In a hearing Monday, Nelson said he is “gravely concerned” by the announcement, calling it “incredibly prejudicial.”
“It’s amazing to me, they had a press conference on Friday, where the mayor of Minneapolis is on stage with city council, and they’re using very, what I would say, very well-designed terminology. ‘The unanimous decision of the city council,’ for example. It just goes straight to the heart of the dangers of pretrial publicity in this case,” Nelson said.
“The fact that this came in the exact middle of jury selection — it’s perplexing to me, your honor, whose idea it was to release this information when it was released,” he said.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. He has also pleaded not guilty to third-degree murder, a charge reinstated in the case last week.
Jury selection in the case began on March 9, and seven jurors had been seated in the case during the first week. Fourteen total jurors are needed, including two alternates.
Judge previously rejected moving trial
In response to the defense requests, prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher acknowledged that the timing of the settlement was “unfortunate” but pushed back against the proposed remedies.
“I wish city officials would stop talking about this case so much,” he said, “but at the same time, I don’t find any evil intent that they’re trying to tamper with this criminal case.”
The consequences of the settlement were made clear with the first juror questioned on Monday. The juror told the judge she “almost gasped” when she heard about the $27 million settlement and said she could not be fair to Chauvin. She was excused from the jury for cause.
Of the seven Chauvin jurors selected so far, four are white, one is Black, one is Hispanic, and one is mixed race, according to how the court says they self-identified on their jury survey. Five of the jurors are men and two are women.
Testimony is slated to start in the trial no earlier than March 29.