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Minneapolis Agrees To Pay $27 Million To Family Of George Floyd

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The city of Minneapolis has agreed to pay an unprecedented $27 million to the family of George Floyd. The family's attorney says it is the largest pretrial settlement in a civil rights wrongful death case in U.S. history, and it comes as jury selection is underway in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the white police officer filmed with his knee to George Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Minneapolis.

Leila, thanks so much for being with us.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Thanks.

SIMON: Twenty-seven million dollars - a huge, unprecedented number. What does the agreement mean?

FADEL: So this is the highest payout related to a wrongful death lawsuit in the history of this city. Five hundred thousand dollars of money will be invested in the neighborhood where Floyd was killed. And what the attorneys who filed this suit stressed in their press conference announcing the settlement was that this is about more than money. This is one of the attorneys, Chris Stewart.

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CHRIS STEWART: The number today changes evaluations and civil rights for a Black person when they die because what you don't know is the rigged game that we always have to play when we take one of these cases because African Americans are not valued high when they are murdered by law enforcement in these cases. And we are changing that precedent.

FADEL: He says when the loss of Black life has financial consequences like this, that trickles down.

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STEWART: When there's a city council or a mayor deciding, oh, should we get rid of no-knock warrants? Should we get rid of chokeholds? Do we want to change these policies? They have 27 million reasons now why they should.

SIMON: Leila, tell us about the last time the city paid out such an enormous settlement.

FADEL: Right. It was a situation where a police officer killed an unarmed person. In that case, it was now-former Black Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who was convicted after he fatally shot a white woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond, in 2017. She called the police over what she thought might be a sexual assault in the alley behind her house, and she was killed. And, of course, the case sparked outrage, received national attention. Her family settled with the city for $20 million - unprecedented until yesterday.

And activists point to that as an example of Black lives mattering less because in the case of Jamar Clark - he was an African American man fatally shot in the head by police in Minneapolis in 2015 - his family received a $200,000 settlement. The facts in that case were different, disputed. Police say Clark reached for an officer's gun. Witnesses say he was handcuffed and didn't struggle. His killing sparked protests. No charges were brought. So the financial payout to Floyd's family, their attorneys say, is setting a new precedent.

SIMON: And the settlement of a civil lawsuit occurs as the criminal trial proceeds, right?

FADEL: Right. So jury selection is underway in the murder trial against Derek Chauvin. So far, half of the 12 jurors and two alternates have been selected. Following this trial, the other three officers that were in that viral video are expected to each stand trial separately for their alleged roles. This is all really hard. This city, these prospective jurors are having to relive what happened through this trial. Listen to the defense attorney speaking to a prospective African American juror who ultimately was not chosen.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: There's video surveillance, so I can't unsee the video. So I'm not able to set that part aside.

ERIC NELSON: What if I were to tell you that there's a fairly high probability that that video that you've already seen is going to be evidence in this case? So you're going to see it again.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It's still going to be traumatizing to me.

SIMON: That's instructive to hear. NPR's Leila Fadel, thanks so much.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.