With a new federal grand jury, the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin has gained new life. Under the new jury, a fresh slate of witnesses have been subpoenaed to give testimony about Chauvin, a sign that, according to the New York Times, shows the impact of President Biden’s administration.
Directly following George Floyd’s death, President Biden was quick to condemn the actions of Chauvin, saying, “The very soul of America is at stake,” and affirming his position towards furthering racial justice. Throughout the campaign trail, Biden expanded on this position, vowing to give new powers to the Justice Department’s civil rights division and promising to elevate civil rights as a priority within the White House.
However, in the DOJ’s renewed investigation, according to the White House, though he has been briefed, Biden will not be interfering, believing that, “…the Department of Justice must be able to act independently in investigating and prosecuting any case.”
Chauvin, who will be tried in state court starting on March 8th, faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for his role in the death of Floyd, an African-American man, in May of last year. While there are three other officers who were present on the scene of Floyd’s murder, and charged with aiding and abetting, the new grand jury appears to be narrowing its focus primarily on Chauvin.
In the footage released from the day of Floyd’s death, Chavin (who is white) was seen kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life. The violent incident sparked protests across the country and led to many reevaluations of police department’s funding and training.
One concern of the city of Minneapolis is that the proceedings could potentially cause unrest once more. While it is unlikely that there will be an acquittal or mistrial, the National Guard has been activated to protect the city during the trial and other law enforcement agencies throughout Minnesota have been called upon to be present. Should Chauvin be acquitted, he could still face charges of willfully violating Floyd’s constitutional rights, including his right to due process and protection against unreasonable seizure.