9, 2021: Jury Selection Begins for Ex-Officer Derek Chauvin’s Trial
The trial for the murder of George Floyd began in earnest Tuesday, March 9th, with official jury selection. Both the prosecution and defense attorneys asked questions of potential jurors and were able to approve or move to exclude candidates.
National Public Radio (NPR) reports some minor controversy between the two sides as prosecutors questioned some of the defense’s objections. After the defense rejected two potential jurors who were Hispanic, the prosecution challenged whether those rejections were based on sound reasoning or on race.
However, Judge Peter Cahill ruled that both objections would stand. The first candidate was a woman who spoke English as a second language and needed assistance to fill out the juror questionnaire. She expressed her own worries over whether she would be able to follow the trial appropriately.
The second candidate’s background in martial arts, the judge ruled, might prejudice him regarding Chauvin’s use of a knee to restrain Mr. Floyd. That candidate had referred to Chauvin’s move as “illegal.”
A man known as Juror #2 was the first candidate selected for the jury. A chemist, he said that he had visited the site of George Floyd’s death but was willing and able to keep an “open mind” as evidence is presented in the case.
Attorneys on both sides of the aisle await word from higher courts on a separate case that may delay the trial. That appeal’s verdict may decide whether Derek Chauvin can be charged with third-degree murder alongside his current charges.
March 12, 2021: Floyd Family Receives a Record Settlement
Shortly after George Floyd was killed, attorney Ben Crump made this statement: “With this lawsuit, we seek to set a precedent that makes it financially prohibitive for police to wrongfully kill marginalized people — especially Black people — in the future.” Today, his words ring true.
The Floyd family has been awarded a record $27 million settlement from the city of Minneapolis. According to the Star Tribune, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted to award the settlement amount after 40 minutes in a private meeting.
The mayor’s office has intimated that Mayor Jacob Frey will approve the settlement, as well. This marks the city’s largest settlement for police misconduct, at $7 million more than the previous record. $500,000 of the money will go toward the community near the spot of George Floyd’s death, at the corner of 38th and Chicago.
Attorney Crump lauded the city for having the courage to award the “largest pre-trial settlement in a civil rights wrongful death case in U.S. history.” He also offered this final thought on the death of George Floyd:
“History will judge us for how we responded to this tragedy.”
March 11, 2021: Judge Cahill Reinstates Third-Degree Murder Charge
The charge of third-degree murder in the trial of Derek Chauvin has been a continual battle between prosecutors and defense attorneys. The letter of the law in Minnesota seems to suggest that such a charge should only be instituted when the alleged offender (in this case, Chauvin) puts people other than the deceased at risk.
However, National Public Radio (NPR) reports that Judge Peter Cahill has decided to reinstate the charge upon reflection of a recent Court of Appeals ruling. That ruling, which allowed the same charge in another officer-involved killing, seems to have set a precedent for future Minnesota courts as well.
March 15, 2021: Chauvin’s Attorney Asks for Continuance, Change of Venue
Following the announcement of the Floyd family’s record settlement, the defense attorney for Derek Chauvin has expressed concern that the jury pool has been tainted. His argument is that the news of the settlement may seem to the jury like the city’s admission of Chavuin’s guilt, potentially altering the way they see the criminal trial.
One of the prosecuting attorneys, Steve Schleicher, pointed out that news of the settlement might swing the jury the other way, hurting the prosecution and helping the defense. He agreed that Judge Cahill should consider the impact of the news on the jury pool.
Still, the civil case is outside of the control of the criminal court and the prosecution. Quoted in the Washington Post, attorney Schleicher said, “We cannot and do not control the Minneapolis City Council, and we certainly cannot and do not control the news cycle.”
We are currently awaiting the decision of presiding judge Peter Cahill.
March 16, 2021: Defense Attorneys Attempt to Bring Up George Floyd’s Past
It has been in the news cycle since his death, and it should not come as a major surprise to anyone: George Floyd had a history of opiate addiction and drug problems.
This information does not determine the actions of any other person, and it certainly does not mean Mr. Floyd is responsible for Derek Chauvin’s knee cutting off his airway. However, as reported in the Associated Press, Chauvin’s defense attorneys are trying to use the late Mr. Floyd’s drug problems to their advantage.
The defense intended on bringing up Mr. Floyd’s 2019 arrest, a year before his fatal encounter with Chauvin, at trial. However, Judge Peter Cahill rejected their attempt to include the older arrest as evidence.
Prosecuting attorney Matthew Frank summed up the move perfectly as “the desperation of the defense to smear Mr. Floyd’s character, to show that what he struggled with (an opiate addiction like so many Americans do), is really evidence of bad character.”
March 19, 2021: New Ruling Says No Delay in Proceedings
Judge Peter Cahill has decided not to change venues or delay the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. The decision comes amid questions concerning the effect of the Floyd family’s recent record-breaking settlement with the city of Minneapolis, which the defense worried would shift the opinion of the jury pool.
March 22, 2021: Attorney Ben Crump Joins the Federal Lawsuit on Behalf of Anthony McClain
After helping the Floyd family win a $27 million settlement with Minneapolis, attorney Ben Crump continues to take on civil rights cases. He has joined up with the legal team for the family of Anthony McClain, who was shot and killed by Pasadena police after fleeing a traffic stop. As reported in Pasadena Now, police recovered a gun from near the scene.
However, the attorneys for Mr. McClain’s family point to “suspicious circumstances” and a lack of evidence that ties the gun to Mr. McClain. This past Tuesday, he would have turned 33 years old.
March 23, 2021: Jury Seated for the Trial of Derek Chauvin
After a week and a half of deliberation and questioning by attorneys for the prosecution and defense, the jury for the murder trial of Derek Chauvin has been seated. NBC News breaks down the races and ages of the jury members as:
- Three white men (20s and 30s)
- Six white women (50s, 40s, 20s)
- Three black men (30s and 40s)
- Two mixed-race women (20s and 40s)
- One black woman (60s)
The selection of 15 people includes 12 jurors, two alternates, and one potential replacement in case a juror must be dismissed. With the jury thus seated, the trial can begin in earnest on Monday, March 29, 2021.
March 29, 2021: The Trial of Derek Chauvin for the Murder of George Floyd Begins
On Monday, March 29, 2021, the trial of Derek Chauvin officially started. CNN is providing a live update on proceedings, detailing the arguments, testimonies, and evidence presented by both the prosecution and defense. While the defense for Chauvin argues that he was doing “what he was trained to do,” witnesses relate a scene of a far more tragic nature:
- A 9-year-old who saw the event says that Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd even after being asked to release the man by ambulance personnel.
- An off-duty firefighter who also serves as an EMT attempted to assist Mr. Floyd but was rebuffed by police, with officer Tou Thao telling her “not to get involved.” She was also filmed pleading with police to check Mr. Floyd’s pulse, to no avail.
- Several witnesses claimed they felt unsafe around former officer Derek Chauvin.
- One witness claimed that Chauvin appeared to press harder into Mr. Floyd’s neck as the growing crowd kept telling him to ease the pressure.
The first few days of the trial have been mostly in favor of the prosecution. Even the defense’s argument that Chauvin’s actions were in line with his training does not paint the scene in a good light. One can imagine the growing movement against police violence proclaiming, “Yes, and the training is precisely the problem.”
We will have more on the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd as the trial proceeds.
April 6, 2021: Jury Hears Testimony from Several Police Experts
The jury in the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd has heard from four police officers thus far, according to CNN. Three of these officers are currently part of the Minneapolis Police Department: Officer Nicole Mackenzie, Sergeant Ker Yang, and Lieutenant Johnny Mercil.
In addition to these officers, the court also heard testimony from use-of-force expert Sgt. Jody Stiger, who is a member of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
Here are the relevant highlights of their testimony:
- Sgt. Jody Stiger: “My opinion was that [Chauvin’s] force was excessive.”
- Lt. Johnny Mercil: Mercil testified that the knee-to-the-neck restraint is not an approved tactic and that officers are trained and instructed to move restrained victims into a side recovery position as soon as possible.
- Sgt. Ker Yang: Yang testified that Chauvin received 40 hours of training in crisis prevention, which emphasizes de-escalating situations.
- Officer Nicole Mackenzie: Mackenzie testified that officers are supposed to render first aid and that speaking is not evidence of the speaker’s capability to breathe properly. In cross-examination, she also pointed out that a hostile crowd potentially complicates matters and makes it difficult to focus on the restrained person.
Attorney Ben Crump was in court on Monday, along with George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd. When asked about the testimony given, attorney Crump responded: “We are so riveted that you actually have police officers coming into the courtroom telling the truth against officers who killed a black person.” He also added that the testimony “completely destroys the defense saying that [Chauvin] was following proper protocol.”
Final Thoughts on the Prosecution’s Case
The prosecution rested in the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd. With the defense set to begin their arguments on Tuesday, April 13th, we can summarize several key points that we learned from the prosecution’s case. The Washington Post provides these important highlights, among others:
- The “Blue Wall of Silence” has come down, with several police officers testifying against Chauvin’s actions.
- One of the most important testimonies was from cardiologist Jonathan Rich, who said, with “a high degree of medical certainty” that Mr. Floyd did not die of a heart attack or drug overdose.
- Use-of-force expert Seth Stoughton testified that Chauvin’s actions were excessive and did not align with standard police tactics.
These key points are crucial to the prosecution’s case. More importantly, they limit the defense’s arguments that Chauvin was using accepted police practices and that Mr. Floyd’s alleged drug use was the real cause of his death.
April 13, 2021: The Defense Begins Their Arguments
The defense for Derek Chauvin is expected to take roughly a week to bring witnesses to the stand and present their arguments. In the first departure from the prosecution’s version of the case, defense witness Barry Brodd testified that Chauvin’s use of force was justified. The Associated Press reports that Brodd, a former police officer in California, argued that Mr. Floyd’s movements (rather than “resting comfortably”) constituted resisting, which in turn justified the use of force.
However, the prosecutor pointed out that Chauvin remained on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, even after Mr. Floyd had stopped moving and another officer told Chauvin he could not find a pulse. Also of issue is Brodd’s apparent acceptance of a medically incorrect misconception. He intimated that the fact that Mr. Floyd kept saying he couldn’t breathe indicated that he could actually breathe.
But medical experts have already testified in the trial that a person is not necessarily able to breathe properly just because they can speak. As the defense calls more witnesses to the stand and presents more arguments, we will continue to update this page.
April 20, 2021: Derek Chauvin Is Convicted for the Murder of George Floyd
In a landmark decision that will resound in the history books, the jury in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin found the ex-officer guilty on all of the counts he was facing. The decision comes on the heels of a trial that was already historic, with the prosecution calling many witnesses directly from the Minneapolis Police Department to condemn Chauvin’s actions. A silent Derek Chauvin wore his COVID-19 mask and remained still while Judge Peter Cahill confirmed the decision with each jury member. Afterward, he was handcuffed and taken into custody, according to NPR.
Chauvin now faces the question of sentencing. According to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, his second-degree murder charges come with a recommended maximum sentence of 12.5 years or 150 months in prison for someone with no prior record. However, the prosecution is arguing for more, making a case for aggravating factors in this situation that call for increased punishment. If Judge Cahill agrees that there are relevant aggravating factors, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison.
Following the trial and the conviction, family members of the late George Floyd joined attorney Ben Crump to speak with the media. Terrence Floyd called the verdict “monumental,” while saying this “because of prayer, we got the verdict we wanted.” Philonise Floyd likened the murder of George Floyd to the murder of Emmett Till, who was lynched in 1955. “Ten miles away from here, Mr. Daunte Wright [was murdered by a police officer,]” he said. “He should still be here.”
Mr. Philonise Floyd’s comments highlight the “never-ending cycle” of violence against African-Americans in this country and the overuse of force by police. As we venture into the weeks and months following this historic conviction, let us not lose sight of the goal of police reform. We owe it to George Floyd. We owe it to Breonna Taylor. We owe it to Daunte Wright and so many, many others. Keep fighting for justice.
What Derek Chauvin’s Conviction Means for the Other Former Officers
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane still await trial for aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd. According to Minneapolis Public Radio, Minnesota law prescribes the same penalties for these charges as for the actual murder itself. With former officer Derek Chauvin convicted and facing a likely sentence of between 12.5 and 30 years in prison, the three other former officers are surely anxious to see the official sentence in mid-June.
The trial of Thao, Kueng, and Lane is set to take place in August 2021, but legal experts are torn on the likely outcome. Some believe that the quick jury deliberations in Chauvin’s trial (less than a day) will pressure the former officers to agree to a plea deal. Former attorney Tom Heffelfinger said that the “factual differences” between Chauvin’s trial and this one should be the driving factor in August.
Echoing that sentiment, former prosecutor Susan Gaertner said she expects the trio’s essential argument to be that Chauvin did a terrible act, but his act was not theirs and they did not intend it to happen. Also likely to come up in trial is the fact that Chauvin was the senior officer at the scene by far, which may influence the decision of the jury, penalties upon a conviction, or both.
May 4, 2021: Derek Chauvin Files a Motion for a New Trial
Following his conviction, former officer Derek Chauvin and his attorney Eric Nelson have submitted a motion for a new trial, according to NBC News. The motion includes eight instances in which the parties allege that the court “abused its discretion,” including:
- Denying a change of venue for the trial
- Formerly denying a request for a new trial
- Failing to sequester the jury or instruct them to avoid all contact with outside media
In short, Chauvin and his defense team claim that his right to a fair trial was impacted by the jury pool’s access to media. The argument is that the jury was “tainted” by outside influence, given the extreme media spotlight that surrounded the trial for the murder of George Floyd.
We will await news of the court’s decision on this motion, as it could result in a new trial for Chauvin and may impact the upcoming trial of the other defendants in the summer of this year.
John Stiles, the deputy chief of staff for the Minnesota Attorney General, made clear that the state considers a new trial to be unlikely. “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them,” he said.
May 7, 2021: Ex-Officers Face Federal Charges for the Death of George Floyd
While the state trial of Derek Chauvin is over, justice for George Floyd continues to be a goal toward which communities fight. This week, federal prosecutors drew up charges against Chauvin and his three fellow former officers Thao, Kueng, and Lane. National Public Radio (NPR) reports that these federal charges target alleged deprivation of George Floyd’s civil rights as well as the “indifference” of the other officers involved.
It’s not unheard of for federal charges to be brought up in police brutality cases. However, NPR notes that the move is uncommon precisely because it is so difficult for prosecutors to meet the high threshold of evidence. In order to convict Chauvin, for instance, the prosecutors will need to show that he willfully intended to deprive Mr. Floyd of his civil rights by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. In turn, the defense could argue that Chauvin took those actions for a number of other reasons, including fear or a desire to protect nearby civilians from harm.
Prosecutors have also filed charges against Chauvin for a previous incident that mirrors that of George Floyd. In 2017, Chauvin used a similar neck restraint on a 14-year-old Black teenager and reportedly beat the boy in the head with his flashlight.
Following Chauvin’s conviction in Minnesota, the state’s attorney general Keith Ellison approved of the federal charges, saying “Federal prosecution for the violation of George Floyd’s civil rights is entirely appropriate.”
Ben Crump Is Outspoken for Justice
As an attorney for several of the recent cases involving the murder of black men and women at the hands of police and vigilantes, Ben Crump has been a leading voice in the efforts for reform and justice. He has spoken to and appeared on several media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, The View, Face the Nation, and more. As more light is shed on the George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor cases, Ben Crump will continue to pursue justice for the families of these victims.
About George Floyd
GEORGE PERRY FLOYD JR. wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes when he was murdered in broad daylight by the Minneapolis Police Department. Born in North Carolina and raised in Houston, Mr. Floyd, the father of five, was a star athlete in high school, and among the first of his siblings to attend college. He became a fixture in the early days of Houston’s hip-hop scene, performing as a rapper known as “Big Floyd.” Like all of us, he had some ups and downs in his life, but in adulthood, Mr. Floyd became committed to his Christian faith, becoming an active church volunteer and a mentor to troubled youth in his community.
When he was in 2nd grade, he wrote an essay about what he wanted to be when he grew up: “Supreme Court Judge.”
That wasn’t how things would turn out. Near the end of Memorial Day Weekend on May 25th, 2020, a store clerk called the police on Mr. Floyd, accusing him of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Mr. Floyd denied this, and tried to remain calm when four policemen showed up to arrest him. One of them, a cop named Derek Chauvin, held his knee to Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, as Mr. Floyd lay in the street, begging for breath. He called out for his mother, who had died two years earlier, until the ambulance arrived, which turned out to be his hearse.
George Floyd was 46 years old. The blatant disregard for his civil rights and the savagery of his death, caught on camera by multiple witnesses, sparked outrage and mass protests all over the world. Within weeks of Mr. Floyd’s murder, significant reforms were being pushed forward against the systemic culture of white supremacy and police brutality…some for the first time ever in America’s history. Ben Crump is honored to serve as attorney for the George Floyd family, and is hopeful that George Floyd will not have died in vain.
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