Jury selection for the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin commenced on Tuesday, following a delay prompted by the pending question about whether an additional charge will be added to the case against the cop.
On Tuesday, Hennepin Court District Judge Peter Cahill briefed prospective jurors before allowing Chauvin’s defense lawyer Eric Nelson and prosecutors to begin questioning them, reports Star Tribune. A major point of consideration is whether jurors have seen the video of George Floyd’s death, which went viral last year and shows Chauvin kneeling on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes—even after he lost consciousness.
The first potential juror was a mother of three from Mexico who said upon questioning that she had watched the video and heard Floyd saying “I can’t breathe.”
“‘He can’t do that. Hey, don’t do that or he’s going to die,’” she said she thought upon watching Chauvin restrain Floyd under his knee. “I feel that’s not fair. We are humans.”
Though the woman said evidence presented during the trial could potentially change her mind about the video, she was ultimately not chosen for the jury after Chauvin’s lawyer said she wrote in a questionnaire for potential jurors that she wanted to give her opinion on the “unjust death of George Floyd.”
Calling a spade a spade is clearly frowned upon in the justice system. Whether or not Chauvin is found guilty by a jury of his peers, I think it’s fair to call Floyd’s death unjust, at the very least. A grown man knelt on his neck, as he cried out for his deceased mother, and it was all for the reported crime of having a fake $20 bill.
The second person questioned, a man who has been officially chosen to sit on the jury, said he has not seen the Floyd video.
From Star Tribune:
The second potential juror to be brought into the courtroom was selected after being questioned at length by defense attorney Eric Nelson and for a few minutes by the prosecution. He revealed that he is a chemist who lives in Minneapolis and because of his profession, “I consider myself a pretty logical person. ... I rely on facts and logic and what’s in front of me. Opinion and facts are important distinctions for me.”
The newly chosen juror, who is white, said he has a generally favorable view of the Black Lives Matter cause but added that “I think all lives matter equally” and that the “Blue Lives Matter” message among police advocates is a counter viewpoint that isn’t necessary.
The third and fourth potential jurors questioned on Tuesday were ultimately not chosen. One was excused by the judge after saying she could not promise to be impartial but would try to be so while judging Chauvin’s actions. The fourth person was a Hispanic man with experience practicing martial arts and Jiu Jitsu, who the defense moved to strike from the jury. Prosecutors challenged the strike, pointing out that he was the second person the defense had rejected that day who was a person of color. Cahill denied the prosecution’s challenge after Chauvin’s lawyer said the potential juror’s knowledge of martial arts could prejudice his judgment of the way the former cop restrained Floyd.
The judge also ruled that police officers who were at the scene of the incident in question cannot testify during the trial about what they would have done differently, reports USA Today. A Minneapolis firefighter who witnessed Floyd being restrained while she was off-duty and reportedly told officers to check his pulse and give him aid, will be allowed to testify. However, the judge ruled that she can only speak to what she observed and not whether or not Floyd could have been saved. Cahill also ruled that during the trial, Chauvin’s firing from the Minneapolis Police Department should not be referred to as a “termination” but as an end of employment so as not to prejudice jurors towards finding him guilty.
Jury selection is set to continue for the next three weeks, though the Minneapolis Court of Appeals is still considering whether the trial should be postponed as the state Supreme Court has been asked to review whether a third-degree murder charge for Chauvin should be reinstated. The former cop is currently charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Opening statements in the trial are scheduled for March 29.