Chauvin trial: 2 jurors out, 2 added as Floyd family settlement roils court
Wednesday's proceedings have ended for the day
MPR News will stream live coverage of the trial on Facebook beginning at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Some images or material discussed during the trial will be disturbing to many viewers. Watch the morning proceedings here. Watch the afternoon proceedings here:
3 things to know:
Defense wants Chauvin trial moved, delayed in wake of $27M Floyd family settlement; judge to rule on Friday
2 previously chosen jurors who said they knew about the settlement were dismissed Wednesday morning; 2 more picked Wednesday afternoon
Judge to rule this week on whether to allow evidence from a 2019 Floyd arrest
Updated 4:30 p.m.
The $27 million wrongful death settlement between Minneapolis and the George Floyd family continues to hang over jury selection in Derek Chauvin’s criminal trial. The judge on Wednesday dismissed two previously chosen jurors who said they knew of the payout.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill interviewed jurors by video conference Wednesday morning who’d been selected prior to Friday’s settlement announcement.
The judge excused one — a Hispanic man in his 20s — after the man said he’d heard the city paid out a large amount of money, and that it would affect his ability to be impartial.
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He had expressed some strong opinions about Chauvin during the selection process. “Clearly the city of Minneapolis has some strong opinions as well,” he said Wednesday. “This just kind of confirms my opinions I already had.”
The second juror dismissed — a white male in his 30s — said he’d seen a news headline reporting the $27 million payout. "I would say that dollar amount was shocking to me and that the city of Minneapolis felt something was wrong,” he told the judge.
Two additional jurors were seated for the trial Wednesday afternoon. One was described by the court as a suburban Black man in his 40s. He said he strongly disagreed with defunding police, noting that his house was burglarized once and he had to call the police.
The second juror, chosen late in the afternoon, was described as a white woman in her 40s. In responses to the court, she said was always taught to respect police but added that she wouldn't have trouble second-guessing their decisions if needed.
“Police officers are human,” she said. “They’re not robots that are programmed to all behave in the exact same way. So I feel like as humans, they can make mistakes as well.”
There are nine jurors currently seated. Fourteen — 12 jurors and two alternates — are needed.
The judge is expected to rule Friday on defense motions seeking to move or delay the trial. He’ll also decide on a defense motion to include evidence from a 2019 Floyd arrest. Prosecutors say that evidence is prejudicial and a desperation play by the defense.
Chauvin, an ex-Minneapolis police officer, faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s killing last year while in police custody.
Opening statements in the trial are expected March 29.
‘Hard to avoid headlines’
The challenge to find impartial jurors in an era of 24-hour news coverage and social media became clear Tuesday as the defense and prosecution queried prospective jurors.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that he was being forced to use his peremptory strikes to get rid of potential jurors who had too much knowledge of the case. The judge declined to restore any of Nelson’s strikes, but allowed that Nelson could aggressively inquire about potential jurors’ knowledge of pretrial publicity.
Cahill asked one potential juror Tuesday whether he had heard or read anything about the case after the time he filled out the juror questionnaire. The juror responded that “it’s hard to avoid headlines, it’s everywhere. If you’re listening to the radio it can come on pretty quickly,” even though he said wasn’t looking for the information.
Nelson grilled the potential juror about statements he made in his questionnaire, including that it would be hard to “unsee” the video of Floyd’s killing.
“If you’re in that deliberation room, and there’s a dispute, let’s say over guilty or not guilty, would you say, ‘Hey guys, the city already paid this huge settlement, we need to take that into consideration?’ ” Nelson asked the juror.
“I don’t think so,” the juror responded.
Cahill dismissed the juror later, saying that it wasn’t enough to recite the “magic words” that he could be impartial.
Race a constant in jury selection
Cahill is protecting the identities of people in the jury pool. There are cameras in the courtroom, but they are not allowed to show the potential jurors, who are identified only by number, not name.
Among the nine seated as of Wednesday afternoon, there are three Black men, including two who are immigrants; a woman who identifies as multiracial; two white men and three white women.
Race remains an underlying constant during jury selection.
A Black man was dismissed Wednesday from the jury pool after describing past experiences with the Minneapolis Police Department.
"On numerous occasions, if someone in the area got shot or someone went to jail, it was known for the police to ride through the neighborhood … and they antagonize us," he said.
Defense attorney Nelson found the juror's bias toward Minneapolis police troubling. He also pointed to the man’s answers, which included the word "murder," when he talked about his knowledge of the case.
The prosecution, however, said the juror was simply reflecting on his lived experience as a Black man.
Two jurors were chosen Monday despite the concerns generated by the payout. One — a Black man in his 30s — said he’d seen headlines about the trial since he received his jury summons but had not seen any news about the pretrial settlement. He said he works in the banking industry and is a youth sports coach.
The juror was asked about his views about police officers and if he’s ever seen them use more force than was needed. Nelson read back one of the man’s written responses.
“You wrote, ‘In downtown Minneapolis I’ve seen police body slam and then Mace an individual simply because they did not obey an order quick enough,’” read Nelson.
The man said he didn’t see the whole altercation because he was just passing by.
Cahill on Monday asked one potential juror, a teacher whose work involves diversity and inclusion, if he could be impartial.
“No,” the man replied. “I'm almost sick to my stomach right now.” He said he wouldn't be able to face colleagues and students after serving on the jury, no matter the verdict. He was excused from the pool.
Who’s who: A look at the key players in the trial.
Need to know: 14 key questions about the trial, answered.
Jury selection: The complex process to pick jurors who will weigh charges fairly.
MPR News on its coverage: Ahead of Chauvin’s trial, Nancy Lebens, the newsroom’s deputy managing editor, answered audience questions about our reporting plans.
George Floyd and his legacy
Remembering George Floyd, the man: Before he became a symbol in the fight for racial justice, friends say Floyd was a “gentle giant” who sought a fresh start.
Making George Floyd Square: Here’s how the site of Floyd’s killing — 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis — is being reshaped.
Calls for change: Here’s what some Floyd activists tell MPR News about their experiences with race in Minnesota, why they march and what they hope for the future.
What's behind some Chauvin jury questions? Some questions are less pointed, and their reasoning more subtle: Have you ever had to resolve conflict? Have you ever been certain you were right only to find out you were wrong? (The Associated Press)
Who belongs on Chauvin's jury? Three community members discuss how jury selection does or doesn’t work — and how it should work. (Sahan Journal)
What is the impact of racially diverse juries? Scholars, courts and legal groups have increasingly advocated for greater jury diversity — not just of race, but of gender and socioeconomic backgrounds — as a way to make trials fairer. (The Associated Press)
Minneapolis council OKs $27M Floyd family settlement: It’s a record settlement amount for the city.
Your questions about the Chauvin trial, answered: Why are potential jurors asked about religion, who can dismiss them and why can the jury hear about Derek Chauvin’s past but not George Floyd’s?