Retired Chief Public Defender gives insight into Chauvin Trial jury selection process

Michael Gendron
Updated: March 09, 2021 09:12 PM
Created: March 09, 2021 05:06 PM

With the Chauvin Trial currently in its jury selection process, Fred Friedman, an adjunct associate professor at University of Minnesota, Duluth and the former Chief Public Defender for Minnesota’s 6th District, explained the purpose and importance of the procedure.

“The lawyers on both sides, both for the defendant and the state, have the opportunity to examine jurors and visit with them to make a determination whether they’ll be a fair and impartial and non-prejudice juror,” Friedman described as the basics.

In the Chauvin trial, the process is currently expected to take a few weeks and Friedman had some insights as to why.

"Well, if you're dealing in a minor case, it would only take a couple of hours. You're dealing with a smaller felony, it might take a day or part of a day, but this is everything. You're talking about somebody going to prison for 40 years on hand on the other hand we have somebody that's dead."

Friedman said, that it’s necessary for both the defense and prosecution to take this time to ensure an impartial and diverse jury, especially in the Chauvin Trial where racial factors are a large part of the conversation. 

During this process there are two key tools for potential juror removal, the first being a peremptory strike.

"Peremptory just means the other side doesn't want you. One side or the other doesn't want you and in every state they get [a limited amount of] peremptory strikes," explained Friedman. A reason doesn’t have to be given for a peremptory strike, though Friedman did note that peremptory strikes can’t be used in situations like removing a potential juror because of their race.

The second tool used in removing a potential juror is called a strike of cause.

"There's no limit on that.  That's when one of the lawyers and then the judge don't think somebody will be fair," explained Friedman citing examples such as potential juror stating “I’m always going to believe a woman over a man,” or “I’m always going to believe an older person over a younger person.”

Another factor in the length of the selection process, explained Friedman, is that it’s just not the 12-person jury being selected, but in this case also 4 alternates.

"In a long trial, a judge will decide how many alternates to have in case somebody gets sick, or whatever, in the middle of a trial. Otherwise, can you imagine the nightmare if they lose a juror in the middle of a trial and have to start over?" posited Friedman.

As this process continues, he hopes people recognize the difference between the juror experience during a trial and what people see at home.

“How few are going to watch this gavel to gavel; the entire thing?” he asked. “The problem is that you watch a snippet and develop an opinion over a snippet and that’s really unfair. The jury gets to listen to all this.”
 

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