Law & the Courts

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to Lead Prosecution in George Floyd Case

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison answers questions about the investigation into the death of George Floyd, during a news conference in St. Paul, Minn., May 27, 2020. (John Autey/Pioneer Press/Reuters)

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on Sunday appointed the state’s attorney general Keith Ellison to lead the prosecution for cases relating to the death of George Floyd, a black man whose death in police custody has sparked riots in cities around the country.

“This decision is one that I feel takes us in that direction and the step to start getting the justice for George Floyd,” Walz said.

Walz said that Floyd’s family asked the governor to tap Ellison, who is black, to lead the prosecution, and ten state lawmakers also sent a letter to Walz asking him to transfer the case to Ellison.

“Unfortunately, our constituents, especially constituents of color, have lost faith in the ability of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to fairly and impartially investigate and prosecute these cases,” the letter from lawmakers said.

Fired Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after he pinned Floyd’s neck to the ground with his knee during an arrest for more than nine minutes, continuing even after Floyd passed out. Floyd can be heard pleading with the officers before losing consciousness and later dying in police custody.

Ellison said he will pursue “accountability” and “justice, but added, “let me also note a dose of reality.”

“Prosecuting police officers for misconduct, including homicide, murder, is very difficult,” Ellison said on Sunday. “We’ll come under attack as we present this case to a jury or a fact finder. And we need to make sure that we are absolutely prepared.”

Meanwhile, Ellison’s son, Jeremiah Ellison, who sits on the Minneapolis City Council, declared his support for Antifa, the militant “anti-fascist” group responsible for some of the violence in the recent riots. Antifa members are known to flock to areas of civil unrest and commit vandalism and other violent crimes.

“I hereby declare, officially, my support for ANTIFA,” the younger Ellison said in a tweet. “Unless someone can prove to me ANTIFA is behind the burning of black and immigrant owned businesses in my ward, I’ll keep focusing on stopping the white power terrorist THE ARE ACTUALLY ATTACKING US!” [sic]

Ellison himself has expressed support for the group in a since-deleted tweet that includes a picture of him holding a copy of the book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.

Widespread rioting and looting broke out in Minneapolis and later in cities across the nation in protest of Floyd’s death, including New York City, Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

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