Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

The job of making the case against the officers charged in George Floyd’s death falls to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. He is no strange to controversy: as America’s first Muslim congressman, he was a prime target of the right wing smear machine. Now he faces an unprecedented challenge, winning a conviction in a justice system that traditionally favors the police.

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KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it will be a difficult job in court. As you know, there are a lot of cases where people looked at video or other evidence and we’re just sure that justice would be served and wasn’t. Rodney King many years ago, you may recall that, the first jury acquitted but then not just that, in Philando Castile’s case right here in Minnesota, video and he was acquitted. So, we don’t look at this as some sort of an easy road that we are on, but we are going to work extremely hard. We are going to make sure that every link in the prosecutorial chain is very tight. We are going to put everything we have into it. And I trust that jurors on this case, if we end up with a jury trial, will see the evidence in a way that they should, which is that these individuals are guilty.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Let me ask you some of the nuts and bolts of the case. Of course, you started by charging the one, Chauvin, who had his knee in George Floyd’s neck with third degree, et cetera, then upped that to second-degree. Can you tell me why? What led you to do that and is there a greater burden of proof to make that kind of charge stick?

ELLISON: No, the burden of proof is still proof beyond a reasonable doubt, in any case. But we — as our investigation was ongoing, we continued to collect information, body camera, medical information, medical examiner’s reports, other pieces of information, we came to the conclusion that second-degree murder was the right charge in the case of Mr. Chauvin and needed to upgrade it based on the facts and the law that was available to us.

AMANPOUR: And then with the others, and that took several days and some people asked why that took a longer time, again, they’re charged with aiding and abetting the charges as laid out against Chauvin. What can you tell us about them? Because already we are hearing from their defense, at least one of them, that they are going to say they tried to get Chauvin off and they tried to do the right thing. What are you hearing about that? And what can you tell us about it?

ELLISON: What I can tell you is that as Chauvin was clearly assaulting Mr. Floyd, or at least the evidence would indicate that, that it does appear that nobody moved, nobody assisted. And so, look, the jury will decide ultimately what they believe happened in this case. Our complaint indicates that they rendered assistance as Chauvin effected assault and the consequence being murder and death for George Floyd. You cannot assist in the commission of a crime and if you do, you would be considered an aider and abettor.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane speaks with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison about what it will take to win a conviction against the officers responsible for George Floyd’s death. She also speaks with Anne Applebaum and Eliot Cohen about how the Republican Party has evolved. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta about systemic racism in police departments.