Key Derek Chauvin prosecutor confirmed as federal judge

Published 6:20 am Thursday, December 8, 2022

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MINNEAPOLIS — The U.S. Senate has confirmed Jerry Blackwell — one of the prosecutors who helped convict a former Minneapolis police officer of murder in the killing of George Floyd — as the next federal judge in Minnesota.

Blackwell is a Minneapolis attorney and a founding partner of the law firm Blackwell Burke. He has 35 years of trial experience, and worked pro bono as he helped prosecute Derek Chauvin for the May 2020 killing Floyd, delivering a powerful rebuttal during the state’s closing arguments.

After Chauvin’s attorney told jurors that an enlarged heart may have contributed to Floyd’s death, Blackwell left jurors with these final words: “You were told … that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big. … The truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.”

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Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. He later pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating Floyd’s rights and was sentenced to 21 years on that count, to be served concurrently.

In 2020, Blackwell also won a posthumous pardon for Max Mason, a Black man who was convicted of raping a white Duluth woman in 1920. The alleged rape led a white mob to lynch three other Black men.

Blackwell, who will become the third Black jurist on Minnesota’s federal bench, has spent most of his career in private practice. After working at other prestigious firms, he became a founding partner in his current one, Blackwell Burke, in 2006.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that Blackwell is “one of the most widely respected and accomplished members of our legal community. … This is someone who is about as experienced as they get for the federal bench.”