MINNEAPOLIS — Jury selection was scheduled to begin Tuesday in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after jurors were sent home Monday as the court grappled with an appeal over the possible reinstatement of a third-degree murder charge — an issue that still has not been resolved.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd last May. Prosecutors contend Floyd, 46, was killed by Chauvin’s knee, compressed against Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes while he was handcuffed and pinned to the pavement.
Three weeks have been set aside to choose the jury. Opening statements are scheduled for March 29.
- An appeals court has yet to weigh in on whether jury selection should pause while the defense asks the state Supreme Court to review the third-degree murder charge.
- On Monday, the defense and prosecution teams struck more than a dozen jurors.
- Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ordered potential jurors to report at 8:30 a.m. CT Tuesday, with jury selection expected to begin at 9 a.m. CT.
- Derek Chauvin appeared in court Monday seated beside his attorney, writing notes on a legal pad.
- A group of more than 100 protesters demonstrated outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday. Artists and activists drenched flowers and mirrors in what appeared to be fake blood.
- The courtroom on the 18th floor of the courthouse has been revamped to allow for social distancing. Big clear plastic dividers separate the judge and court staffers from the limited number of other people in the courtroom, and clear plastic dividers also run down the middle of the defense and prosecution tables.
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Here’s why this murder charge is disrupting Chauvin’s trial
Jury selection in Chauvin’s trial was supposed to begin Monday. Instead, the day began with a confusing debate over whether it was premature to select jurors without resolving the question of whether Chauvin will face an additional charge of third-degree murder.
Chauvin’s case has become a jigsaw puzzle, its prospects complicated by a separate appeals court ruling made in February.
The ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the third-degree murder conviction of ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017. The appeals court upheld the conviction even though the incident didn’t involve anyone other than the victim.
That contradicted a reading of the law Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill relied on last fall to throw out a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin. After the ruling in the Noor case, prosecutors asked Cahill to reinstate that charge. He refused.
Friday, the appeals court said Cahill should not have tossed that charge because the Noor ruling was the precedent.
The Noor case, meanwhile, is set to be heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court in June.
“This is very rare and extremely unfortunate,” said Mary Moriarty, the former Hennepin County chief public defender. “It’s very rare for the parties and the judge frankly not to know the charges are when you are scheduled to start your trial, (but) everyone is doing the best they can.”
Floyd’s sister thanks supporters, had ‘very, very emotional day’
Bridgett Floyd, George Floyd’s sister, thanked supporters after a “very, very emotional day” at a brief press conference outside the courthouse Monday. Floyd shared a few details about her experience as the first family member to sit inside the courtroom during the trial and Derek Chauvin.
“I sat in the courtroom and looked at the officer who took my brother’s life. I just really want that officer to know how much love Floyd had,” she read from a prepared statement.
Floyd got emotional talking about her brother who she said was very family-oriented. “I miss my brother George,” she said. “That officer took a great man, a great father, a great brother, a great uncle and a great father. … We will never get that back.”
For several hours Monday a group of more than 100 protesters demonstrated outside the Hennepin County Government Center. Artists and activists drenched flowers and mirrors in what appeared to be fake blood.
As the crowd marched toward the courthouse, organizers encouraged the crowd to chant George Floyd’s name and refrains such as “No justice, no peace,” “How do you spell racist? MPD,” and “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail.” The crowd heard emotional speeches from speakers including relatives of other Black people killed by police.
Ilhan Idd, 20, said her family was traumatized after her 23-year-old brother, Dolal Idd, was killed by Minneapolis police in December. She said she came to the courthouse Monday “to fight for justice for not just my brother but every Black soul that was taken by a cop.”
Donna Morris and her anti-gun violence organization Mother’s Love have been following the legal developments of the trial so they can help keep peace in the streets. If the trial is delayed, it will only create more tension in a community that is already on edge, Morris said.
“Delaying the inevitable, which is the trial, … only serves to continue to keep the communities under stress,” she said. “Not only are we dealing with the trial, we’re dealing with the effects of the trial.”
Morris said residents are also concerned about having to navigate protests downtown and worry about property being destroyed during demonstrations. “We don’t want our communities burned down, we don’t want our businesses burned down,” she said.
Contributing: The Associated Press