The lead prosecutor in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial admitted in an interview aired on Sunday that he “felt a little bad” for the convicted former Minneapolis police officer.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison was asked on CBS’ “60 Minutes” about his reaction when the jury came back with a guilty verdict in the high-profile case last week.
“Gratitude — humility — followed by a certain sense of, I’ll say satisfaction. It’s what we were aiming for the whole time,” Ellison responded, according to a transcript of the interview.
“I spent 16 years as a criminal defense lawyer, so, I will admit, I felt a little bad for the defendant,” Ellison added. “I think he deserved to be convicted. But he’s a human being.”
Asked about his apparent compassion for the killer ex-cop, Ellison said that he was “not in any way wavering from my responsibility.”
“But I hope we never forget that people who are defendants in our criminal justice system, that they’re human beings,” he told the outlet.
“They’re people. I mean, George Floyd was a human being. And so I’m not going to ever forget that everybody in this process is a person.”
Regarding Chauvin’s possible motive, Ellison said he didn’t believe Floyd’s murder was a hate crime.
“I wouldn’t call it that because hate crimes are crimes where there’s an explicit motive and of bias,” he said. “We don’t have any evidence that Derek Chauvin factored in George Floyd’s race as he did what he did.”
CBS host Scott Pelley pressed Ellison on that point, saying, “The whole world sees this as a white officer killing a black man because he is black. And you’re telling me that there’s no evidence to support that?”
“In our society, there is a social norm that killing certain kinds of people is more tolerable than other kinds of people,” Ellison replied.
“In order for us to stop and pay serious attention to this case and be outraged by it, it’s not necessary that Derek Chauvin had a specific racial intent to harm George Floyd,” he continued.
“The fact is we know that, through housing patterns, through employment, through wealth, through a whole range of other things — so often, people of color, black people, end up with harsh treatment from law enforcement.”
Ellison said he and the prosecution team had spent a lot of time considering the reason why Chauvin would kneel on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes — especially in front of bystanders who were recording the assault and imploring him to stop.
“I think that if he looks at history, he has every reason to believe that he would never be held accountable … So history was on his side,” Ellison said.