Updated Mar 17, 2021 - News

Derek Chauvin trial puts Judge Peter Cahill in the public spotlight

Judge Peter Cahill

Judge Peter Cahill during jury selection. Image: Hennepin County Court video feed.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill is weighing another consequential decision in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin.

What's happening: The judge is expected to address this week whether he'll postpone Chauvin's trial over concerns about publicity surrounding the city's $27 million settlement with George Floyd's family.

  • Seven jurors selected before the Friday settlement announcement were brought back via Zoom for more questioning Wednesday morning.
  • After excusing two over their exposure to the news, Cahill indicated he'll issue his ruling on whether to delay and move the trial on Friday.

The big picture: The start of jury selection for the televised trial has put Cahill in the public spotlight.

  • His decisions on everything from charges to permissible evidence could shape the outcome— and open the door to eventual appeals from either side.

So who is the judge at the center of one of the year's most closely-watched trials?

  • The University of Minnesota grad worked as a public defender, a private attorney and in Hennepin County Attorney's office, where he served as deputy attorney under now-U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
  • Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed Cahill to the bench in 2007, praising his "tremendous combination of trial experience and leadership." He's been re-elected by voters three times since.
  • Cahill has presided over high-profile cases in the past, including the 2015 dismissal of charges against organizers of a Black Lives Matter demonstration at the Mall of America.

What they're saying: Cahill is widely praised as a balanced and decisive judge.

  • Longtime Judge Kevin Burke told WCCO Radio Cahill has a "spine of steel" and that his resume and temperament make him "the ideal choice for handling this case."
  • Nekima Levy Armstrong, an activist and lawyer charged in the MOA protest, called his conduct cordial, respectful and fair in an interview with NPR.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

This story was updated with additional developments from the trial Wednesday morning.


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