Meet the Key Players in George Floyd’s Murder Trial

By Cirien Saadeh Mar 19, 2021

Following the announcement of a historic settlement of $27 million to George Floyd’s family in a wrongful death suit brought against the city last week, Hennepin County Trial Judge Peter Cahill decided to re-examine previously-chosen jurors in Floyd’s ongoing murder trial. 

The original nine jurors selected were re-questioned by Judge Cahill on March 17 in a closed-door meeting. Two jurors, a Latino man and a white man, were dismissed by Cahill because they had heard about the settlement and felt it would bias their judgment. Also on that day, two new individuals were added to the jury. Both of the new jurors are people of color, a Black man from suburban Hennepin County, as well as a woman of color who works as an organizational consultant. Since then, three additional jurors were also added, two white women and a Black woman. Two additional jurors are still needed, as of March 18.
rnHere’s what else we know so far…  

Key Players

The Judge:

Peter Cahill was appointed to the Fourth Judicial District in May 2007 by former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and then re-elected by Hennepin County voters twice-over. He previously worked for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office from 1997-2007 and from 1999-2000 he worked as the Chief Deputy Hennepin County Attorney in the Juvenile Prosecution Division. Prior to his public work, Cahill had his own law office and worked as Assistant Public Defender for Hennepin County from 1984-1987. 

Cahill presided over a high-profile case against 11 community organizers, following a mass demonstration and protest held at the Mall of America in Dec. 2014. He dismissed charges against all of the organizers.

The Defense: 

Derek Chauvin’s lead lawyer is Eric Nelson, a lawyer and managing partner with Halberg Criminal Defense. Nelson has defended individuals accused of homicide, sexual offenses, drug offenses, assault, and DWI. He has been licensed since 2001.

The Prosecutor: 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is the lead prosecutor. Ellison was elected in 2018 after having served in the United States Congress from 2007-2019 and in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003-2006. Prior to serving in elected office, Ellison worked as a civil rights and defense lawyer, as well as five years as the Executive Director of the Legal Rights Center.

The Family Lawyer: 

Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer and the lead attorney at Ben Crump Law, is representing George Floyd’s family. Crump is also representing the families of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbury in their respective civil suits and has previously taken on more than 200 police violence cases. George Floyd’s family is not a major actor in the trial, but they are a key player in a settlement with the City of Minneapolis, which has impacted the trial’s jury pool and possible direction (leading some to believe that Chauvin may have a good appeal if convicted)

The trial is set to begin March 29 pending Judge Cahill’s decision on any remaining motions. Jury selection is continuing, with 12 jurors chosen and two additional jurors needed. 

Dr. Cirien Saadeh is an Arab-American journalist and educator who works at the intersections of journalism, social movements, experiential education, and sustainability. You can learn more about her work at