MINNEAPOLIS – Jury selection continued Wednesday in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in a case that rocked the country and spurred worldwide protests after George Floyd’s death.
The court continued hearing from more potential jurors, questioning them about their knowledge of the case, the protests and Floyd’s death and asking whether they could set aside any existing opinions to serve impartially.
The proceedings were partially disrupted after the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Chauvin, which could result in him facing an additional murder charge in Floyd’s death.
Thus far, fivejurors have been chosen: four men, one woman. A few seemed eager; others fearful, some expressing safety concerns about serving on such a high-profile and divisive case, especially if their identity became public.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd in 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.
- A total of five jurorshave been chosen to serve thus far. They include a Black man who immigrated to the U.S. from Africa, three white men and a woman of color. They were each vetted about whether they’d seen the footage of Chauvin restraining Floyd, their perception of police officers and various advocate groups, such as Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives matter.
- Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill and lawyers asked potential jurors about their previous knowledge of the case, whether they’ve seen it on the news and how they responded to a 13-page questionnaire.
- Lawyers started the day discussing several potential issues ahead of the trial, from descriptions of Floyd’s character to the potential for prosecutors to paint officers with the Minneapolis Police Department as being part of a conspiracy to back a fellow officer.
The USA TODAY Network will be bringing you live coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial. Refresh this page updates. Follow our team of reporters on Twitter here. For news delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Daily Briefing newsletter.
Minn. Supreme Court denies appeal, could result in Chauvin facing additional murder charge
The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected an appeal by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, which could result in him facing an additional murder charge in the death of George Floyd.
The former cop is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other former officers are charged with aiding and abetting those charges.
Wednesday’s ruling means Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill may reinstate a third-degree murder charge. Legal observers say that would give the jury more options as they consider Chauvin’s culpability in Floyd’s death.
The unusual, expedited decision by the state’s high court enables jury selection to continue with just a small hiccup in the proceedings rather than a delay of weeks or months while the state’s high court considered an appeal.
The high court’s decision was announced by Cahill during jury selection Wednesday.
On Friday, an appeals court ruled that Cahill should not have thrown out the third-degree murder charge. That delayed the start of jury selection Monday because the defense and prosecution disagreed over how that would affect the trial.
Two new jurors were chosen Wednesday to serve during Derek Chauvin’s trial, a Black immigrant from Africa and a man who has a wedding planned May 1.
The two additions mean a total of five jurors have been chosen thus far: three white men, a black man and a woman of color.
The first juror chosen Wednesday was a man who told the court he works as a sales manager and said he and his fiancé planned a wedding in Florida with about 30 friends and family. He said serving would be an inconvenience but if chosen, he’d make accommodations and “would probably operate under the fact that if I’m on this jury, I will not be able to get married on that date.”
After chosen to serve, Judge Peter Cahill told the man to “throw me under the bus with your fiance,” leading to laughs in the courtroom and the man replying, “I will.”
The man said he supported Black Lives Matter and had an overall negative perception of the Blue Lives Matter movement, which he said he views as a “ripoff” of Black Lives Matter.
The second man chosen Wednesday was a Black immigrant who came to the U.S. 14 years ago from Africa. The man, who told the court he works in information technology, didn’t follow the specifics of the case as it played out in his community.
He said he’d watched clips of the video showing Floyd being detained but didn’t have knowledge about what led up to his arrest or how Floyd actually died. The man said he talked with his wife about “how it could have been me, or anyone else,” noting he used to live in the area.
He voiced support for both the Black Lives Matter and the Blue Lives Matter movements.
Lawyers started the day Wednesday discussing several potential issues ahead of Derek Chauvin’s trial, from descriptions of George Floyd’s character to the potential for prosecutors to paint officers with the Minneapolis Police Department as being part of a conspiracy to back a fellow officer.
Judge Peter Cahill ruled prosecutors could use testimony from a witness who observed Chauvin holding Floyd down with his knee. Cahill said the witness, who has about 10 years of martial arts experience, could testify about his expertise, training and the position Chauvin had Floyd in. But, the judge ruled, he couldn’t testify about his thoughts on whether the position killed Floyd because that requires a medical opinion.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, also asked Cahill to prevent prosecutors from painting fellow officers and the Minneapolis Police Department as part of some “sort of conspiracy of police officers to remain silent and not cooperate with investigations of other police officers.”
Prosecutors said the police department had been cooperative with the case and there were no plans to do so but said the issue of potential bias could arise during the trial.
There were also discussions about character witnesses of Floyd. Cahill said he would not allow testimony calling Floyd a “gentle giant” because such statements would open the door to the “propensity for violence or propensity for peacefulness.”
Three jurors were selected Tuesday to serve on the jury in Derek Chauvin’s trial: two men and a woman.
An outdoorsy chemist, who worked for many years as a camp counselor through his childhood synagogue, was the first juror to be seated by the court Tuesday.
The self-described “advocate of community policing” said he believes “all lives matter equally.” The man, who is white, said he has not seen the video of Floyd’s death but visited the site where he died when he and his fiancé were thinking of moving to the general area.
The second juror seated in the trial is a woman of color with Type 1 diabetes from northern Minnesota. She told the court she was “super excited” to be called for jury duty. “That’s actually why I voted,” she said. “I was just excited to be summoned.”
The woman said her uncle is a police officer in northern Minnesota but that she believed she could be an impartial juror. Asked by the defense about her experience in martial arts, the woman said she had “no extensive” training but was once in a class where she was briefly put in some form of chokehold. The woman said she had seen the video of Floyd’s killing once.
The last juror who was seated Tuesday was a white man who told the court he was friends with a Minneapolis Police officer but had a fairly negative view of the Blue Lives Matter movement.
The man, who told the court he worked as an auditor, said he had a negative view of Chauvin because of media coverage of Floyd’s death but vowed to view the charges and case against him separately. He said while he supports the Black Lives Matter movement, he disagreed on some of the group’s actions.
He said he’d seen the footage of Floyd’s death several times in the news media.
George Floyd’s cousin, Shareeduh McGee Tate, sat in the courtroom Tuesday during the all-day jury selection process and left feeling grateful for the amount of effort that is going into vetting prospective jurors.
“I’m just really grateful for being able to sit in and be a part of the process,” she said. “I appreciate that there’s a lot of time and effort being taken to be sure the right jurors being seated. It’s a long process but I think it’s worth getting it right the first time.”
McGee Tate, who traveled from Houston to be with her family and watch the proceedings, said she’d known Floyd since he was born and were close growing up.
She said the proceedings will “probably get pretty rough for us” when the trial begins in earest, noting they will likely have to see autopsy information and reports from the medical examiner.
“We are a strong body of believers and we have a strong faith and a strong family unit,” she said. “I’m confident we’ll be able to get through it just like we have up to this point.”
Only one family member is allowed in the courtroom each day for both Floyd and Chauvin. Floyd’s family says they’re operating in a rotation during the proceedings.