George Floyd's family to receive $27m from Minneapolis in lawsuit

Floyd's death in police custody sparked protests against racism across the US and the world

George Floyd's family to receive $27 million from civil lawsuit

George Floyd's family to receive $27 million from civil lawsuit
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The US city of Minneapolis on Friday agreed to pay $27 million to settle a civil lawsuit from George Floyd’s family over his death in police custody, even as jury selection continued in a former officer’s murder trial.

The Minneapolis City Council came out of a closed session to announce the record settlement for the black man's family, which includes $500,000 for the neighbourhood where Floyd was arrested.

The Floyd family lawyer 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," Mr 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.”

“Even though my brother is not here, he's here with me in my heart,” Floyd's brother Philonise said. “If I could get him back, I would give all this back."

L Chris Stewart, another lawyer 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.”

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. His death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.

“I hope that today will centre 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, Mr 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.

Cortez Rice, left, of Minneapolis, sits with others in the middle of Hennepin Avenue on Sunday, March 7, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn., to mourn the death of George Floyd a day before jury selection is set to begin in the trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged in Floyd's death. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)

In 2019, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20m 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, to settle her family’s civil rights lawsuit. Damond was white.

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 was not 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,” Dr Daly said.

Meanwhile, another potential juror was dismissed Friday after she acknowledged having a negative view of the accused.

The woman, a recent college graduate, said she had seen bystander video of Floyd’s arrest and closely read news coverage of the case. In response to a jury pool questionnaire, she said she had a “somewhat negative” view of Mr Chauvin and that she thought he held his knee to Floyd’s neck for too long.

“I could only watch part of the video, and from what I saw as a human, I – that did not give me a good impression,” she said. She said she did not watch the bystander video in its entirety because “I just couldn’t watch it any more”.

The woman repeatedly said she could put aside her opinions and decide the case on the facts, but Mr Chauvin's lawyer Eric Nelson nonetheless used one of his 15 challenges to dismiss her.

With jury selection in its fourth day, six people have been seated – five men and one woman. Three of those seated are white, one is multiracial, one is Hispanic and one is black, according to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill.

Judge Cahill has set aside three weeks for jury selection, with opening statements no sooner than March 29.

Friday’s quick dismissal echoed others earlier in the case for similar reasons. On Thursday, one woman was dismissed after she said she “can’t unsee the video” of the officer pinning Floyd.

Mr Nelson pressed the woman hard on whether she could be fair despite her strong opinions.

“Looking in your heart and looking in your mind, can you assure us you can set all of that aside, all of that, and focus only on the evidence that is presented in this courtroom?” he asked.

“I can assure you, but like you mentioned earlier, the video is going to be a big part of the evidence and there’s no changing my mind about that,” she replied.

Potential jurors’ identities are being protected and they are not shown on live-streamed video of the proceedings.

Mr Chauvin and three other officers were fired for their actions. The others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges. Mr Chauvin's lawyers have not said whether he will testify in his own defence.