State vs. Chauvin: Two jurors seated during Day Six questioning

State vs. Chauvin: Two jurors seated during Day Six questioning Photo: WDIO File

WDIO
Updated: March 15, 2021 03:48 PM
Created: March 15, 2021 10:13 AM

Jury selection enters its second week in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin who is charged in the death of George Floyd. Jury selection got underway last week, with seven jurors being chosen prior to Monday - five men and two women. Twelve jurors and two alternates are needed for this trial.

On Monday, the court interviewed eight potential jurors. Two were seated, Juror No. 52, described as a black man in his 30's, and Juror No. 55, identified as a white woman in her 50's. (The demographic data is provided by the juror.)

Here are the happenings during Day Six of court proceedings:

On Monday, attorneys for each side and Judge Peter Cahill went over several motions, but according to Hubbard sister-station, KSTP, the highlight came shortly before the court took a brief recess ahead of the start of jury selection for the day.

According to KSTP, Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson said he was "gravely concerned" by the timing of the city's $27 million settlement with George Floyd's family on Friday and said it could possibly taint the juror pool. Nelson discussed several possible measures to help ensure a fair jury, such as offering the defense more strikes and sequestering the jury.

RELATED STORY: Minneapolis to pay $27M to settle Floyd family lawsuit

Cahill said he'd take the requests under advisement and would grant the motion to question the jurors who have already been picked to see whether they have read anything about the settlement and if that changed their opinions.

After a short recess to get jurors finished with orientation, questioning began at about 9:20 a.m. Juror No. 51 was the first juror addressed by Judge Peter Cahill. 

The juror noted that she had heard the news of the Floyd family settlement on Friday and that it changed her opinion on the case. 

"From my own experience, I work in human resources... generally the preponderance of evidence in civil cases leans towards guilt," she said, adding that the amount given is likely due to the city feeling it could not prevail due to "preponderance of evidence."

She says she can't set aside her judgments for the trial. Judge Cahill dismissed Juror No. 51, thanking her for her honesty that recent developments heard on the news will not change her opinion on the case going forward. 

Juror No. 52 is a youth sports coach. He says he loves sports and music, and isn't concerned for his safety in this trial if he were to serve on the jury. He says he has dealt with sorting out conflicts amongst his players and the players' parents. 

Regarding the case, he knows "many basics" of it, including two autopsies being done on Floyd. He has a neutral opinion for Chauvin and Floyd. He says he doesn't think Chauvin had the intention to end Floyd's life, but he was curious as to why the 3 other former officers did not intervene. The man says he has seen "about a minute" of the Floyd video. 

"Why didn't the other officers stop Chauvin?" he asked in court, adding that even if Chauvin didn't mean to do what he did, someone still died. 

The man says he witnessed a Minneapolis police officer "slam down someone for not cooperating quickly enough and use more force than was necessary." He adds he was walking by and acknowledges he doesn't know the whole story from that isolated incident. 

The man believes that discrimination is impossible to cover in full by the media, saying there is more discrimination than the media can keep up with. 

The State asked Juror No. 52 a few questions. Juror No. 52 will serve on the jury. This juror is described to be a Black man in his 30s.  He becomes the eighth person selected for the jury. Six seats remain, with two of them serving as alternatives. 

After a short recess, questioning began of Juror No. 54. The potential juror told Judge Cahill that he was concerned that it would be difficult for him to be impartial. Adds he was "appalled" by what he saw in the video, couldn't bring himself to watch the entire video. 

"I didn't even see the whole video. I saw as much as I could take of the video and I was appalled by what I saw and the feeling continues to be with me," he told the judge.

He believes the action taken by law enforcement was "inappropriate." He says Floyd may have needed more medical attention in that situation. 

The man, who said he was 75-years-old, told the Judge that he thought about using his age to be exempt from jury duty, but being healthy, he thought he could do his civic duty.

Juror No. 55 is now being questioned by the defense. The woman says she has not heard of the civil case.  She said she is a single parent, works in healthcare. She states she has two children, one of them being an older teenager. She called it "kind of a thrill" to be selected for jury duty.

In regards to how she would view this case as a juror, she is willing to see all sides and make a decision based on facts. She is willing to reexamine her own views. She says she is in a position to uphold the law.

The woman said she learned of the Floyd video through the news media. She said she saw a short clip of the incident. She didn't watch the full video. After watching the video, she couldn't watch it any further, saying it involved a "human-to-human" fatal situation. 

She agrees with the defense in saying the video is just a part of the story. 

She states she won't be able to form an opinion until she learns of all the facts. After initially answering the questionnaire that she viewed Chauvin in a "somewhat negative" way, she says "he's innocent until proven otherwise."

She adds police should treat everyone the same. 

She believes that all lives matter, and says it shouldn't matter what race people are or what background they have for it to matter.

The juror noted during an incident where she saw a white boy being "harassed" by police, she was told to "stay back" twice after showing concern for the situation. She told the state prosecutor that she felt like she "didn't matter" to the police in that situation.

Juror No. 55 has been accepted to serve on the jury. She is the ninth member of the jury. She is described to be a white woman in her 50s.

The court reconvened at about 1:45 p.m. after a short delay. Judge Cahill said he would be disclosing the racial demographic data for jurors after they are seated. 

Questioning is expected to resume with three jurors for the remainder of Monday's session. 

Questioning began with Juror No. 59. According to Callan Gray, a reporter at KSTP, Juror No. 59 said he listens to talk radio every day and heard about the case. 

Juror No. 59 also said he had a significant issue with law enforcement checking his ID before entering the courthouse.  The potential juror said he didn't feel like he was able to serve on the jury as he could not presume innocence for Chauvin. He said he is an educator and participating in social justice events has been a big part of his life.  Juror No. 59 has been excused by the judge.

Juror No. 60 was called to the witness stand to be questioned in court. Some questions asked by Judge Cahill were addressed privately, with the audio turned off for discretion. When audio resumes, the defense started their questioning. The potential juror says he is studying for his undergraduate and plans to go to law school in the future. He says he didn't know much about the case, as he stated that he typically tries to avoid "controversial topics."

The man says he would be willing to reexamine his opinions, but not "because of the pressure of others." He acknowledges that all 12 jurors would have to agree on a verdict.

The man says he has not formed an opinion on the protests, Chauvin or Floyd. He also added he has never seen any videos relating to this case. The student noted he has witnessed some situations online that show police using more force than needed.

He said it doesn't matter what conclusion he would come to in terms of a verdict, as long as he sought out to hear all facts presented. Juror 60 added it wouldn't impact opinions on him from his peers if he had to agree with a not-guilty verdict.

The defense used a peremptory challenge strike on Juror No. 60. He has been excused. The defense has now used nine of their 15 strikes. The state has used five of its nine strikes so far.

The last potential juror for the day, Juror No. 62 was brought in after a 15 minute recess. The juror acknowledged how big the case is, and how much the outcome will mean to the public in the future. Juror 62 said he was concerned for safety of his family after the trial.  He added that it would be difficult to be impartial. The judge used that for cause to excuse him.

That concludes Monday's court session. The court will be in recess until 8 a.m. Tuesday.  Judge Cahill plans to re-question the seven jurors previously selected.

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