Renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump founded Ben Crump Law PLLC with the abiding belief that justice equals respect....
Antonio M. Romanucci is a founding partner in the Chicago-based law firm of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, a national...
EXCLUSIVE: In their first long-format interview discussing the George Floyd case, Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci, the attorneys representing Floyd’s estate, speak with host Jonathan Amarilio and co-host Martin Gould about the fateful events of May 25, 2020, and the civil rights lawsuit brought against the City of Minneapolis and the police officers accused of wrongfully taking Floyd’s life.
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The George Floyd Edition
Jonathan Amarilio: Hello everyone, and welcome to CBA’S @theBar Podcast where we have unscripted conversations with our guests about legal news, topics, stories and whatever else strikes are fancy. I’m your host Jonathan Amarilio of Taft Law and joining me as co-host today, his first time in the co-host chair is Martin Gould of Romanucci & Blandinm. Hey! Marty.
Martin Gould: How you doing John?
Jonathan Amarilio: Marty, this is the first episode of our third season of @theBar and we are coming out of the gates fast. We’re joined today by Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law Firm and Antonio Romanucci of Romanucci & Blandin. The lawyers representing the family of George Floyd in a civil law suit arising out of Mr. Floyd’s death. This is the first long format interview that Ben and Tony have done together, so it is a real scoop.
As the whole country knows, George Floyd died and was allegedly murdered on May 25, 2020 in an encounter with officers from the Minneapolis Police Department. We’re going to get into the details of what we know about that incident in a moment, but before we do, I want to welcome Ben and tony to the pod. Gentlemen, hello. Thank you for joining us, we are very, very glad to have you here today.
Benjamin Crump: Thank you John and Mark for having us.
Antonio Romanucci: Thank you Jonathan, Marty good seeing you.
Jonathan Amarilio: So guys, before we get started on the Floyd case, I think our audience would be really interested to hear about the both of you. Your stories, how you both got involved in civil rights cases? Ben, do you want to lead off?
Benjamin Crump: Certainly. First, I want to say what a pleasure it is to work with my brother, Tony Romanucci and his firm on what I believe is one of the most historic civil rights cases in America and it’s interesting that you would ask this first question, because when I think about why I got into civil rights, it was exactly because of tragedies like George Floyd that we saw far too much. When I was young, when I was in the fourth grade, nine years old, they had the black children from South Florida to the black community bus crosstown to the white community where they had the new school or newer school, new facilities, new technology, new books and it was the first time that they had did such a thing in my little small hometown of Lumberton North Carolina. And I remember when I was going home one day going back across the tracks literally to the black section of town I just kept thinking why some people in certain parts of our town have it so good when people in my side of town had it so challenging, and I remember my mother telling me that it was because of Brown versus The Board of Education and a man named, Thurgood Marshall while we got to go to the newer school that had the new facilities and the new technology and the new books. And, I just remember at that point, as a nine-year-old boy saying, “when I grow up, I’m going to be a civil rights lawyer like Thurgood Marshall and I’m going to fight to make sure that people from my community and people who look like me have an equal opportunity at life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness.” And so, that’s what I have been doing from that day to this one, and that is why I got into civil rights, gentlemen.
Jonathan Amarilio: That’s powerful. Thank you for sharing that Ben. Tony?
Antonio Romanucci: Well, as you can imagine. My story is a little bit different, and you have to appreciate what Ben said, Ben Crump is saying that George Floyd is the most historic civil rights case that he’s ever been involved in. That’s not something that should be taken very lightly when you consider the iconic-ness of not only Ben Crump, but some of the cases that he’s handled across the country. So I’m also equally proud to join Ben in representing the Floyd Family in achieving hopefully an historic change in our country’s perception on race, and the way that policing of black people is handled. And that brings me to why I started or how I started representing people in civil rights cases and I grew up in white Chicago, white suburbs, white grade school, white high school, went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison which is where my ideals started getting shaped with a very liberal school and that’s where I started developing my background, my idealism with respect to people.
I grew up in a household where above anything, I was taught to respect people and that gave me the base that I needed to do what I do today is because I look at — as like Ben said, I look at all people equally. But when I was 23 years old, for people who live here in Chicago you know that we have a Supreme Court Rules 7, 11, which I took advantage of and I became one in the public defender’s office. And, I was first assigned to Gun Court, and what did I notice in Gun Court that all the cases that came before me in Gun Court, all had the same script, they all had the same narrative that either the butt of the gun was sticking out from the waist band of the suspect walking down the street or the butt of the gun was sticking out from underneath the front seat of the car during a routine traffic stop. Well after a while, even for not the smartest kid in the world which I really wasn’t, I figured out, “wow, these stories are made up, this is a scripted narrative in order to get around the Fourth Amendment Waivers,” right?”
The exceptions of the Fourth Amendment it was all plain view or they said that the suspect always gave consent to search and lo and behold, there was a gun found in their pocket. It really, really was mysterious and so that’s when I started understanding that there was this marginalization of a community. And from there, I can go on and on and tell you about my stories in drug court when I was a public defender which has the same sort of parallel narrative of plain view and consent and most of the time these people were innocent of their charges because back in the 80s, it was routine for police officers to carry other guns or drop little baggies in order to incriminate a certain sector of our society. And then, when you think of the problems that causes Jonathan, I could go on and on and on, but think of what a conviction does to somebody. Takes away their driver’s license, at that time the right to vote, it’s catastrophic.
Jonathan Amarilio: Yeah. All right. Well, let’s fast forward to the events of the case that we’re here to talk about. Ben, Tony we can set the stage for our talk I think today by reviewing what we know. The facts of the case, it is of course an ongoing case and I know you’re not free to publicly discuss certain facts at this stage, but there is a lot of information that’s in the public sphere that’s fair game. So, I thought we could start there. And, let’s start with what is I think in many ways probably the most important question. Ben, who was George Floyd? The man.
Benjamin Crump: George Floyd was an average African-American in America who was trying to improve his life. As Tony just articulated in a profound way, often times black men are targeted by a racist criminal justice system and once you’re caught in that system, it is a life long struggle to try to get out the system. And so, George Floyd was a person who was targeted, caught up in the system but then, was doing incredible things to try to pull himself out of the system. He actually was going to trade school to get a CDL A License to drive trucks, he was trying to be a more active father for his children. He moved to Minneapolis to try to get that fresh start and everybody who knew George Floyd — I mean, Tony and I haven’t talked to a single individual who just did not love George Floyd when they talk about him. They were like, “he was this big guy, but he was such affectionate person, he always was engaging, he was always trying to say things to make people feel good, to make them smile, he had played a professional semi-professional basketball, he traveled, played against Yao Ming in china on an exhibition game.” And so, he was a very rounded person, he lived the full life and it’s so tragic how we all came to know George Floyd because of this horrific video where a police officer had his knee on his neck and another had his two knees in his back for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, while he begged them to take their knee off his neck because he said, “I can’t breathe” 28 times.
And, we’re so shock and Tony and I get asked all the time, “what is it about this George Floyd case that’s so different from other cases? And I — Tony can speak to it, but I know the one thing for me John and Marty is the fact that we have gotten used to reality TV in America, but we still haven’t gotten used to witnessing a documentary of an actual human being murdered and then what is more shocking than that is to have that human being narrate the documentary of his own death, and that’s why I think billions of people have watched this video and they’re marching not just across America, but across the globe saying, “until we get justice for George Floyd, none of us can breathe.”
Martin Gould: It’s a difficult video to watch, that’s for sure.
Jonathan Amarilio: Yeah. Tony, picking up on that, we have a combination, Ben mentioned the camera footage, we have a combination of security camera footage, some body cam footage from the officers, video footage from onlookers, we have police scanner audio and bystander statements that really help us reconstruct the events of that day. Can you tell us Tony where was George Floyd on May 25th? What was he doing? What led up to his contact with the police?
Antonio Romanucci: Well, from what we know, George was with his girlfriend, he was with some other friends and they were in the City of Minneapolis boundaries and the allegation is that he went into a store where he’s very familiar with, they know him, they know him by name, they know who he is and evidently, again, the allegation is that he passed a 20 bill which may have been a fake. The people inside the store called the police, George was still outside the store and that’s when I say and this is how we’ve framed it, this is something that we’ve done in public, so it’s something that we can reveal. That’s when the series of choices began. That’s when the police officers began their series of choices in handling an encounter which certainly did not require any escalation of force, whatsoever.
Now, people will say, “well, Mr. Floyd made a choice also.” Well, we don’t know whether or not he actually committed a crime or not, but let’s say in the hypothetical that he did, it was not a violent crime, it was not one where he was harming another individual, he’s trying to help himself, he’s trying to help himself. And then, of course, if the other hypothetical is that he had not committed a crime either way, there’s no constitutional right to escalate force in this type of situation when he was just sitting in his car outside the shop where he was in. And that’s where everything literally devolved into ultimately, as Ben said we watched a live show, a live — almost in real time of a man dying as the result of the choices that numerous police officers made and we say that whether or not they had the initial intent, the initial scienter to kill George Floyd, their tactical maneuvers were ones that were taught to them by the Minneapolis Police Department. They were trained on those maneuvers and they use those maneuvers which ultimately kill them.
Jonathan Amarilio: So let’s break that down a little. Marty, my understanding — and correct me if I’m wrong, is after the police arrived they pulled Floyd out of his SUV, handcuff him and sit him on the ground. That was their initial response, is that right?
Martin Gould: That’s correct.
Jonathan Amarilio: And then, they start moving him back to their vehicle and Tony talked about decision points and it seemed to me that this was really one of them, because when Floyd did not want to get into the squad car, right? He was telling the police that he was claustrophobic and that seemed to be the first indication trying to look at this objectively of anything that could be even hypothetically described as resisting arrest. Guys, do you think that’s fair?
Antonio Romanucci: Well, Jonathan, I want you to back it up just a little bit more.
Jonathan Amarilio: Okay.
Antonio Romanucci: There was some video that was leaked a couple weeks ago and i think you got to really look at that leaked video.
All the body cam hasn’t been released to the public, so I can only comment on what everybody else has seen, right? We don’t have any access to any of the body cam video than anyone else would except we all saw the leaked video.
Jonathan Amarilio: Right.
Antonio Romanucci: That leaked video started the encounter with one of the officers having his gun drawn approaching the car. You have to ask the question, if that was a white person sitting in that front driver’s seat, would he have approached with his gun drawn? For what? A call of a $20 bill? Doesn’t make sense, doesn’t it? Doesn’t make sense.
Jonathan Amarilio: The next decision point — Ben, and really what almost the crux I think of the incident from what I can tell again just from what’s publicly available is that after Officer Chauvin arrived on the scene and Mr. Floyd had been put in the backseat of the squad car, Chauvin pulls him from the squad car back out onto the street and forces him to the ground. After they already had him in the squad car and detained, do we have anything that we can discuss that explains why he did that, why he would pull him — Mr. Floyd back out from the car?
Benjamin Crump: We don’t have any explanation for that and we’re still trying to understand that whole dynamic of him being put in the backseat and call him and taken out, he said he was claustrophobic. And, you know, it’s very interesting to point out Jonathan, even before he is put into the back seat of the car, he said I can’t breathe, which we believe would — Tony and I would argue was opportunity for them to call at that point and get proper medical interaction or at least get another mode of transportation if a person is saying that you’re trying to bend them in a prone position to get into the back seat of the car is going to cause medical distress.
But clearly, what Officer Chauvin did when we see him put his knee on his neck one of our co-counselors, our local counselor Jeff Storms, there was a case called “David Smith” that we cite in the complaint that speaks to the fact that these chokeholds or these procedures that cut off the circulation of air has been a problem with the Minneapolis Police Department in the past and they were supposed to be trained on this after the death of David Smith, however, we see three years later, that they were not adequately trained or the training itself was inadequate. And we believe they have a policy and a procedure in history of deliberate indifference as we articulated in the civil rights wrongful death lawsuit that we had failed in federal court.
Jonathan Amarilio: And, I want to come back to your lawsuit in a moment, but just to finish out the narrative of what happens our audience understands. Chauvin then forces him to the ground — as I understand it, there’s at least three officers who are holding him on the ground with Chauvin putting his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for — Tony, is it seven to eight minutes, something like that?
Antonio Romanucci: It’s about 8 minutes and then, I think it’s 8 minutes and 46 seconds to the point where the paramedics actually lift him on to the gurney. So it’s 8 minutes that they’re on top of him. And obviously, in those eight minutes, what they were doing, they were not only cutting off the airway, what we know is the windpipe or the trachea, but we had two other officers who were also putting their weight on his back which was compressing his lungs. So not only was he not getting air into his lungs from his windpipe, but his lungs were being compressed. So, even if he was able to get air into his windpipe, he wouldn’t have been able to inhale or exhale because his organs were being compressed. His diaphragm wasn’t able to operate in the way that it’s supposed to, pressure and the negative pressure which is what brings oxygen into your lungs.
Jonathan Amarilio: Right.
Antonio Romanucci: And then, of course, we have the fourth officer who by all accounts we see never touched George, but is just as culpable in the entire encounter by acting as a shield, right? Whether he wasn’t actually carrying a shield, his body acted as a shield towards people who were watching the encounter and obviously giving them an opportunity to preserve George’s life.
Because those people wanted to. And then, what did we see happen when people wanted to try and save George? Chauvin either reached for his pepper spray in his duty belt or Thao would move over and block them.
Jonathan Amarilio: So, Ben, I think one of the things Tony just touched on it a little bit, but the people who are on the scene watching this happen, the bystanders and also everyone I think who’s seen the video, one of the things that’s just difficult to understand and I suspect will be a big part of your case is that Officer Chauvin appears to keep his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for minutes after Mr. Floyd seemed to actually lose consciousness, is that right?
Benjamin Crump: You’re correct John. And, from our review and observation and we will have several experts be opining on that fact, medical experts as well as people breaking down the video for us frame by frame, but it is very troubling that everybody on that saying all the lay people, the regular citizens kept saying, “you’re killing him, you’re killing him, he’s unconscious,” George Floyd even saying, “I’m filled out that I’m dead, I mean, tell my mother I love her, tell my children I love them” everybody knew that what they were doing was causing him to lose consciousness. Except, the people who were actually trained to be able to be aware when somebody was having a medical crisis or have been going into medical distress and it’s just asinine why none of them would offer him — forget the training, let’s forget that for a second. As a human being, why they wouldn’t offer him humanity, dignity, respect. Give him a breath to sustain life and that’s just as a human being.
Now when Tony and Marty and I apply to training that they’re supposed to de-escalate situations versus escalate situations that when one of the officers say, “well, I don’t know if he’s breathing, let’s turn him on his side and you hear Officer Chauvin say, “no, we’re going to keep him in this position.” The fact that Officer Chauvin so callously said that, “well, talking takes a lot of oxygen” as George Floyd said, “I can’t breathe.” Those are the things that Tony and I would seize up onto in our legal team to be able to express to a jury that these police officers were just outrageous in how they were applying their use of force, that we as a society has granted to them to use judiciously. Well, they used it anything but judiciously.
Martin Gould: Ben, that’s a good point you made though about the fact that, forget the training, any human being who’s in that position should have known or would have known that they should have taken their knee off his neck to give him some breath. Something to sustain his life. And I know in the next segment we’re going to talk about what the Monell claim is, what that means and what’s required of police departments. But, in a case like this, I think there is that strong argument, training aside you don’t need training to tell you that you shouldn’t leave your knee on somebody’s neck for eight minutes.
Benjamin Crump: And Marty, when you break that down, it was 526 seconds. Each second represented the opportunity for any four of those trained professional officers to save George Floyd’s life, and I know Bhavani with your firm, her and I had a robust discussion about that. That 526 seconds, an opportunity to just do something to push over them back and say, “hey, this is not what I signed up for when I became a police officer” because some of them are trying to use the argument that, “oh, we were just on the job for a couple of weeks.” Well, your humanity and common sense could have said, “hey, this is not right, this is not what I signed up for.” And so, Marty we all will have to delve into that human experience that just that concept of humanity will those officers on the stand when we’re trying to make a jury understand that they have 526 opportunities, every second that passed to do something.
Jonathan Amarilio: And on that point, I think it’s a good opportunity for us to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
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Jonathan Amarilio: And we’re back. Marty, you’re part of the trial team with Tony and Ben who’s working on the Floyd lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and the individual law officers. Why don’t you take it from here?
Martin Gould: Tony and Bhavani from our office are leading the team with Ben Crump and his team. I’ve had the privilege of working with Tony on dozens of civil rights cases, many of them across the City of Chicago and the country, and our next segment we’re going to talk a little bit about what the law is here. What is excessive force, what is Monell and why were those claims brought. I want to start with Tony. Since Tony and I have worked on a number of these cases he’s a student of the law, he knows Monell like the back of his hand. And with that, Tony, can you explain to the audience what is an excessive force claim and what is a Monell claim.
Antonio Romanucci: Sure. Thank you Marty and it’s great to work with you too, side by side. So, in the in the George Floyd case, we basically have two sorts of claims. It’s the Fourth Amendment Claim and the 14th Amendment Claims. The Fourth Amendment Claims are the ones that are typically seen in these sorts of cases, those are the ones where we call an unlawful search and seizure. In this particular case, it’s a seizure. We know that the officers were holding George in a position where he was not free to leave the scene and if anybody’s ever been a student of the continuum of force model, you’ll understand that an officer is allowed to use only that amount of force in which the subject is giving back to him. In this case, I don’t think there’s any doubt that at no time was George anything more than either offering no resistance at all or at best a passive resistor. So, when you’re even at worst in this situation a passive resistor, you never use force. Once you escalate above the same amount of force that the subject is giving you, then any amount of force above that is excessive force. And then, of course, we have the seizure itself. So we have the seizure, the excessive force, I think that’s plain to see from the video that while as you pointed out earlier Jonathan, while George was on the ground he’s offering no resistance because he’s restrained, he’s in a prone position, he can’t do anything to either harm the officers or harm any member of the public. So, whatever force the officers were applying was excessive.
Now, you’ve heard Ben and you’ve heard I talked many times about — well, it wasn’t only Chauvin who had his knee on the neck of George Floyd, but has been so articulately always states it was the City of Minneapolis who had the knee on the neck of George Floyd. Well, how do we make that statement? What do you mean by that? Clearly, the mayor of Minneapolis wasn’t there, the chief of police of Minneapolis wasn’t there, why did Minneapolis have their knee on George’s neck? Well, it’s a decades-long culture, very similar to what we have here in Chicago, but they had a decades-long culture also of marginalization of black people.
And then, when you layer in the custom practice and policy which is the foundation of a Monell claim of using chokeholds of not having them banned even though they had promised in the Smith case years before to change their policies and to train officers on the appropriate use of chokeholds, you have a classic Monell case. So, Monell requires the municipality to have a custom practice or policy which leads to a cause for the injury or in this case the death. And it’s our claim that the City of Minneapolis’ policies, which existed for years and years and years were a cause of George’s death. However, there’s one trick to Monell cases and that’s your burden of proof. The burden on the Monell is still the preponderance of the evidence but you have to prove deliberate indifference as opposed to the lesser standard which is what you get in the Fourth Amendment Claim but on the 14th Amendment, Monell you must prove a deliberate indifference. But that’s in a nutshell.
Thank you, Tony. Let’s break that down a little bit for our audience who may not be lawyers. When we’re talking about Monell claims, that’s important right because municipalities as I understand it can’t be held liable for constitutional torts on a theory of respondeat superior which is really just lawyer speak for saying municipalities aren’t liable for the actions of their employees simply as a result of the employment status, the way it would be in a non-government context. The employee has to be acting pursuant to some municipal as you said policy, practice or custom and only if you prove that can you then hold the municipality rather than the individual police officers liable, is that right?
Antonio Romanucci: That is right, and the employee right now, there are cases pending as to whether that employee can be on duty or off duty right now, but here obviously in the George Floyd case, the officers were on duty, but you are correct though, yes.
Jonathan Amarilio: Marty, there’s a lot of hurdles when you’re trying to make out a claim like this, and one of the biggest ones that usually comes up is qualified immunity, right?
Martin Gould: That’s correct.
Jonathan Amarilio: We discussed this a little bit with Senator Durbin on last month’s podcast, but for our audience, could you just quickly describe generally what qualified immunity is and how it plays into this conversation?
Martin Gould: Qualified immunity is every civil rights lawyer’s headache in these cases. It’s something you have to — essentially, you have to do the research and find that whatever the right that was violated, it was a clearly established right. So you have to look into the case lot to try and find a similar type of situation so you can argue the court that the police department, the police officers knew that they shouldn’t have been leaving their knees on arrestee’s necks. And here’s the case law that that shows that they were on notice of it.
Jonathan Amarilio: Right. And if —
Martin Gould: In a case like this — that’s why Ben and Tony have been highlighting the Smith case that happened in Minneapolis several years before. If Tony or Ben want to jump in there and give a little bit more insight into what qualified immunity is and how it impacts an excessive force or civil rights case like this.
Benjamin Crump: Sorry, I’ll briefly go in there and let Tony continue on, but qualified immunity was created by the United States Supreme Court which was supposed to in a specific instances give police officers immunity when they were doing things that were not in violation of a constitutional right and that they also were doing with this presumption of legality and correctness. Well, they took that from Graham v. Connor, and Garner v. Tennessee, and now, quite literally Marty it’s like blanket immunity. Anytime the police kills anybody especially marginalized, people of color and Tony may know the statistics, I mean it’s like outrageous like 95% of the time and from this shooters, they are granted qualified immunity. Tony, is — I don’t know the numbers but it’s pretty horrific when you think about the rights of black people especially who’ve been killed by police.
Antonio Romanucci: Yeah. I mean, getting over the hurdle of qualified immunity is certainly a challenge because the first prong of qualified immunity is was the officer acting in a reasonable capacity and when the supreme court established qualified immunity, the reasonableness standard is supposed to be based upon an overall reasonableness.
But what’s happened is that reasonableness has now morphed into as to whether or not that police officer involved in the encounter had a thought or had a belief that he was acting reasonably, and that’s not the standard. But it’s really melted into this personal reasonableness standard which under those conditions almost any officer would say that he was acting reasonably in the sense that he either felt his life was in danger or that the suspect was going to endanger another member of the community and you don’t even get to whether or not they violated established law if the officer was acting reasonably. If he was acting unreasonably, you don’t win qualified immunity. Then, you have to establish whether or not he violated any known law and if you establish that, then you get past summary judgment and you get to take your case to trial.
Martin Gould: And qualified immunity only applies in civil cases, just so the audience knows. It was designed to protect officers in cases where they acted in good faith in unclear legal situations. In a case like this, I mean as Ben pointed out earlier, you don’t need training to tell you that you shouldn’t leave your knee on somebody’s neck for as long as they did.
Antonio Romanucci: Yep.
Jonathan Amarilio: So, I want to be respectful of everyone’s time. Let’s zoom out a little bit to the procedural posture of the case. As our audience probably already knows, criminal charges I think the second and third degree murder charges have been brought against the officers, is that right Tony?
Antonio Romanucci: Yes. They are second degree charges. They were third degree and now they’ve been upgraded to second degree charges.
Jonathan Amarilio: Okay. Do you expect your civil case to be stayed pending resolution of the criminal case? I know that that often happens. The courts want to break these things up and they take what is viewed as the more difficult case first the criminal case. Do you think that will happen here?
Antonio Romanucci: We don’t know what’s going to happen here. We’re in the very early stages of our civil litigation, so we’re not sure what’s going to happen, could it happen, it’s certainly something that could, we hope it doesn’t but we have to be prepared for anything that comes our way.
Jonathan Amarilio: And this is for Tony or Ben. If the officers are convicted, one or all on the criminal charges, how can that be used in your civil suit or vice versa, if they’re acquitted, how will that impact your civil suit?
Benjamin Crump: Well I think, I don’t believe they’re going to be acquitted I will be heartbroken if they are acquitted. It won’t be the first time in America that black people and people of morals were heartbroken when the police kill, marginalized people calling unjustifiable, unnecessarily and just senseless manners that we all witness with our eyes and then they’re not held accountable. I would be shocked in this case of George Floyd and I’m on the record Tony, as you know saying that I expect these officers to be convicted. But if they’re not convicted, I would assume that in the civil case the defense lawyers for the city and the officers would try to use that in some way to suggest that they did not do anything wrong or criminal. So that then means that they didn’t do anything unreasonable to apply in the civil case. However, I know Tony Romanucci and myself, we are above average trial lawyers. I don’t want to lose my air of humility.
Antonio Romanucci: You’re a great guy Ben. You’re the best.
Benjamin Crump: We were told, if they found those officers not guilty in the civil case which means that would be the only form of justice that George Floyd’s family and his children would get, then we would use that to our advantage in the civil case, wouldn’t you agree Tony?
Antonio Romanucci: Absolutely. Absolutely, and you can already see, you want to talk about public strategy, you look at what the City of Minneapolis is doing to its own police officers, they’re already posturing the case trying to cut the officers loose saying that their actions were outside the scope of their policies, they’re not indemnifying those police officers that we know of yet.
It’s really unbelievable what the City of Minneapolis is doing right now to separate itself from the encounter. They know that they’re going to have to own what happened, but they’re trying to step away from it as far as they can and leave those police officers by themselves hanging out there for that criminal case.
Jonathan Amarilio: But before we go to stranger than legal fiction, Ben, I think a good way to close out this segment is to zoom out even more and look at the nation as a whole. And I just — I keep wondering, whether this case will be a turning point. You said at the beginning of the interview that this is the most important civil rights case that you’ve ever worked on. We’ve seen nationwide protests, we’ve seen the formation of the defund the police movement now I know that means very different things to different people, but something seems to be happening nationwide, do you think this case will be a turning point for the country?
Benjamin Crump: I sincerely hope so. I know Tony and I we’ve a great enthusiasm, had worked with the family of George Floyd. His brother, Philonise Floyd and I got to testify before the United States Congress at which time I told them earnestly that this is the time, this is our time, but we have all these young people multi-generation, multi-racial, multi-geographical coming together not only marching across cities in America but marching across cities across the globe and so we cannot lose this opportunity to get real systematic reform to change the culture and the behavior of policing in America especially when they have interactions with marginalized people of color. And we have to change this moment into a movement, we have to change this activism into action, we have to change this pain that I pray that we all collectively feel when we watch that video of that knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we have to change that pain into a sense of power. And for Tony and Marty and I, what we really want to do is change the protest into policy.
So, not only it will help us in our civil litigation, but more importantly as human beings it will help us prevent these future George Floyd’s of the world, these future Breonna Taylor’s, these future Michael Brown’s, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, Terence Crutcher, Botham Jean in his own apartment eating ice cream and the police woman come and kill him. I mean, Laquan McDonald there in Chicago, that Tony and Marty and you all know too well, Walter Scott, in South Carolina, Eric Garner the first I can’t breathe case. Stephon Clark killed in his grandmother’s backyard, he has a cell phone but because he’s a black man police shoot first ask questions later. Atatiana Jefferson, babysitting her little nephew in Austin Texas. I mean, these cases go on and on and we have to change the culture and behavior of policing in America so we will be able to say, “we don’t have two justice systems in America one for black America and another for white America.” We have to have equal justice for each citizen in the United States of America and that’s what Tony Romanucci and our legal team, we are trying to use this case as a watershed moment as a teachable moment for America to say that we can do better. America, we must do better America.
Jonathan Amarilio: I hope so, that is a sobering list of names. We’re going to take a quick break, we’ll be right back.
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Steve: I do.
Jonathan Amarilio: You look like you need a lawyer. The Chicago Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service has been making referrals for over 70 years to attorneys who have been thoroughly screened for experience in over 40 different areas of the law. Call (312) 554-2001 or visit us online at www.chicagobar.org/lrs.
Jonathan Amarilio: And we’re back. So as our audience knows, we like to end each episode especially one as heavy and emotionally taxing as this on a lighter note. Stranger than legal fiction. The rules are simple, Marty and I have done a little research. We found a law that is still on the book somewhere in the country but probably shouldn’t be, and we’ve made another one up and we’re going to quiz each other and our guests Ben and Tony on which one is real and which one is not. Marty won’t you lead us off?
Martin Gould: Sure. Okay it’s illegal to cross breed dogs and cats in the State of Wisconsin? That’s the first one. It’s illegal to have sex with a porcupine in the State of Florida?
Jonathan Amarilio: Tony, what do you think? Ben? Well, no. Let’s go with Ben, he really likes that one. Ben, what do you think? You seem to have an opinion.
Benjamin Crump: You’re talking about my home State of Florida.
Martin Gould: He’s right, he’s in Florida, maybe he knows the law. He knows the law.
Benjamin Crump: I’m going to say that there is no law in the books that say, “you can’t have sex with a porcupine in the State of Florida.” That is not true.
Martin Gould: Wouldn’t that be a sticky situation Ben?
Jonathan Amarilio: A little pointy.
Benjamin Crump: Good one. Tony, what do you think?
Antonio Romanucci: Oh god, that’s hysterical. Well, all right. So, you know I went to school in the Badger State and there have been some strange things that come out of Wisconsin not to undermine some of the smelly cheeses that they have there, but I love my State of Wisconsin and my time spent Madison. So, I will say that the real law is the one that you cannot breed dogs and cats and that the fiction one is the one coming out of Florida.
Jonathan Amarilio: All right. Well, someone’s got to make this competitive. So I’m going to take the porcupine law as the real one. I know a lot of weird stuff comes out of Florida, so I’m going to go with that one. Ben, I didn’t mean to include you in that one.
Benjamin Crump: Please don’t let it be that one, we don’t want to add that one to the list.
Jonathan Amarilio: I feel like there’s a story behind that, it’s just an instinct. Marty, tell us.
Martin Gould: Ben, do you remember a candidate in Florida? A former U.S. senate candidate Bobbie Bean? Does that name sounds familiar?
Benjamin Crump: It does, yes.
Martin Gould: With a ridiculous law like that, you have to think of all the lobbyists in all the time that it took in Tallahassee to put it on the books. It’s foolishness.
Benjamin Crump: Oh my god.
Martin Gould: That’s the interview he had with the Miami New Times in 2010.
Benjamin Crump: My god, that is a law.
Martin Gould: State of Florida past that law and it’s still on the books.
Benjamin Crump: Oh my god.
Jonathan Amarilio: Wow.
Benjamin Crump: I’m embarrassed.
Martin Gould: Who got caught? Who got caught with a porcupine, that’s what I want to know.
Benjamin Crump: Yeah.
Jonathan Amarilio: That’s the question.
Benjamin Crump: (00:48:20) with a porcupine.
Jonathan Amarilio: All right, all right.
Benjamin Crump: I completely taking it back. I apologize for the entire State of Florida.
Jonathan Amarilio: All right. Round two, are you guys ready?
Benjamin Crump: Ready.
Jonathan Amarilio: So both of these may or may not come out of Minnesota. Option one, in Minnesota it is illegal to stand in the middle of the road and ask drivers by for a job or a political contribution. That’s option one. Option two, in Minnesota, it is illegal for nursing homes and senior centers to hold bingo games for residents more than two days per week. So, standing in the middle of road asking for jobs or contributions or playing bingo too much in nursing homes? Ben, what do you think?
Benjamin Crump: I’m going off on a lay and say you can’t stand in the middle of the road ask for contributions and bingo, but I’m probably wrong because that sounds logical.
Antonio Romanucci: I’ll take the other Ben, I’ll take the other one that they’re going to limit those old folks to not playing more than twice a week and get them addicted to the juice of gambling. So, I’ll go with gambling or the bingo I should say.
Jonathan Amarilio: Marty, what do you think man?
Martin Gould: I’m thinking that it’s the real one is the bingo law. Just because it’s got to be ridiculous.
Jonathan Amarilio: So the real one is —
Martin Gould: So I think somebody actually passed that law prohibiting the amount of times you play bingo in a week.
Jonathan Amarilio: Section 169.22 of the Minnesota Civil Statute says, “no person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting employment, business or contributions from an occupant of a vehicle.” Now, consolation price. The nursing home law was real and it was repealed in 2015.
Benjamin Crump: All right. So, I got the part of it. Half, half point.
Antonio Romanucci: Asking for contributions does make sense, is a lot — that maybe they should have if — I could see somebody potentially passing that.
Benjamin Crump: Yeah, I could too because the people who want that control gambling will say, we aren’t going to have any other gambling unless you come to my place suddenly.
Antonio Romanucci: That’s right. We want we want those dollars coming in our slot machine, not on a bingo card.
Benjamin Crump: Yeah —
Jonathan Amarilio: And sorry Ben, go ahead.
Benjamin Crump: No I probably got time for one more but this is fun.
Jonathan Amarilio: That — I think that’s all we’ve got actually. That’s going to be our show for today.
Benjamin Crump: All right.
Jonathan Amarilio: I want to thank our guests Ben Crump and Tony Romanucci for this difficult tragic but necessary an important conversation. I also want to thank my co-host, Martin Gould, our Executive Producer Jen Byrne, Adam Lockwood on sound and everyone at the Legal Talk Network family. Remember, you can follow us, send us comments, questions, episode, ideas or just troll us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at [email protected] Please also rate us and leave us your feedback on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you download your podcast. It helps get the word out. Until next time, for everyone here at the CBA, thank you for joining us and we’ll see you soon @theBar.
Young and young-ish lawyers have interesting and unscripted conversations with their guests about legal news, events, topics, stories and whatever else strikes our fancy.
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