Attorney General Ellison to accept award from International Association of Prosecutors for prosecution of murder of George Floyd
IAP bestowing Special Achievement Award on entire prosecution team; award given to prosecutors who show special dedication to their work in the face of significant adversity
September 22, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — This Sunday, September 24, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will accept a Special Achievement Award from the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) on behalf of the entire team that Attorney General Ellison led in successfully prosecuting the murder of George Floyd. Ellison will be accepting the award at the International Association of Prosecutors’ 28th General Meeting in London, United Kingdom, where on Wednesday, September 27 he will also participate on a panel on combatting transnational human trafficking and money laundering.
The International Association of Prosecutors serves more than 250,000 prosecutors in 172 countries. IAP’s Special Achievement Award is given to prosecutors who have “demonstrated special dedication” or have discharged professional responsibilities “in the face of special hardship or adversity or under other circumstances which deserve special recognition.” The IAP is bestowing the Special Achievement Award not on Attorney General Ellison individually but on the entire team that prosecuted the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and subsequent March–April 2021 trial of Derek Chauvin, both which elicited worldwide attention and reaction.
This Special Achievement Award marks the second time the International Association of Prosecutors has recognized the team’s prosecution of the murder of George Floyd. In June 2023, Minnesota Chief Deputy Attorney General John Keller traveled to Fortaleza, Brazil on behalf of Attorney General Ellison and the team to address a conference of IAP members from Latin America on the history and significance of the prosecution of Floyd’s murder, at IAP’s invitation.
Attorney General Ellison released the following statement:
Today and every day, my thoughts are with George Floyd and his family. Floyd should still be with us.
I am very grateful to the International Association of Prosecutors for this recognition of the hard work and dedication of our team. At the same time, the award is not cause for celebration or congratulation; it is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the rule of law and the transparency of justice. Accountability under the law for the murder of George Floyd is a step on the road to justice.
Prosecuting a murder is never easy, no matter who the defendants are. Prosecuting a murder with the eyes of the world upon you was unprecedented for every member of this team. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the exceedingly talented team of people who helped us reach successful verdicts and hold the defendants accountable in the pursuit of justice. Day in and day out, they worked under immense pressure with dedication and grace all to uphold the simple principle that no one is above the law — and no one is beneath it.
All four defendants in the prosecutions — former Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao — were charged with 2nd-degree unintentional murder and 2nd-degree manslaughter. To obtain a conviction, prosecutors had to prove not only that the assault that the officers committed against Mr. Floyd was a substantial causal factor in his death, but also that it was unreasonable from the perspective of a reasonable police officer.
Attorney General Ellison built a team of attorneys and legal assistants that included staff from the Criminal Division of his office, then led by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, one of the presenting attorneys at the trial of Derek Chauvin who is now a Hennepin County judge, and also including Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge, a presenting attorney at the Chauvin trial who succeeded Mr. Frank in leading the Criminal Division; and from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, then led by former County Attorney Michael O. Freeman.
The team also included, among others: Special Assistant Attorney General Neal Katyal of the Hogan Lovells law firm, a former deputy and acting Solicitor General of the United States; former Special Assistant Attorney General Steve Schleicher of Maslon LLP, a presenting attorney at the trial of Derek Chauvin and a former federal prosecutor; former Special Assistant Attorney General Lola Velazquez-Aguilu of Medtronic, also a former federal prosecutor; former Special Assistant Attorney General Jerry W. Blackwell of the former Blackwell Burke law firm, a presenting attorney at the Chauvin trial who is now a Minnesota federal district court judge; and a number of other talented, experienced attorneys and legal assistants from Hogan Lovells and Blackwell Burke.
All the attorneys and legal assistants from outside the Attorney General’s Office and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office provided their labor and talents pro bono.
Attorney General Ellison and the team also received pro bono help from Litigation Insights with jury selection; Keystone Strategy with expert witnesses; and FGS Global with public relations and media monitoring.
Attorney General Ellison and the team spent eight months preparing for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the first defendant to stand trial. Attorney General Ellison organized the team into nine subcommittees — including ones focusing on medical causation, use of force, fact witnesses, jury research, motions and research, and narratives and themes — and led weekly, all-group meetings to measure progress and build team cohesion, all during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of their work, a jury rendered guilty verdicts against Derek Chauvin on the charges of 2nd-degree murder and 2nd-degree manslaughter on April 20, 2021. On May 18, 2022, defendant Thomas Lane pleaded guilty to the charge of 2nd-degree manslaughter. On October 24, 2022, defendant J. Alexander Kueng also pleaded guilty to the charge of 2nd-degree manslaughter, and on May 2, 2023, defendant Tou Thao was found guilty of 2nd-degree manslaughter.
Attorney General Ellison also extends his thanks to the bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General, an organizational member of the International Association of Prosecutors, for its extensive assistance with the IAP award and conference.