BREAKING: Judge denies change-of-venue motion in Floyd homicide trial, but allows defense evidence on cause of death

The defense won one and lost one today in the trial of Derek Chauvin. Despite an idiotic decision by the city council to announce a $27 million settlement admitting liability in the death of George Floyd, the trial will remain in Minneapolis, Judge Peter Cahill ruled a few minutes ago. That demand from the defense had been made once before, but after the publicity from the settlement disqualified two jurors, Chauvin’s team hoped Cahill would reconsider:

Most experts had been skeptical about the prospects for a change of venue, especially on the issue of pretrial publicity. Where in Minnesota would one escape that? Cahill instead relied on the jury selection process and court rules to abate it as much as humanly possible, and the continued success of finding jurors must have played into that decision.

Cahill weighed both options for much of this week in the wake of the announcement of last week’s record $27 million settlement between the city of Minneapolis and Floyd’s family.

“Unfortunately, the pretrial publicity will continue no matter how long we continue it,” the judge said.

“As far as the change of venue, I don’t think that will give the defendant a fair trial beyond what we are doing today,” he said.

So, it’s back to jury selection later Friday. Two are needed to get to the 14 needed, with two being alternates. Opening statements and testimony are scheduled to begin March 29 and last two to four weeks.

What did the defense win today? A chance to present a key argument for an alternate theory about Floyd’s death. Both sides agree that Floyd died of cardiac arrest, but the defense wants to argue that Floyd caused his own death by ingesting drugs at the time of his arrest. Cahill ruled that they can introduce a prior arrest incident in which Floyd created a medical crisis by ingesting drugs to avoid charges on possession, which nearly killed him in 2019:

The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd said Friday that he’ll allow the jury to hear some evidence about a prior arrest in which Floyd was found with drugs.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill partially granted a defense motion to allow evidence of Floyd’s arrest in Minneapolis in May 2019, just over a year before his death.

A lawyer defending former officer Derek Chauvin argued this week that he should be allowed to bring up the arrest in an effort to show jurors that Floyd was partly to blame for his own death. He said there were similarities between both incidents and that the evidence is relevant to the cause of Floyd’s death, which is in dispute.

That’s a pretty big win for Chauvin, assuming the defense can connect the dots. The coroner’s report showed elevated levels of illegal drugs in his system, and the defense wants to establish at least a reasonable doubt that Chauvin’s actions were the cause of Floyd’s death. Cahill noted that there was a clear medical and legal record from the 2019 incident which allows it to be considered. It makes it tougher for the state to get past that reasonable-doubt standard. With that video of Chauvin on Floyd’s neck for nine-plus minutes as he passes out and dies, though, it might not be as hard as one might think.

At any rate, it now looks like full speed ahead for the scheduled March 29 start date of the trial.