Ben Crump, the Florida attorney representing George Floyd's survivors, calls himself the "African American family emergency plan."
"Because when you think about it, who are you going to call when the police kill your family?" Crump said by phone last week from a hotel room in Milwaukee, where he had just arrived to demand body camera footage from another deadly police encounter. "You're not going to call the police."
Crump has won more than 200 police brutality suits and represents the families of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbury in addition to Floyd's. A fixture on television news interviews, Crump rose to international fame for filing successful lawsuits on behalf of Trayvon Martin's and Michael Brown's families.
He is also at once a spokesman for the families and a shoulder to lean on at their most traumatic hour. Since taking the Floyd family's case, Crump joined them at the south Minneapolis memorial site where Floyd died in police custody, at multiple vigils, and at a U.S. House hearing on policing reform and inequality.
Now, as the family awaits the criminal prosecution of the four fired Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd's death -- Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao -- Crump is also preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit that legal experts say could dwarf the record $20 million payout for the 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Often -- such as in the cases of Martin and Brown, whose shooters were either not charged or were acquitted -- civil judgments won by Crump can represent their survivors' only courtroom victory.
"The criminal prosecution of police in cases of them killing and brutalizing minorities in America is abysmal," Crump said. "So often it happens that unfortunately people have kind of accepted that police have gotten away with killing black people as the norm. We can't accept that. We have to use every strategy possible to try to say, 'This is not America. All Americans deserve equal justice.'?"
On Monday, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill set a March 8 date for a trial expected to garner intense international interest. Though he did not name Crump, Cahill also warned that further pretrial public commentary by elected officials and others could lead him to move the trial outside of Hennepin County over concerns that the officers would not get a fair trial there.
Defense attorneys for the four former officers declined to comment for this article. Robert Paule, Thao's attorney, argued in court Monday that the steady stream of opinions on the case expressed to date had imperiled his client's constitutional right to a fair trial.
"I'm fighting the battle with one hand," Paule said, referring to the public statements.