Chauvin trial: 1 more juror to choose; opening statements draw near
Court proceedings Monday are done for the day
MPR News will stream live coverage of the trial on Facebook beginning at 9 a.m. Some images or material discussed during the trial will be disturbing to many viewers. Watch the proceedings from Monday here.
3 things to know:
14 jurors seated, including 1 Monday; judge wants 1 more seated
Opening statements expected next week
Judge to allow some evidence from a 2019 Floyd arrest
Updated 6 p.m.
A juror selected Monday for the Derek Chauvin trial brought the total chosen to 14, enough for a jury of 12 plus two alternates. The judge, though, said he intends to seat one more as a precaution. The trial is set to start on time with opening statements expected March 29.
That extra juror will be excused next week unless one of the other 14 drops out for some reason. Selection of that final person is expected to continue Tuesday.
On Monday, lawyers chose a juror described by the court as a white woman in her 20s who said she’s discussed the case with family members but that her decision on a verdict would not affect her family relationships.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is Member supported public media. Show your support today, donate, and ensure access to local news and in-depth conversations for everyone.
Multiple jurors questioned in the morning were excused.
A nursing assistant who marched in a Black Lives Matter protest carrying a sign of a fist shared her views about racism. She said Black Americans experience discrimination, while police officers generally don’t face the same struggles.
“Historically, Black people have been oppressed in this country,” she said, adding that police officers get to take off their uniforms at the end of the day. “(Police officers) don’t have to live with the skin that Black people do.”
She was struck by the defense.
Another potential juror, an avid fisherman, said he doesn’t follow the news or engage in conversations on social media. The man said he doesn’t believe the criminal justice system is biased toward Black people and other minorities. He said he hasn’t had conversations about this topic with friends, or know anyone who’s experienced racism.
When asked about his views of Black Lives Matter, he said he had an unfavorable view of the organization and wrote in his jury questionnaire: “I don’t think the riots help.”
He was struck by the prosecution.
Chauvin, an ex-Minneapolis police officer, faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd last May while in police custody.
The judge 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 14 seated, there are three Black men, including two who are immigrants; one Black woman; two women who identify as multiracial; two white men; and six white women.
Resisting arrest, or a panic attack?
Floyd’s cause of death will be a central and “highly contested” issue at trial, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill told the court Friday. Bystander video showed Chauvin with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes as the man lay face down and handcuffed, pleading that he couldn’t breathe.
The defense theory is that Floyd’s death “is due in part to drug toxicity and not to positional asphyxia or other causes,” Cahill said. “The state and its experts opine otherwise, saying that it is positional asphyxia and the restraint that was placed on George Floyd” by Chauvin.
Cahill agreed to allow some body camera footage from Floyd’s May 6, 2019, arrest that shows Floyd’s physical reaction to officers as they take him into custody.
“The whole point here is we have medical evidence on what happens when Mr. Floyd is faced with virtually the same situation — confrontation by police, at gunpoint,” the judge said Friday.
A paramedic who attended to Floyd that day can testify that Floyd’s blood pressure during the 2019 arrest was so high he was at risk of a stroke or heart attack.
The judge, however, will not allow a state witness to testify as to Floyd’s emotional reactions, which the defense says are very similar to his behavior during his fatal encounter with police on May 25, 2020.
Prosecutors had said they wanted to refute the notion that Floyd was resisting arrest last May and offer a forensic psychiatrist’s testimony to explain that Floyd couldn’t comply with officers’ orders to get into the squad car because he was suffering from anxiety or a panic attack.
Cahill ruled Friday that’s not admissible unless the defense says something to open the door to that line of inquiry.
The judge cautioned that if the psychiatrist testimony was allowed, ”then the entire 2019 arrest would be in as well, since the defense would have a right to confront her opinion by playing the entire videotape of Mr. Floyd’s emotional reaction” that day.
‘Everybody just stop talking about it’
The challenges of finding impartial jurors in an era of 24-hour news coverage and social media were made clear last week as the defense and prosecution queried prospective jurors. The $27 million wrongful death settlement between the city of Minneapolis and the Floyd family continues to loom large over Chauvin’s criminal trial.
Two jurors who’d been chosen for the jury before the settlement were dismissed on Wednesday after acknowledging to Cahill that news of the payout had influenced their views.
Cahill, who’s expressed his unhappiness over Minneapolis publicizing the settlement during jury selection for Chauvin’s criminal trial, dismissed defense arguments to move or postpone the trial in response.
He acknowledged Friday that the high-profile nature of this case would be inescapable no matter if it were postponed or moved.
“I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case,“ Cahill told the court, explaining his decision to keep the trial in Minneapolis.
Those concerns resurfaced on Thursday when Minneapolis officials called a press conference and turned aside talk that the settlement announcement had affected the trial.
"I've asked Minneapolis to stop talking about it. They keep talking about it. We keep talking about it. Everybody just stop talking about it,” he told the court Thursday.
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.
Role of alternate jurors in ex-officer's trial: The two alternates will play important role, ready to sub in for other jurors who are unable to continue with the trial.
What's behind some Chauvin jury questions? Some questions are less pointed, and their reasoning more subtle.
Chauvin's lawyer is outnumbered, but has help: No fewer than four attorneys have appeared for the prosecution so far, compared to a single attorney to defend Derek Chauvin.
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.
Rescuing the plywood — and memorializing a movement: Two Black women are leading the effort to preserve the murals painted on storefront boards in the Twin Cities.
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.
Mpls. church holds 'safe space' to deal with trauma after Floyd’s death: Jalilia A-Brown, a pastor who leads community engagement at Shiloh Temple, said it is a place where anyone, especially Black Minneapolis residents, can come to be supported — and never judged.
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)
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?