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A Closer Look At Peter Cahill, The Judge Presiding Over Derek Chauvin's Trial

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- All eyes are on the court proceedings involving four former Minneapolis police officers, now charged in George Floyd's death.

The killing sparked outrage around the world, with cries for justice for Floyd.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill was assigned to the case. Former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed Cahill to the bench in 2007. Voters then elected him twice more.

Former law partner Mike Colich called Cahill's background diverse. They met while Cahill was a law clerk in the mid-80s.

"He's certainly qualified to be a judge based on all the experience he has," Colich said.

Cahill has been a public defender and a criminal defense attorney.

"He was a great lawyer. Very, very skilled. Great intuitive sense and how to deal with people and to deal with the facts of a case," Colich said. "I know jurors liked him, I know judges liked him."

Judge Peter Cahill
Judge Peter Cahill (credit: CBS)

Cahill went out on his own in the mid-90s before joining the Hennepin County Attorney's Office in 1997, where he stayed until being named a judge a decade later. Cahill was also the chief deputy under then-Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

Judge Cahill has presided over highly-publicized cases. In November of 2019, Kenneth Lilly pleaded guilty to shooting a school bus driver with a student on board. Cahill sentenced him to more than seven years in prison -- on the higher end of the punishment range.

In late 2015, he dismissed charges against organizers of a large Black Lives Matter protest at Mall of America. In Judge Cahill's lengthy decision he said by management and security allowing it to happen in the first 30 minutes, it was "a tacit decision to allow a brief demonstration." And he noted protestors made attempts to disperse once ordered.

The trials in front of him are for Chauvin, charged with second-degree murder in Floyd's death. And aiding-and-abetting charges for Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. Colich says Cahill is who you want presiding over the case.

This trial marks the first time cameras will be allowed in a Minnesota courtroom for a criminal case.

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