DOJ reopens investigation into killing of George Floyd: report

A federal grand jury has been empaneled to consider charges against Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on George Floyd's neck.

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The Justice Department is investigating the actions of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. 

According to a new report from The New York Times, a grand jury has been empaneled to consider federal charges against Chauvin, who, along with three other former Minneapolis officers, has trials pending in Minnesota — his in March, for second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Derek Chauvin George Floyd
Former MPD officer Derek Chauvin (left) and George Floyd (right), the man he and three fellow policemen face trials for killing. (Twitter/Ben Crump Law)

The federal investigation will automatically trigger if Chauvin is acquitted or if there is a mistrial in the state trial. He could be charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights. 

Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25, 2020, resulting in his death; Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao helped him restrain the prone Floyd and kept onlookers distanced. The incident, which was captured on bystanders’ video, sparked a summer of global protests against U.S. police violence. 

Read More: LAPD investigating ‘You take my breath away’ George Floyd-themed Valentine photo

The federal charge of violating a person’s civil rights is not based on race, but the idea that Chauvin “willfully” violated Floyd’s constitutional rights, particularly the right to due process. According to the report, the federal grand jury is focused particularly on Chauvin’s actions. He was the senior officer on site. 

“George Floyd’s death spurred a renewed and re-energized civil rights movement,” said attorney Benjamin Crump in a statement. “It’s appropriate and gratifying that the Department of Justice under President Biden is taking racial justice seriously.”

Crump is representing Floyd’s family. 

A portrait of George Floyd at a memorial site known as “George Floyd Square” is shown in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd was killed at the site by Minneapolis Police in May 2020, sparking nationwide protests. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

In a speech after the 46-year-old’s death, President Joe Biden, who was a candidate for the office at the time, said: “The very soul of America is at stake. We must commit as a nation to pursue justice with every ounce of our being.” 

The White House, now led by the former vice president, released a statement about the renewed investigation. saying “the president has spoken in personal terms about how the death of George Floyd affected him and redoubled his commitment to advancing racial justice, but he’s also made clear that he firmly believes that the Department of Justice must be able to act independently in investigating and prosecuting any case.”

Read More: AG Barr rejected plea deal proposed by Chauvin in George Floyd death

At his confirmation hearing, Biden’s attorney general nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, addressed systemic racism in America’s justice system. Asked to define it, he replied, “I think it is plain to me that there is discrimination and widespread disparate treatment of communities of color and other ethnic minorities in this country.”

With Chauvin’s state trial scheduled to begin on March 8, Minnesota National Guard members have been activated, and the city of Minneapolis will rely on additional security support from surrounding communities. 

The aiding and abetting trial awaiting Lane, Kueng and Thao is scheduled for August.

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