The court kicked off strong Friday morning with one more juror selected, leaving one more alternate needed.
Meanwhile, the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in the death of George Floyd, will start on time and remain in Hennepin.
Judge Peter A. Cahill ruled against motions by Defense attorney Eric Nelson for a continuance and change of venue, setting the stage for opening statements to begin March 29. According to him, delaying proceedings would not protect Chauvin’s right to a fair trial and that changing the venue would not assist in a more impartial jury.
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Unfortunately, I think the pretrial publicity, in this case, will continue no matter how long we continue it. Perhaps some of it with time might be forgotten by people. As far as a change of venue, I do not think that would give the defendant any kind of a fair trial beyond what we are doing here today. 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.
With that said, who wouldn’t agree that this case is potentially tainted and that the news, including recent headlines regarding the settlement last week between the city of Minneapolis and the Floyd family for $27 million, hasn’t prejudiced the jury pool?
Cahill ruled that Mr. Floyd’s emotional state in connection with May 6, 2019, arrest video from Texas is not admissible. Dr. Sarah Vinson’s testimony, a forensic psychiatrist, is limited to the purpose of showing physical symptoms of being confronted in nearly identically stressful situations during his two arrests one year apart. Floyd was never her patient. Cahill says he will publish an official memorandum.
The timing of the civil settlement has angered Judge Cahill — who had to dismiss two jurors who had already been seated because they said the civil settlement changed their view on the case — but, nevertheless, jury selection has continued.
On Thursday, three more jurors were added to the panel, bringing the total back to 12.
The 12-person jury is a diverse panel that includes seven women and five men. There are four black jurors, six white people, and two people who identify as multiracial. Critics argue that is even more diverse than actual Minnesota which is 83 percent white.
Juror 96, a white woman in her 50s, stated she is in between jobs and is in the customer service-related industry. She referred to Chauvin as a “leader” in the interaction that resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death. While she said she doesn’t know him personally and is basing her opinion on the video, she views Chauvin “somewhat negatively.”
Juror 96, who has volunteered at homeless shelters in the past and believes affordable housing is an issue in Minnesota, doesn’t harbor resentment against MPD over their recent handling of homeless encampments. A business she worked for was damaged in last year’s rioting, not far from MPD’s 3rd Precinct.
Juror 96 added that she has had no negative interactions with the police. She said that lack of cooperation and compliance towards the police lead to force, “however the person acts, the police need to react.”
She said on her questionnaire that she believes police in America treat “blacks and whites” the same due to her personal experiences, even though she said that she somewhat agrees that the criminal justice system is biassed against people of color.
News of the settlement made her partial towards Chauvin’s innocence.
She added that “if you can speak somewhat, you’re breathing somewhat.”
Judge seats Juror number 96 on the jury, asks her to return for the trial.
Juror 103, a female entrepreneur, stated she was worried about the time commitment of approximately four weeks and that she is very busy running her new company. She mentioned a recent private investment that made her accountable given steep interest rates.
Cahill excused her.
Juror 109, a male who describes himself as a friendly, honest person, attended a protest “out of curiosity” over the summer.
“I marched along with the people,” he said, although he didn’t carry any signs.
He added that since filling out the questionnaire, he’d attended a protest at the Minnesota news station WCCO because of anchor Liz Collins’ marriage to Bob Kroll, the head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. Although he added that he didn’t take a personal opinion against either one. He said he went because his friend asked him to.
He has been exposed to trial publicity and was aware of the settlement.
He expressed concern for the safety of his neighborhood and felt defunding the police was “an idiotic idea.”
He was excused.
Juror 110 was dismissed for cause after private discussions in the courtroom.
Juror 111, a male in college who enjoys getting tattooed, plays rugby, and works at a bar, attended a protest, carrying a sign that read “no justice, no peace.”
He wrote in his questionnaire that “excessive force” was used by police. And that after George Floyd died he asked for Chauvin to be charged and formed the impression that Chauvin and his officers “caused” Floyd’s death.
The defense used its 13th peremptory strike and he was dismissed.
Juror number 113, a male food delivery driver, hinted that he may still live with his parents since he tries not to listen to the news when they are watching TV.
In his questionnaire, he stated that Chauvin pushed his knee into George Floyd’s neck “killing him” and that other officers “let George Floyd die in broad daylight.”
He added that the George Floyd incident has been a “catalyst” for change.
Since filling out the questionnaire in December he was carjacked in St. Paul in February.
Unconcerned about the future of his safety for serving as a juror, he does “somewhat agree” with defunding police through “reallocation” of $$ to other resources. And he had some negative feelings about the police in connection to the defendant.
He added that he would find it difficult to believe officers would testify in favor of Chauvin.
Judge Cahill dismisses Juror 13 for cause.
Likely an error, Cahill stated they would pick two more to ensure they have 14. However, they have already chosen 13 jurors.
Cahill will bring in eight more prospective jurors on Monday. So jury selection will continue into its 3rd week.
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