MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — The city of Minneapolis Friday agreed to pay $27 million to settle a civil lawsuit from George Floyd’s family over the Black man’s death in police custody, as jury selection continued in a former officer’s murder trial.
The Minneapolis City Council emerged from a closed session Friday to announce the settlement, which includes $500,000 for the south Minneapolis neighborhood where Floyd was arrested, that includes the 38th and Chicago intersection that has been blocked by barricades since his death, with a massive metal sculpture and murals in his honor. The city didn’t immediately say how that money would be spent.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump called it the largest pretrial settlement ever for a civil rights claim, and thanked city leaders for “showing you care about George Floyd.”
“It’s going to be a long journey to justice. This is just one step on the journey to justice,” Crump said. “This makes a statement that George Floyd deserved better than what we witnessed on May 25, 2020, that George Floyd’s life mattered, and that by extension, Black lives matter.”
L. Chris Stewart, another attorney who worked with the family, said the size of the settlement “changes evaluations and civil rights for a Black person when they die.”
“And what happens is that trickles down to decisions in the communities across this country. When there is a city council or a mayor deciding, ‘Oh, should we get rid of no-knock warrants, should we get rid of chokeholds, do we want to change these policies?’ They have 27 million reasons now why they should. And that will make decisions happen. That will make accountability happen.”
George Floyd’s sister Bridgett Floyd, who attended jury selection earlier this week for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, said in a statement she was glad the lawsuit was resolved.
“Our family suffered an irreplaceable loss May 25 when George’s life was senselessly taken by a Minneapolis police officer. While we will never get our beloved George back, we will continue to work tirelessly to make this world a better, and safer, place for all,” she said.
Floyd was declared dead on May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a former officer who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.
“I hope that today will center the voices of the family and anything that they would like to share,” Council President Lisa Bender said. “But I do want to, on behalf of the entire City Council, offer my deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd, his friends and all of our community who are mourning his loss.”
Floyd’s family filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in July against the city, Chauvin and three other fired officers charged in his death. It alleged the officers violated Floyd’s rights when they restrained him, and that the city allowed a culture of excessive force, racism and impunity to flourish in its police force.
Jury selection is still underway in Chauvin’s trial who has been charged in Floyd’s death. Six jurors have been selected so far for Chauvin’s trial, who’s now being tried for third-degree murder in addition to second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill restored the third-degree murder charge at the start of Thursday’s proceedings, after rejecting it as not warranted by the circumstances of Floyd’s death in an earlier ruling. An appellate court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds, and Chauvin failed to get the courts to block the charge.
In 2019, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20 million to the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed woman who was shot by an officer after she called 911 to report hearing a possible crime happening behind her home.
The federal lawsuit sought unspecified compensatory and special damages in an amount to be determined by a jury. It also sought a receiver to be appointed to ensure that the city properly trains and supervises officers in the future.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the settlement might affect the trial or the jury now being seated to hear it. Joseph Daly, a professor emeritus at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said it will be hard to stop jurors or potential jurors from hearing about it.
“Judge Cahill will likely explain to the jurors that each must make a decision based solely on the evidence they hear in the criminal trial,” Daly said.