(Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed to the bench a prominent Minnesota lawyer who last year helped successfully prosecute former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
Jerry Blackwell was one of President Joe Biden’s four nominees for federal district courts to be confirmed on Wednesday, with senators voting 51 to 43 in favor of the trial attorney becoming a judge for life in Minnesota.
Three nominees for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania were also confirmed: Mia Perez and Kai Scott, who are both currently serving as judges of the Philadelphia state court, and John Murphy, a partner at Baker & Hostetler.
The Senate has now confirmed 94 of the Democratic president’s judicial nominees, the vast majority of whom are women or people of color, in line with Biden’s commitment to bring greater diversity to the federal bench.
Blackwell, who is black, co-founded litigation boutique Blackwell Burke and has handled complex, mass tort litigation for clients including 3M Co, ConAgra Brands Inc and General Mills Inc.
At the request of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, he joined the prosecution team that secured Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of Floyd, a black man, in a May 2020 arrest that sparked outcry against racial injustice across the country.
As special assistant attorney general, Blackwell, on a pro bono basis, vetted witnesses, including the teenager who shot the widely seen video of Floyd below the white officer’s knee, and delivered the opening statement. and the rebuttal at the end of the trial.
Chauvin was sentenced in 2021 to 22½ years in prison in that state case, and later received a concurrent 21-year sentence after pleading guilty to federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in July, Senator Dick Durbin, the panel’s Democratic chairman, praised Blackwell for taking on the “awesome responsibility” of prosecuting Chauvin, saying he “couldn’t have asked better administration of justice in this courtroom”. “
Asked by Durbin if he saw anything hopeful about race in America, Blackwell cited a “ground swell” of people who, after Floyd’s death, said “we are better than that.”
“It’s people of all races, colors, beliefs who have stood up to be part of this experiment to make America better, to make America better,” he said. “It made me want to continue in this service trajectory, this time towards the bench.”
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