State vs. Chauvin: Day Seven continued with Jury Selection

State vs. Chauvin: Day Seven continued with Jury Selection Photo: WDIO File

WDIO
Updated: March 17, 2021 12:44 PM
Created: March 16, 2021 09:39 AM

Court reconvened at 8 a.m. Tuesday as attorneys and Judge Peter Cahill discussed motions. There have been nine jurors seated so far for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin who is charged in the death of George Floyd. This is the second week of the court process.

According to Hubbard sister-station KSTP, Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, argued to allow evidence from a prior arrest of Floyd. The state said the defense is simply trying to damage Floyd's character. Judge Cahill says he will take the arguments under advisement. Jury selection would resume after a short break. 

Out of seven jurors questioned, none were seated on Tuesday. Here are the happenings during Day Seven of court proceedings:

Before jury selection began, the defense raised their concerns about asking for relief after the city of Minneapolis announced a settlement of $27 million to Floyd's family Friday, while the jury-selection process has been ongoing.   According to KSTP Reporter, Eric Chaloux, Judge Cahill said he will take this concern up on Wednesday.

Judge Cahill welcomed a new batch of potential jurors, with oriantation to explain the process. Then Juror No. 63 took the stand to be questioned.  Juror No. 63 says she recently finished up her undergraduate degree and is currently a teacher. She says she may see it as a hardship to serve on the jury during the trial. The judge excused Juror No. 63 for cause. He noted her new career and hardship in serving would be difficult for her.

Juror No. 64 is a man who works for a software company. He tells the judge he has seen a lot of headlines because his company is building software for a media company. He says he has been working on this project for the past three months, and noted to the judge that he is still working on the project with the media company.  Despite seeing all of the headlines, the potential juror says he can be impartial. The judge has dismissed Juror No. 64 from serving on the jury. 

Questioning begins with Juror No. 66.  The woman says she hasn't seen much relating to the case, but noted that she has seen some recent headlines. She said she has a relative who is a State Trooper, and believes she would take law enforcement's views at a higher value because of this relationship. 

She also says she doesn't want to be a part of the trial. She will be excused for hardship by the judge. 

So far, three potential jurors called Tuesday morning, have been dismissed for "cause" by Judge Peter Cahill.  Juror No. 67 is now on the stand.

Juror No. 67 says he is an executive director of a youth organization. Up to this point, he has formed a negative opinion of Chauvin. He said he formed a somewhat negative impression of Floyd because "he was resisting arrest and was under the influence of drugs." He said he has not seen the entire Floyd arrest video. He believes the community was affected in a positive and negative way after the unrest ensued.  

In sharing his personal experiences with police, he says both of his parents have been arrested in the past, relating to domestic violence. He also says he encountered some aggressive police officers when he was accused of breaking into a skatepark with others in Georgia. The man told the defense it was a misunderstanding. It was resolved in the end. 

He thinks discrimination exists, but also believes the media amplifies it, "whether good or bad."

He also stated, "I am for life, both Black and blue." When asked about the justice system, the potential juror believes there are a lot of "broken pieces to our whole system," adding that police brutality against BIPOC communities is "only the tip of the iceberg."

KSTP reporter, Ana Lastra tweeted:

Juror No. 67 was been excused. The defense used their first peremptory challenge strike of the day. They have five remaining. The state has four remaining.  The court began a short recess, and resumed shortly after 11:15 a.m. with Juror No. 69.

The court is back in session. Four potential jurors will be reviewed this afternoon, however the defense continues to raise its concerns in the case. 

Before calling in the juror pool, State Prosecutor Steve Schleicher and Defense Attorney Eric Nelson exchanged perspectives with the judge regarding the case's development. The defense has asked the court to automatically strike any potential juror who has heard of the settlement announced on Friday or plea negotiations. Cahill asked whether Nelson felt he was restricted in asking about the settlement. 

According to KSTP, who has a reporter in the courtroom, the defense asked to be given its last peremptory strike back and that Juror No. 69 should be excused for cause. Schleicher calls this "overblown," saying out of the 14 people questioned, only three people have heard about it. The state further argues that the defense is asking the court to presume that potential jurors are lying to him if they say they can set aside the fact if they have heard about the settlement. 

Cahill reassures both the defense and state that it "will be a quick road to a challenge for cause." He adds that potential jurors are not intentionally lying, but perhaps they lack the introspection to understand whether they will be able to set aside their views. 

Addressing the settlement announcement, Cahill called it "unfortunate," saying it is more of a political decision than a legal decision. He said he is more troubled by the leak of the potential plea agreement. 

Juror No. 71 will be questioned to lead off the afternoon. Juror 71 describes himself as "a fun guy to be around," adding that he is very driven in his career. Has "a couple" of young kids and states he's a family-oriented guy who is also a sports fan.

He says he has heard about the third-degree murder charge and the settlement news recently. However, he says he is able to presume someone's innocence until proven guilty. He adds he doesn't believe the civil and criminal cases are related. 

The potential juror says he initially had some safety concerns surrounding the trial, more so for his family. He explains he's able to put those worries to the side to serve on the jury. 

The man had a very strong and negative reaction to the Floyd video. He adds that the image of Chauvin is "seared" in his brain. 

While Juror No. 71 has said that Chauvin "took this man's life," he also stated that Floyd was not admirable "due to his life choices." He explained forming an opinion based on reports of drugs, the counterfeit bill and a report that Floyd "abused a female, which doesn't sit right with me." The juror says it will be difficult to "unsee" the Floyd arrest footage.

The defense continued to press the juror about his ability to set aside opinions and presume innocence. He says he can, and will do his best. However, the judge said, "I think the answer is not really," in regards to the juror.

When the state asked the potential juror if he could acquit Chauvin, even if the video is introduced as evidence, the potential juror again reaffirmed his stance. "I'm going to do everything I can be to be fair and listen to everything presented in front of me and put aside any personal opinions," he said.

The judge and both parties moved for a sidebar on the potential juror, asking Juror No. 71 to step out of the courtroom. They discussed whether the man can serve on the jury, after saying he would "try" to put personal feelings aside in this case. The state is arguing to ask questions to Juror No. 71. The judge agrees to give the state that request.

Juror No. 71 mentioned on the questionnaire that he has no interest in serving on the jury, further stating that he "doesn't need to fear for his wife, himself or two children's safety." When asked about that from Nelson, the potential juror said he still feels like he can be fair and impartial. He also says he can make it work regarding his job and family. 

Following a short recess, the judge and both parties in the courtroom discussed the concerns regarding Juror 71. Judge Cahill says his concern is that the juror gave his answers, always qualifying them by saying, "I'll try." The judge released Juror No. 71.

Juror No. 73 will be questioned next. Juror No. 73 says he has heard of the Floyd settlement when asked if he had heard anything regarding the case. The man called the timing of the settlement "odd," saying that it came before a criminal trial but reassured the judge that it wouldn't affect him. He noted to the judge if he were to serve on the jury, it would be a financial hardship, as he stated he's self-employed. He works in the real estate industry.

"I didn't want to do it," was the man's response when asked what he thought when he was summoned. He told Nelson that he is able to apply the law even if he disagrees with it.

He shared that he has been married for 23 years and has three adult children. 

The man says he hasn't seen the full video of Floyd's arrest. He has seen clips of the video "four to five times," as well as some still images. 

When answering the questionnaire, he filled it out by saying that he had a somewhat negative impression of Floyd and Chauvin. He explained saying he thought Chauvin was a "hard a**," and that the determination on Floyd was based on his drug use. He says he is able to set aside his opinions for the trial. 

Despite the potential juror saying he has "a couple" of friends who are police officers, the man stated it would not effect anything in the trial if he were to serve on the jury. 

The judge has released Juror No. 73. According to Minnesota law, it is ground to excuse for cause if the potential juror would credit the testimony of a police officer more than a civilian. The judge cited this reason for cause.

The court will reconvene Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. The Zoom call with seven of the selected jurors will take place at 8:45 a.m.

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