MINNEAPOLIS — One lone juror is needed to fill out the panel that will decide the fate of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who found himself at the center of the debate over racial inequality and police violence after being charged in the death of George Floyd.
Fourteen of the 15 jurors — 12 who will deliberate Chauvin’s fate and three who will serve as alternates — have been selected so far.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said the court would hear from as many as a dozen potential jurors on Tuesday. Opening statements are scheduled Monday.
Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. As he lay on the ground under Chauvin, Floyd cried out, “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times. The incident sparked protests worldwide.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
- Court reconvened with jury selection at 9 a.m. CT Tuesday.
- A 14th juror was selected Monday, bringing the jury to five men and nine women. Eight people identify as white, two as multiracial and four as Black, according to the court. Six of the jurors are in their 20s or 30s, three in their 40s, four in their 50s and one in their 60s.
- Attorneys for the defense and prosecution have spent the past two weeks questioning potential jurors about their views on racism, discrimination, policing communities of color and Black Lives Matter.
- Meanwhile, last week, lead defense attorney Eric Nelson told a prospective juror that the trial is “not about race.”
- Jurors will be allowed to hear evidence related to George Floyd’s drug-related arrest in 2019, Cahill ruled Friday. He denied the defense’s request to move or delay the trial.
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A fourteenth juror was added Monday, a white woman in her 20s who works as a social worker.
The jurors come from a wide array of backgrounds. Some are well-versed in the case; others haven’t followed the months of developments.
The panel includes a chemist, a nurse who’s been caring for patients on ventilators, a retiree and a social worker. Six of the jurors are in their 20s or 30s, three in their 40s, four in their 50s and one in her 60s.
Given the circumstances of Floyd’s death — a Black man dying under the knee of a white police officer — the racial makeup of the jury is a key concern. Eight of the jurors self-identify as white, two as multiracial and four as Black, according to the court.
Here’s a quick look at who is serving on the jury:
- A white woman in her 20s who works as a social worker and recently was married
- A white woman in her 50s who is a self-described animal lover with a passion for affordable housing
- A white woman in her 40s who works in insurance and said she loves the state of Minnesota
- A Black woman in her 60s who retired from marketing and said she loves spending time with her grandkids and volunteering at a youth organization.
- A white nurse in her 50s who works with ventilated COVID-19 patients
- A mixed-race woman in her 40s who works in company reorganizations
- A Black man in his 40s who works in management and has lived in Hennepin County for two decades
- A white woman in her 50s who works in healthcare and likes to ride her motorcycle
- A Black man in his 30s who works in banking and coaches youth sports
- A white woman in her 50s who works at a nonprofit and is the single mother of two teenage sons
- A Black man in his 30s who works in tech and immigrated from Africa to the U.S.
- A white business auditor in his 30s
- A mixed-race woman in her 20s who said she registered to vote in hope of getting a jury summons for the Chauvin case
- A white chemist in his 20s who works on environmental testing and plays Ultimate Frisbee
Dozens of potential jurors were vetted by prosecution and defense lawyers, including whether they could put aside their opinions on the case, their thoughts on social movements, and their opinions about the protests that defined last summer. The vetting in at least one case included a review of a potential juror’s social media activity.
All the jurors, including those who were selected, were asked about the video showing Chauvin pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes. Some said they were struck by the footage; others had seen only short clips. Only a few said they hadn’t seen any video of the fatal encounter.
“It was emotional. I decided I didn’t want to watch it,” one juror said.Another said it was “too disturbing” to watch the full video.
All were asked about the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements. They offered a variety of opinions, from offering strong support to saying both movements have become marketing schemes for politicians and businesses.
One said Black Lives Matter hasn’t always taken “the best actions, but I do believe that Black lives matter.” Another said he thought Blue Lives Matter was only “a thing” to counter the Black Lives Matter movement.
Many potential jurors expressed unfavorable attitudes toward Chauvin, with many saying it stemmed from the video of Floyd’s arrest. But the jurors chosen said they would presume Chauvin innocent and make their decision solely on the evidence presented at trial.
Some of the interviews with jurors provided hints to what could shape their verdict. One noted he wanted to hear from Chauvin during the trial to offer his side of what happened. Another said she wanted to better understand police training and whether placing a knee on someone’s neck was allowed.
Historic settlement marked flashpoint in jury selection
As attorneys were attempting to ferret out potential jurors in Derek Chauvin’s trial who were swayed by news coverage of George Floyd’s death, the city of Minneapolis approved a $27 million civil settlement with Floyd’s family. That prompted the defense to renew its request that the trial be delayed or moved.
News of the settlement broke over a lunch break on the fourth day of jury selection. Ben Crump, the lead attorney for Floyd’s family, called it the largest pretrial settlement in a wrongful death case.
The following week, seven jurors who had been chosen before the announcement were called back and questioned over whether it threatened their impartiality. Two were dismissed after saying it did.
At least three other potential jurors were dismissed because they said they couldn’t be impartial given the settlement. Others said they had heard of the settlement, but it wouldn’t influence them.
Cahill denied the defense’s motions to move or delay the trial due to the settlement announcement.
The announcement “was incredibly bad timing and extremely damaging to the defense and maybe the state,” said Mary Moriarty, former chief public defender of Hennepin County, Minnesota.
National Guard, police plan increased presence next week
While people have protested nearly every day of Derek Chauvin’s trial, officials said Monday afternoon there have been no arrests related to the trial or reports of property damage.
Police officials said they will increase their presence next week as opening statements begin.
“It will not be a dramatic increase,” Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said at a news conference. “At this time, there is no information or intelligence that would justify a major increase in our posture.”
He added there have been no credible threats to the trial or the Twin Cities area.
In preparation for the trial, the Hennepin County Government Center was surrounded with fencing and concrete barriers. Nearby businesses were boarded up.
Members of the Minnesota National Guard are stationed outside the courthouse.
“We remain ready to respond, and we are committed to preventing bad things from happening,” Harrington said.
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