Walz Close to Naming Ellison Special Prosecutor in Floyd Case

At the media update on the state’s belated crackdown on looting and rioting in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Gov. Tim Walz dropped a potential bombshell on the legal front. The governor acknowledged he’s strongly considering taking the unprecedented step of replacing Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in the prosecution of the Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death in custody and appointing controversial Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison as special prosecutor in his place.

“I can just tell you at this point in time no decision has been made,” Walz told reporters. “But certainly, as we’re saying, it is out there, it’s  being considered. It would be incredibly negligent in the environment we’re in for me not to make sure we’re exploring every option.

Up to this point, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has overseen the investigation, filing third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges again Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Friday, less than four days following Floyd’s death. Nevertheless, Freeman has faced relentless criticism over his handling of the case, which has sparked huge protests, rioting and arson in the Twin Cities and dozens of cities nationwide.

Walz said members of Floyd’s family spoke to him about appointing Ellison, in addition to DFL state legislators and Minneapolis city councilors lobbying for Freeman’s removal.

“That’s correct, the siblings of George Floyd asked me personally on this, so we have  had that conversation,” Walz said. “And I have received from the city council and from legislators that request.”

Yet Walz admitted taking the unusual step of overriding the county’s jurisdiction to intervene in the case could be risky, resulting in legal liability that could potentially put the outcome in jeopardy.

“I do believe at this point in time it’s not clear cut and I think we need probably we probably need to explain that or have the opportunity to talk to the public of where that’s at,” Walz added. “But that is a potential possibility. At this time no decision has been made and we’ll continue to explore that.”

Some advisers are evidently counseling Walz to pull back from a decision which appears to be close to a done deal in light of the governor’s remarks.

“This question has been asked a lot. I think it needs to be talked about, this is complex,” Walz said. “I have folks that let me know  what the laws are and this week and still at this point, trying to keep me from not using my authority of the governor to jeopardize the legal  proceedings that are out there.”

Freeman remains the only prosecutor in state history to have obtained murder and manslaughter convictions against an on-duty police officer in the 2019 case of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor. The appointment of the polarizing Ellison as special prosecutor would almost certainly bring even more controversy to what’s bound to be one of the state’s most high profile prosecutions on record.