Jury selection continues on day four of Derek Chauvin trial

Potential jurors in Derek Chauvin's murder trial return Thursday to continue the selection process to fill 12 seats with two alternate. Potential jurors in Derek Chauvin's murder trial return Thursday to continue the selection process to fill 12 seats with two alternate. |  Photo: WDIO File

WDIO/KSTP
Updated: March 11, 2021 05:19 PM
Created: March 11, 2021 10:52 AM

Potential jurors in Derek Chauvin's murder trial return Thursday to continue a selection process moving more quickly than expected. Meanwhile, Judge Peter Cahill has granted prosecutors’ request to add a third-degree murder charge against the former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death.

At the start of day four of the proceedings, five jurors have been seated after just two days of screening by attorneys and Judge Peter Cahill, who had set aside at least three weeks to fill the panel. By the 3:30 p.m., the court had recessed for the day after talking with seven potential jurors. The attorney's were able to seat a sixth juror, Juror No. 36 on Thursday morning.

Here are the happenings during Day Four of court proceedings:

According to KSTP, attorneys have given considerable attention to the jury pool's attitudes toward police in the first two days of questioning, trying to determine whether they're more inclined to believe testimony from law enforcement over evidence from other witnesses to the fatal confrontation.

According to Hubbard sister-station KSTP reporter Eric Chaloux, jury selection started with Juror No. 31. According to Chaloux, the man was interviewed with audio off on the video feed. Judge Cahill says No. 31 was dismissed for cause.

Juror No. 36 was called to the stand next.  He said it was "mind-blowing" to find out he was being summoned to potentially serve on the jury for this trial. The juror says he can follow the law even if he thinks it's wrong. He told Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, that he had a "very negative" impression of the former officer. However, the juror says he is willing to put his opinions aside if he's picked to serve on the trial. 

The juror described George Floyd to be "desperately screaming" under Chauvin's knee, but added that if Floyd had followed orders "this wouldn't have happened."

He describes himself as an "outgoing" man. He mentioned he has a wife and two brothers. The man says he knew cousins who live here, which made him come to Minnesota. He has a background of managing high school students in his past, where he managed to resolve conflict often. Juror No. 36 has been accepted to join the jury. He is the sixth person to join the jury, with eight seats remaining to fill. 

Judge Cahill addressed an issue with the court regarding Juror No. 43. The person answered "No English" for every question on the questionnaire. Both parties were in agreement that the juror could be excused.  Juror No. 37 was called to the stand.

Juror No. 37 is a mother of two young children, which she says is the most "important part of her life."

She says after seeing the Floyd video, "I've seen the video... and I can't unsee." She reaffirms to the judge that she can put her opinions aside if she serves on the jury. The woman said she was initially concerned for her safety once she found out she was summoned for jury duty.

In response to the defense saying the Floyd video will be used as evidence in this case, she says it will be "traumatizing" to see it again. 

"I can assure you... the video is going to be a big part of evidence, there's no changing my mind about that," she explained, responding to a question if she can put aside strong opinions on Chauvin and focus on evidence supplemented.

In her answers to the questionnaire, she answered "very negatively" in regards to how she felt about Chauvin. She added, "he looked so hateful." She is neutral on Floyd. The woman says she cried when watching Floyd call out for his mother in the video.

When the defense asked if she would be willing to also see medical autopsy photos, she answered "in this case, I would be willing but otherwise wouldn't want to."

KSTP reporter Callan Gray is monitoring the court proceeding and says Juror No. 37 said she was concerned about safety when she learned she could serve on the jury for the Derek Chauvin trial. The State took over questioning.

Juror No. 37 was dismissed to serve on the jury, and the court took a short recess until 11 a.m. A pool reporter describes her as a Black woman.  According to KSTP's reporter,  the state prosecutor opposed the motion to remove the juror, because she stated she could set aside her opinions and apply the law as given to her.  Judge Cahill said the bottom line for him was that she would not be able to give a presumption of innocence in the case. The state wanted the defense to use a peremptory challenge strike on her if she was to be dismissed. 

Juror No. 38 is a man who moved recently to Minnesota. He has lived here with his family for just over three years. He calls himself a stand-up guy and adds he is willing to do anything for his family. 

He said he doesn't know if it's his job to persuade other jurors during deliberation.  "I'm more of a person who stands by my own convictions," he told the defense. 

KSTP reporter Callan Gray tweeted that Juror 38 said his first thought upon receiving the summons was, “How did they find us again?”

Juror No. 38 said he believes nothing positive came out from the protests following the death of Floyd. He is looking from the perspective of a business owner, as he identifies himself as a business owner.

He is able to differentiate between a protest and riot. He also believes the media "over-hypes" discrimination. 

The man believes that police should be held to a high standard when performing their duties. 

He is also a proponent of believing that all lives matter.

"Black lives matter, Hispanic lives matter, white lives matter — I feel like all lives matter," he said in court on Wednesday. 

Juror No. 38 has been dismissed. The state prosecution team has issued a peremptory challenge strike against him. They have five remaining. The defense has 10 left to use. 

In answering questions from state prosecutor Steve Schleicher, Juror No. 38 expressed strong support for law enforcement and said he has never had a negative interaction with an officer. 

He also disagrees with defunding the police.

The court went into recess until 1:15 p.m.  When court convened after a short delay, questioning began with Juror No. 39.

The man says when he was summoned to serve for jury duty, his wife had concerns and was afraid for him. He said he felt "a really heavy sense of responsibility" once he was aware it was for this trial. The man adds that he experienced some resolution and conflict situations when he helped people experiencing homelessness taking shelter in hotels during the pandemic. 

He also has formed some strong opinions based on the viral video from last summer of Floyd's death. This is not the first time a jury member has felt similarly. He also mentioned that he had "strongly negative" opinions on Chauvin. But he said he is willing to put aside his personal opinions if he's on the jury.

"If I couldn't imagine myself saying not guilty, I wouldn't be here," he told attorney Eric Nelson.

He also shared his thoughts on the aftermath of his death and the unrest that followed.

"It reminded me of a warzone. For some reason, images of World War II popped into my head," he said.

His wife participated in one of the protests last summer and was said to have donated towards policy reform. He said he and his wife share the same sentiments on these topics.

Juror No. 39 has been dismissed from the case. The defense used a peremptory challenge strike against him. The defense has nine remaining. 

State prosecutors have issued a Batson challenge due to the juror's race, as Juror No. 39 identifies as Hispanic. KSTP reporter Callan Gray was in the courtroom and Tweeted:

judge Cahill said he does not believe this qualifies in this situation. Stating it was not race-based, instead suggesting that the juror was "very torn" and could not get over the video he saw. He also described the riots as a World War II occupation force. 

The judge says out of the six jurors who have been confirmed, one identifies as multiracial, three are white, one is Hispanic and one is Black. 

Juror No. 40 is now on the stand for questioning.  He is a teacher, father and husband. Juror No. 40 expressed some concern about the trial length due to the impact on his students. He also enjoys singing in his church choir. 

He said he viewed Chauvin in a negative way, stating that "seeing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd and the other officers standing by and ignoring pleas to stop by bystanders, made it unnecessary and over the top." 

Both he and his wife have shared their concerns for safety if he is chosen to be on the jury. 

Even with the man forming strong opinions against the defense, he says he is willing to set those opinions aside to serve on the jury.

After a brief recess, the court reconvened. Chauvin's attorney questioned Juror No. 40 about social media posts he made about visiting the George Floyd memorial site. 

In the post, he called it "holy ground" and a "place for prayer." 

The defense used another peremptory challenge strike, their seventh used during this process. Juror No. 40 was dismissed.  The defense have eight strikes remaining. The state prosecution team has five remaining. 

Questioning began with Juror No. 41, a woman. Judge Cahill explained the process, and asked the potential juror some preliminary questions.  She told the judge she could not be impartial if she was to be on the jury.  The State asked a few questions as well.

Juror No. 41 was excused from serving on the jury.  

The judge says the court will be in recess until Friday morning, starting at 9 a.m.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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