Minnesota attorney general to take over prosecutions in George Floyd's death

Governor transfers investigation after Minneapolis legislators said they lacked confidence in local prosecutors.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison answers questions about the investigation into the death of George Floyd, in St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison answers questions about the investigation into the death of George Floyd, in St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.John Autey / Pioneer Press via AP, Pool

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Minnesota's governor appointed state Attorney General Keith Ellison on Sunday to lead the prosecution of any cases arising from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death on May 25 as Chauvin pinned his neck to the ground with his knee.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Ellison's appointment as lead prosecutor shortly after the Hennepin County prosecutor said he had asked Ellison to "assist" in the investigation, two days after 10 members representing Minneapolis in the state House asked Walz in a letter to transfer the case to Ellison.

"Unfortunately, our constituents, especially constituents of color, have lost faith in the ability of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to fairly and impartially investigate and prosecute these cases," the letter said.

Walz said that he had spoken extensively with Floyd's family, who had asked that Ellison take over the case, and that "they were very clear they wanted the system to work for them, they wanted to believe that there was trust."

"This decision is one that I feel takes us in that direction and the step to start getting the justice for George Floyd," Walz said.

Full coverage of George Floyd’s death and protests around the country

Ellison, a Democrat who represented Minneapolis in Congress from 2007 to 2019, said repeatedly that it was too early to answer questions about the case, but he said that he and Freeman "had an excellent conversation" and that "we will be working together."

"We are pursuing justice. We are pursuing truth. We're doing it vigorously, and we are pursuing accountability," Ellison said.

But "let me also note a dose of reality," he said.

"Prosecuting police officers for misconduct, including homicide and murder, is very difficult, and if you look at the cases that have been in front of the public in the last many years, it's easy to see that is true," he said. "Every single link in the prosecutorial chain will come under attack as we present this case to a jury or a fact finder."

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