MINNEAPOLIS — Jury selection in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin entered its third week Monday, with just seven days to go before opening statements and at least two jurors still to be seated.
Thirteen jurors have been seated thus far. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said the court would pick two more jurors for a total of 15 – 12 to deliberate and three to serve as alternates.
Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020, after 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.
- Thirteen jurors — five men and eight women — have been selected. Seven identify as white, two as multiracial and four as Black, according to the court. Five of the jurors are in their 20s or 30s, three in their 40s, four in their 50s and one in their 60s.
- Attorneys for the defense and prosecution have spent the past two weeks questioning potential jurors about their views on racism, discrimination, policing of communities of color and Black Lives Matter. Last week, lead defense attorney Eric Nelson told a prospective juror that the trial is “not about race.”
- Jurors will be allowed to hear evidence related to George Floyd’s arrest in 2019, Cahill ruled Friday. He also denied the defense’s request to move or delay the trial.
- Opening statements are scheduled to start March 29.
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A look at Derek Chauvin’s jury so far
Thirteen jurors, five men and eight women, have been selected 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. Seven of the jurors identify as white, two as multiracial and four as Black, according to the court. As many as four people could be chosen to serve as alternates.
The court added its 13th juror Friday. The white woman in her 50s is a self-described animal lover with a passion for affordable housing. Here’s a quick look at who else is on the jury:
- A white woman in her 40s who works in insurance and said she loves the state of Minnesota
- A Black woman in her 60s who retired from marketing and said she loves spending time with her grandkids
- A white nurse in her 50s who works with ventilated COVID-19 patients
- A mixed-race woman in her 40s who works in company reorganization
- A Black man in his 40s who works in management and has lived in Hennepin County for two decades
- A white woman in her 50s who works in healthcare and likes to ride her motorcycle
- A Black man in his 30s who works in banking and teaches youth sports
- A white woman in her 50s who works at a nonprofit and is the single mother of two teenage sons
- A Black man in his 30s who works in tech and immigrated from Africa to the U.S.
- A white auditor in his 30s
- A mixed-race woman in her 20s who said she was “super excited” to serve
- A white chemist in his 20s who plays Ultimate Frisbee
As of Friday afternoon, the defense has used 13 of its 18 peremptory challenges, which it can use to strike potential jurors without having to explain why. The state has used seven of its 10.
Jurors will be allowed to hear some evidence related to George Floyd’s arrest in May 2019, Cahill said Friday. He ruled in January that the jury could not hear the evidence but heard fresh arguments this week after new evidence was uncovered related to Floyd’s 2020 arrest.
In the May 2019 arrest, police responded to information about illegal narcotics activity and found substantial amounts of drugs on and near Floyd, according to court filings. As police were arresting him with guns drawn, Floyd got upset and called for his mother. Paramedics told Floyd he needed to be hospitalized because he had dangerously high blood pressure that could cause a stroke or heart attack, according to courtroom testimony.
Cahill said the two arrests are “remarkably similar,” but jurors can hear evidence from the 2019 arrest only related to Floyd’s medical state – not his emotional behavior – since it pertains to the cause of death in the 2020 incident.
The judge ruled that a portion of an officer’s body camera video of the 2019 incident could be admitted. Jurors can also see a photo from that incident showing pills on the seat of a car and hear what Floyd’s blood pressure was then, as well as why a paramedic at the scene recommended Floyd go to the hospital.
“The whole point here is we have medical evidence of what happens when Mr. Floyd is faced with virtually the same situation,” Cahill said. “The May 6th, 2019, incident is relevant only to that extent. Mr. Floyd’s emotional behavior, calling out for his mother – all of that is not admissible.”
Previously, Cahill ruled on motions to include evidence about Chauvin’s history. Evidence related to 16 incidents involving Chauvin and the three other former Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd’s death cannot be brought up at trial, Cahill ruled in January.
Also on Friday, the judge denied the defense’s request to move or delay the trial. The defense argued the jury pool had been tainted by pretrial publicity and last week’s widely reported announcement of a historic $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family.
“Unfortunately, I think the pretrial publicity in this case will continue no matter how long we continue it,” he said. “And as far as change of venue, I do not think that 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 in this case.”
Contributing: Grace Hauck, Kevin McCoy, N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Eric Ferkenhoff