cover image Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police Violence

Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police Violence

Keith Ellison. Twelve, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-1-538-72563-4

Minnesota attorney general Ellison debuts with a detailed insider’s account of the 2021 trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, whose death in 2020 ignited protests around the nation and invigorated the Black Lives Matter movement. Ellison begins by offering a litany of earlier cases in which prosecutors failed to convict defendant police officers for murder. He presents reasons why such convictions are so difficult, among them jury bias in favor of police, judicial rulings that benefit the defense, and prosecutors’ tendency to dismiss charges. Recounting his role as lead prosecutor in the Chauvin case, Ellison describes how these and other obstacles factored into the trial. “No aspect of the Floyd case [was] more out of the ordinary than the governor’s decision to appoint the attorney general for the prosecution,” writes Ellison, claiming that this was essential for overcoming the “embedded conflict of interest” present when local prosecutors bring a case against local law enforcement. He also highlights the critical role of the judge in the Chauvin trial, who took extra measures to weed out biased jury members and clamp down on prejudicial comments from counsel. Grounding his argument in hard-won experience, Ellison presents a lucid and comprehensive template for the prosecution of police officers accused of violent crimes. Readers will come away feeling cautiously optimistic. (May)