MINNEAPOLIS — The judge in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd wants one more juror before opening arguments begin next week.
As of Monday, March 22, 14 jurors, including two alternates, had been selection after interviews about their knowledge of the case and their views. While 14 is the maximum number of jurors, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said Monday he wants to select one more to be sure 14 can serve. Cahill said he will dismiss the extra juror next Monday, March 29, if needed.
Cahill said 12 more potential jurors will be brought in Tuesday, March 23, and the last juror will be selected “no matter how long it takes.”
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the May 25, 2020, death of Floyd, who was Black and died while Chauvin was arresting him. The arrest was captured on video, spurring protests and violent rioting in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. Chauvin is white.
The court is not confirming which 12 members will sit on the active jury and which are alternates. The jurors themselves won’t know until they are dismissed.
The jury is currently made up of nine women and five men. Two of the jurors identify as multiracial, four identify as Black and the rest identify as white.
Defense again argues for change of venue
Cahill started Monday’s proceedings by noting that the defense again filed briefs in favor of moving the trial to a different county in Minnesota because of the amount of pre-trial publicity regarding a $27 million settlement between the City of Minneapolis and the Floyd family, announced earlier this month.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, motioned for the change last week, arguing the news would taint the jury pool, but Cahill denied it Friday, March 19. Cahill said Monday he reviewed the additional materials the defense filed over the weekend, but they don’t change his mind.
“I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity in this case,” Cahill said Friday.
14th juror seated
Meanwhile, a 14th juror was seated Monday, identified as Juror No. 118, a white woman in her 20s. She has worked as a social worker for the past five years, specializing in mental health.
She said she had a somewhat negative to neutral opinion of Chauvin. She said the negativity mostly came from constant news reports about Floyd’s death. She also said she was scared that the riots from last year in the core metro would spread into surrounding suburbs.
In her job, she has interacted with people who have used or abused controlled substances, but she said that doesn’t impact her perceptions of them.
“I never judge a person based on that alone,” she said.
Legal experts say the defense is likely to argue that the drugs that an autopsy found in Floyd’s system at the time of his death are what killed him, not Chauvin’s actions. In the video, Chauvin is seen pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd is on the ground pleading for air. Floyd later passed out and died.
Juror No. 118 also said she’s had conversations with her family about whether possible police reform is needed in regards to how law enforcement interact with individuals with mental health conditions. She said she could set her own training and experiences aside and decide the case objectively.
Prosecution, defense strike jurors Monday
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Seven potential jurors were dismissed Monday.
The defense used two peremptory strikes to dismiss Juror No. 115 and Juror No. 121. The defense has three strikes left.
Juror No. 115 appeared to be a white woman in her 20s or 30s. The woman said she had participated in marches following Floyd’s death and had carried a sign with a fist on it. She also agreed the criminal justice system is unfair toward people of color.
Juror No. 121 appeared to be white man in his 30s or 40s. He had strong opinions against police officers and said that law enforcement and other agencies try to cover up crimes. He also believed Chauvin’s actions caused Floyd’s death. He said he could be impartial, but the defense motioned for Cahill to dismiss him for cause. Cahill said he understood why the defense wanted to dismiss him, but said there was not enough basis for him to be dismissed for cause.
Prosecutors used a peremptory strike to remove Juror No. 116, who appeared to be a white man in his 30s. The man said he doesn’t follow the news much, especially national news, and was not aware of any protests about Floyd’s death taking place outside of Minneapolis. Prosecutors have two strikes left.
Peremptory strikes allow either side to dismiss potential jurors without providing a reason why. Cahill gave the defense three more strikes and the prosecution one additional strike due to extensive pretrial publicity. The jurors are only being identified by number and their identities and images are being kept secret.
Judge dismisses four potential jurors
Cahill dismissed four potential jurors for cause Monday.
The first, Juror No. 117, who appeared to be a white woman in her 20s or 30s, and she said she did not understand English well and would have difficulty understanding medical and technical testimony.
The second, Juror No. 119, who appeared to be a white man in his 30s, said the news of the civil settlement had swayed his impartiality, and he would have difficulty presuming Chauvin to be innocent.
The third, Juror No. 120, appeared to be an Asian man in his 30s or 40s. He said he was leaning toward a guilty verdict, and was unsure he could set his opinions aside. He described his perception of Chauvin by using an analogy of young brothers fighting until one asks the other to stop.
“There’s a line where you have to stop when someone says 'no more,'" he said.
The fourth, Juror No. 123, who appeared to be a white woman in her 40s, was dismissed after an off-audio conversation. Before the audio was cut, she expressed concerns about being able to serve because of a child ill with a chronic condition at home.
Floyd’s arrest and death occurred after he was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes, and set off weeks of protests and riots across the country and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.
Three other former officers charged in connection with Floyd’s death — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are scheduled to go to trial in August.