Three days after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin allegedly murdered George Floyd, he accepted a deal in which he would serve no more than ten years in exchange for pleading guilty to third-degree murder, according to the New York Times. But law-enforcement officials who spoke with the paper say that then-attorney general William Barr rejected the plea, because he felt that protesters around the nation would see it as too lenient and that it was not subject to a proper investigation.
Though Chauvin was facing a state murder charge, the deal reportedly required the federal government’s approval because he asked to serve in a federal prison and because he requested an assurance from the Department of Justice that he would not be prosecuted on federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
With a plea deal to a charge of third-degree murder off the table, the slow process of trying Chauvin for second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter is about to begin, with jury selection scheduled for March 8. However, there are several different factors that could delay the trial, as the Times notes:
The prosecution has asked an appeals court to put off the proceedings, citing the risk that the trial, with so many demonstrators likely to fill the streets, becomes a superspreader event during the coronavirus pandemic …
The state is also appealing a decision by Judge Peter A. Cahill to separate the trial of Mr. Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — the initial charge of third-degree murder was dropped — from the trial of three other former officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death, two of whom were rookies with just a few days on the job.
Legal experts, and lawyers involved in the case, say that Judge Cahill’s decision to hold separate trials could benefit Mr. Chauvin — whose lawyer had pushed for a separate trial — because he will no longer have to face the possibility of the other three men pointing the blame at him.
In anticipation of unrest during the trial, the National Guard is preparing for a potential deployment to Minneapolis, while Governor Tim Walz included almost $40 million in security and law-enforcement costs for the proceedings in a recent budget proposal.
The Times report on the failed plea deal comes the day after eight minority correctional officers at Ramsey County Adult Detention Center — the St. Paul jail where Chauvin was held until his release on $1 million bond in October — filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in state district court, claiming that a superintendent reassigned them to a different floor upon Chauvin’s arrival. “The impact on our clients has been immense,” the officers’ attorney said. “They’re deeply humiliated and distressed, and the bonds necessary within the high-stress and high-pressure environment of the ADC have been broken.”