The trial will begin with opening statements and is expected to last about four weeks. The Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, where the trial is being held, is heavily fortified with barriers and fencing.
Due to COVID-19 and the high public interest in this case, the trial will be broadcast live — an unprecedented decision in Minnesota. The trial itself has gathered international attention.
Here is a guide to the main figures in the courtroom during the trial:
Judge Peter Cahill
Peter Cahill is the trial judge of Chauvin’s case. He also will preside over the trial of three other former Minneapolis officers charged in Floyd’s death. Their trial is scheduled to begin in August.
Cahill was appointed as a Hennepin County District Court judge in 2007, and his current term expires in 2027. Prior to serving as a judge, we worked at the Hennepin County attorney’s office for 10 years.
He also previously worked as a public defender.
Chauvin, the defendant, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
Chauvin, 45, lived in Oakdale at the time of Floyd’s death.
Once he was released from custody after posting bond, Cahill gave Chauvin permission to leave the state for security reasons.
Chauvin started working at the Minneapolis Police Department in 2001 and prior to that served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army.
Eric Nelson is Chauvin’s defense attorney.
Nelson has been the only defense attorney to speak during the trial. An assistant, Amy Voss, appeared during jury selection. Nelson, Voss and Chauvin would confer with one another during the jury-selection process.
Chauvin’s defense is paid for through the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association’s legal defense fund. Even though Chauvin was fired shortly after Floyd’s death, he is able to receive representation through the MPPOA because he was a member of the local police union, the Minneapolis Police Federation.
Twelve attorneys — including Nelson and attorneys for the other former officers charged in Floyd’s death — are part of the association’s panel.
Brian Peters, executive director of the MPPOA, said the 12 attorneys are on call to take cases on a rotating basis. Chauvin’s case was originally assigned to Tom Kelly, but Kelly soon retired.
Peters said Nelson and the three attorneys representing the other former officers have been working together from the start.
While Nelson is the only attorney appearing in court on behalf of Chauvin, he’s consulting with the other attorneys behind the scenes, Peters said.
Nelson is a founding partner of the Bloomington-based law firm Halberg Criminal Defense. He joined the attorney panel of the MPPOA in 2015. According to his biography on Halberg Criminal Defense’s website, Nelson has experience in cases involving homicide, sexual offenses, drug offenses and DWIs.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office is prosecuting Chauvin’s case. Chauvin was originally charged by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, but Ellison’s office quickly took over the case.
Ellison, the first Black attorney general in Minnesota, has been in the courtroom at times during jury selection, but he is likely not going to be making legal arguments himself.
Ellison became the attorney general in 2019 and previously represented the state’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to that, Ellison served as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank is the lead prosecutor of Chauvin’s case.
Frank has been the manager of the criminal division of the Minnesota attorney general’s office for the past 14 years and has worked in the attorney general’s office for a total of 21 years. Before he joined the office, he worked as a public defender in Anoka and Sherburne counties, and as an assistant Wright County attorney.
Most court documents filed by prosecutors for this case are signed by Frank.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge joined the attorney general’s office in 2018, where she works in the criminal division. She previously worked as a special assistant U.S. attorney in Nebraska and Iowa.
Special Assistant Attorney General Jerry Blackwell is a founding partner of Blackwell Burke P.A. in Minneapolis.
As a trial lawyer, he has nationwide experience in defending class-action lawsuits and commercial disputes. He often presents on trial strategies and how to communicate legal issues to jurors.
Blackwell is also a founder of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. Last year, Blackwell won the posthumous pardon for Max Mason, a man wrongly convicted of rape in connection with the 1920 Duluth lynchings.
Blackwell argued motions during hearings before jury selection and is working on the case pro bono for the prosecution.
Special Assistant Attorney General Steve Schleicher is a trial and appellate lawyer and a partner at Maslon LLP in Minneapolis. Schleicher specializes in criminal defense as well as government and internal investigations. He’s worked on cases involving homicide, criminal sexual conduct, armed robbery, assault and other violent crimes.
He worked in the U.S. attorney’s office for 13 years and was a prosecutor on the Jacob Wetterling case in 2016. Before that, he worked at the Minnesota attorney general’s office and the Winona County attorney’s office. Schleicher also has experience in military courts.
Schleicher led the jury selection questioning process for the prosecution and is working the case pro bono.
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Neal Katyal, special attorney for the state, is a partner at Hogan Lovells in Washington, D.C. He is the former Obama administration acting solicitor general. Katyal has experience in constitutional law and criminal law. He has orally argued many cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Katyal has appeared in court to argue motions via Zoom and is working on the case on a pro bono basis.
Sundeep Iyer, also a special attorney for the state, is a senior associate at Hogan Lovells in New York and Washington, D.C. Iyer specializes in appellate litigation and motions in federal and state court.
He has briefed cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and was part of the team that got an injunction against former President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Iyer, like Katyal, has appeared in court via Zoom while arguing motions and is working pro bono.
In addition to these attorneys, there are several others working for the prosecution.
Some of these attorneys, like Katyal and Iyer, are from outside of Minnesota and work for Hogan Lovells.
These attorneys have been admitted to the case by what is called “pro hac vice,” which allows an attorney from outside the state to practice law for this case without having to be admitted to the Minnesota State Bar Association.