Updated: March 10, 2021 06:12 PM
Created: March 10, 2021 10:50 AM
On the third day of court proceedings, attorneys in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death probed potential jurors about their attitudes toward police. They're trying to determine whether they’re more inclined to believe testimony from law enforcement over evidence from other witnesses to the fatal confrontation. Two jurors were seated on Wednesday.
Judge Peter Cahill called a recess for the day at about 4:40 p.m. Court will reconvene Thursday morning at 8 a.m. Cahill says nine jurors will be in court Thursday. Cahill also said the Supreme Court update will be further addressed in Thursday morning's court session.
Just before calling recess, juror No. 30 was dismissed. The defense used a peremptory challenge strike, leaving them with 10 remaining.
Juror No. 30 says he grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Minnesota when he was about 24 years old. He told the judge that he listened and viewed the live-stream of the court proceedings as he wasn't sure if it would identify him or not. He was reassured that it does not. Jurors are not allowed to do such a thing, as the judge reminded the potential juror.
"It is a difficult case with a lot of attention on it so I took it with even more weight, that it is an opportunity to serve and also a heavy burden on anyone involved in the case," he said, describing his reaction when he discovered he would have an opportunity to serve on the jury for this case.
He also holds a position of leadership in a church, with about 200 people attending regularly, aside from the COVID-19 pandemic creating an impact.
The potential juror said he has favorable opinions on Black Lives Matter, and has unfavorable opinions on police.
Aside from the potential juror saying he believed "Chauvin murdered Floyd," he said he would be impartial if he served in the trial. Juror No. 30 was dismissed.
The state prosecution used a peremptory challenge strike, for juror No. 29, leaving six left for them.
Juror No. 29 is a lawyer. Defense attorney Nelson asked her if she has ever had a client lie to her, to which she replied, "I believe so, yes."
She explained, "If it's an obvious lie, address it right then. If I find out later, have to have a hard conversation about the lie and how it impacted the case and if I can continue to represent them."
When resolving conflict amongst her peers, she says tries to get to the root of the issue. She adds she is always willing to reexamine her views.
The juror said she understands the movement of Black Lives Matter, and says it's evolving. She answered "neutral" on the questionnaire regarding Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter.
She also said, "I believe there is some positive awareness that has come of the incident... I would say though overall it's been negative," citing destruction of Uptown businesses in the ensuing riots that happened after Floyd's death.
She believes, despite her profession, she can remain impartial to the case.
When asked if she thought the jury process was fair, she said "for the most part it can work." She said she has worked with women in prison and it opened her eyes to environmental factors that lead women to a return to prison. She believes it's "really strange" if people "really want to" be on a jury, when asked if she wanted to be on the jury.
She told state prosecutors she answered "somewhat disagree" on the questionnaire in regards to the Minneapolis Police Department more likely to use force on Black people. She explained she doesn't have any information to say they do, but said by choosing "neutral" that it "didn't feel like a correct response."
Her pro bono work involves legal advocacy for low-income clients.
"There is sometimes not an equal access to justice and attorneys based on race," she said, in response to being asked about racial discrimination by the state prosecution team. However, she would not agree that the criminal justice system is racially biased.
When asked why she has a neutral impression of Chauvin, she replied, "A lot of people are jumping to a conclusion based on feeling... and 'this is what I would do' but the vast majority of people who are saying that are not police officers and I'm not a police officer."
The defense has used a peremptory challenge strike on Juror No. 28, their second used on Wednesday.
The juror is described as a white man in his 60s. He works in real estate. He has children who have been involved in social justice reform, adding his daughter was involved in protests last summer. He also said he felt strongly about social injustices. He said his previous opinions included that Chauvin and Floyd knew each other, but stated if he would serve on the jury he would try to put that aside.
However, he said he has always had "good" experiences with police. He mentioned that he and his family and friends have advocated for police reform.
Another potential juror, Juror No. 98, has been excused herself due to age. She is described to be in her 80s. She had the option to opt-out for that reason and contacted the jury office to state she will not be participating.
A fifth juror was seated just after lunch on Wednesday, as the jury selection process resumed in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd's death. Juror No. 27 has been approved to serve on the jury. He is the fifth member approved, with nine seats remaining to be filled.
Juror No. 27 is an immigrant who came to the United States 14 years ago. He is an African immigrant, according to a pool reporter in the courtroom. He said he moved to the Midwest and did his schooling there. He moved from Nebraska to Minnesota in 2012. The man works in informational technology in a management position and has a dog and wife. He speaks multiple languages, with French being his first language and English his second.
In a discussion with the state prosecutor, the juror said he typically stays off social media as he likes to maintain a private life. That was his reasoning behind not seeing a lot of coverage on this case and going forward if he was accepted to serve on the jury.
He also adds that he is against defunding the police, as he believes police are needed in communities.
Earlier Wednesday, a fourth juror was seated. This juror originally from central Minnesota, said he had seen the video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck but doesn't know specific details of the case and said he is willing to set his opinions aside in favor of the facts and evidence presented at the trial.
So far, media observers in the courtroom report that the jury includes three white men, one African immigrant, and a woman, who is a person of color. Cameras in the courtroom are not allowed to show the jurors' faces to protect their identities.
LIVE VIDEO: Chauvin jury selection
Derek Chauvin faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. The court is awaiting direction from the Appeals Court about whether it should stop the trial while the court system decides whether a charge of third-degree murder against Chauvin should be reinstated.
Opening arguments are scheduled to begin March 29.
Juror #20: Selected
Juror No. 20 has been accepted to serve on the jury in the Chauvin trial. He is the fourth member of the jury.
The man, from the Stearns/Morrison County area, said he was aware of the trial happening but doesn't know specific details of the case other than seeing the video of Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd's neck. Despite forming his opinion on the video, he says he is willing to set aside those differences in favor of facts and evidence presented.
He mentioned he has a wedding scheduled in Florida, which to his and his fiance's dismay could be moved due to the trial. However, he said it was going to be a chance anyways with COVID-19 still being an issue.
"Go ahead and throw me under the bus with your fiance," Judge Cahill told the juror after he was selected for the jury.
In regards to Black Lives Matter, he says he doesn't understand why others "wouldn't support that Black lives do matter." In comparison, he says the Blue Lives Matter mantra is a "rip-off" of Black Lives Matter. However, he believes that entire police departments shouldn't be to blame for things in entirety, but acknowledges that there are "bad cops" that exist within the system.
When asked a question about being a season ticket holder for the Minnesota Vikings and the social justice stances the team has made, he responded that all players should feel free to express whatever protest or statement they want to make.
He holds a belief that white people and Black people are treated differently when it comes to justice.
The juror has a cousin who has been employed in the past as a law enforcement officer on the East Coast and is also a friend-of-a-friend with a woman who works for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Juror number 22 was dismissed Monday based on questionnaire responses.
Juror #23: Excused
Juror No. 23 was dismissed. State prosecutors issued a peremptory challenge strike, the second one they have issued in as many days. The state now has seven remaining; the defense has 13 left to use.
The potential juror lives in Minneapolis and has lived in the same house for about 24 years. She says she has lived in the metro area for "40-some" years. She is originally from the western part of the state. She is described to be a white woman in her 50s or 60s, according to a pool reporter in the courtroom.
She described herself as someone who can easily admit a change of opinion based on facts and logic. She has never been called to serve for jury duty. She works for a marketing company and has a large, extended family.
She said in court she has seen the bystander video "four to five" times, but in snippets shown on the news. She has never viewed the video in its entirety. The potential juror answered on the questionnaire that she feels neutral both towards Chauvin and Floyd, as she stated she "doesn't know them and can't form an opinion without all facts."
The woman says the case was an "avoidable tragedy." In response to her saying on the questionnaire that the ensuing protests impacted the city negatively, she explained, saying "people used to like to come to Minneapolis, but it painted the city in a bad light." However, she said the COVID-19 restriction protests "brought attention" to the issue and she believes it influenced businesses being opened more. She said the restrictions were "overboard."
"I personally didn't see any usefulness to it. I didn't see anything being accomplished by it. Except, I suppose bringing attention to the frustrations of the people involved," Juror No. 23 said, regarding the protests that followed the death of Floyd.
The potential juror has a relative who is a sheriff's deputy in western Minnesota, who she speaks with every couple of months, but they don't talk about law enforcement. She said she doesn't feel that she would be more inclined to believe testimony from law enforcement officers based on her family relationship. When asked if she would favor the account of an officer over one from another witness, she said she wasn't sure.
Juror numbers 24 and 25 were dismissed Monday based on questionnaire responses.
Juror #26: Excused
Juror No. 26 has been dismissed. The defense has used a peremptory challenge strike, which leaves them with 12 remaining.
The juror is a Minneapolis resident since 2009. He says he has not followed the case closely, but has seen the video snippet of bystander video "four or five times." The man said he is a "hardworking, honest person."
He mentioned he had brought his wife and daughter to the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue following the riots and unrest. He says it was done out of curiosity, as he is in the area often since he lives in the city. He also noted his reasoning was due to it being a monumental moment in the state.
The man said he wanted justice in the case, and said he acknowledged that a not guilty verdict could be a possibility.
He said news and social media coverage made him feel negatively about the defendant, but he believes he could apply the presumption of innocence to Chauvin.
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