MINNEAPOLIS — Faced with a parade of people who have strong opinions on the death of George Floyd, lawyers in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin are struggling to identify a last handful of citizens who can set aside their previous knowledge of the high-profile case to serve as impartial jurors.
The court did not select any jurors Tuesday amid debate between the judge, defense and prosecution about whether any jurors could truly be unbiased in such a widely publicized trial. And on Wednesday, the court replaced two jurors who were cut that morning because they said they were influenced by the city’s historic $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family.
Some potential jurors have raised concerns about their safety if they were to be selected or the trauma they would endure throughout the trial. One prospective juror who said her daughter was killed in gun violence in the same area where Floyd died was visibly distressed in the courtroom Wednesday.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill dismissed her almost immediately. “She was even wiping a tear as she left, so this is obviously traumatic for her,” he said.
Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020, when Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. As he lay on the ground under Chauvin, Floyd cried out, “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times. The incident sparked protests worldwide.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
- Court was scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. CT Thursday.
- Five of the nine jurors identify as white, one as multiracial and three as Black, according to the court. Five of the jurors are in their 20s or 30s, two in their 40s and two in their 50s.
- The judge said he was would rule Friday on the defense’s requests to move and delay the trial and to submit evidence evidence related to Floyd’s 2019 arrest.
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A look at Derek Chauvin’s jury so far
Nine jurors — five men and four women — have been selected so far for Chauvin’s trial.
Given the circumstances of Floyd’s death – a Black man dying under the knee of a white police officer – the racial makeup of the jury is a key concern. Five of the jurors identify as white, one as multiracial and three as Black, according to the court.
A Black man in his 40s who said he is originally from outside the U.S. but has lived in Hennepin County for nearly two decades and a white woman in her 40s who works in company reorganization were seated on the jury Wednesday.
Among the other jurors selected: a man who immigrated from Africa to the U.S., a chemist, a man who works in banking and teaches youth sports, a mother of two who worried about her safety in serving on the jury, a woman who said she was “super excited” to serve, a single mother of two, and a groom who will likely have to postpone his wedding to serve on the jury.
Wednesday afternoon, Cahill gave three more peremptory challenges to the defense and one to the state. With those, the defense has used 12 of its 18 peremptory challenges, which they can use to strike potential jurors without having to explain why. The state has used five of its 10.
Court cuts two jurors influenced by $27M settlement in Floyd death
Cahill opened court Wednesday by recalling the seven jurors seated last week and questioning them over Zoom about their exposure to news of the civil settlement, which was announced Friday.
Four of the seven jurors told the judge they’d heard about the settlement. Another said his fiancee told him there had been a development regarding Floyd, but she hadn’t disclosed any details.
“That sticker price obviously shocked me and kind of swayed me a little bit,” said one juror, a Hispanic man in his 20s. The judge released him from the jury.
Another juror, a white man in his 30s, said the settlement was large. “I think it would be hard to be impartial,” he said. He, too, was excused.
One man said he heard the news on the radio, but “it hasn’t affected me at all because I don’t know the details.”
Another juror knew the exact settlement amount, but said she wasn’t surprised by the announcement as much as its timing. She said she could remain impartial and told the judge that if other jurors raised the issue during deliberations, she would tell them it’s “not part of the case.”
Cahill advised the remaining jurors to avoid the news as much as possible.
“We’re back down to seven jurors,” he said. “The jurors who remain on the jury, in my view, can remain fair and impartial.”