Jury Selection Postponed in Derek Chauvin Trial as Potential Third-Degree Murder Charge Still in Question

Demonstrators carry a scroll listing the names of people killed by police during a march in honor of George Floyd on March 7, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Demonstrators carry a scroll listing the names of people killed by police during a march in honor of George Floyd on March 7, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo: Stephen Maturen (Getty Images)

Jury selection in the murder trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin did not go through as planned on Monday, as prosecutors and the defense continue to battle over whether an additional charge of third-degree murder should be added to the case against Chauvin.

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Chauvin, who was seen in a viral video in May of last year kneeling on 46-year-old George Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as the man cried out that he couldn’t breathe, is already facing charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death in Hennepin County, Minn.

But the start of jury selection, which was supposed to begin on Monday morning, has been put off until at least Tuesday, reports the Star Tribune. At issue is whether jurors can start being selected for the trial while the question of whether Chauvin will be charged with third-degree murder is still up in the air.

As The Root previously reported, Chauvin had initially agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder last year on the condition that he would not face federal civil rights charges in Floyd’s death, but former Attorney General William Barr apparently rejected that deal.

On Friday, the Minneapolis Court of Appeals ruled that presiding Judge Peter Cahill erred when he granted the defense team’s request to drop the charge for lack of probable cause. Prosecutors have sought to have the lesser-charge against Chauvin reinstated.

From Star Tribune:

After hearing from attorneys, Cahill said he wanted to hear from the state Court of Appeals — possibly on a telephone hearing later Monday— as to whether to proceed with jury selection while the third-degree charge is unresolved. He ordered prospective jurors dismissed for the day and wanted them prepared to return Tuesday.

He initially said he would start the trial with the issue unresolved, starting with jury selection, a meticulous task that could take up to three weeks to accomplish before an anticipated March 29 date for opening statements from the defense and the prosecution.

Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, said he intends to ask the State Supreme Court to overturn a Court of Appeals ruling Friday that directed Cahill to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against the former cop.

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Meanwhile, security is already being boosted in the city of Minneapolis ahead of the highly anticipated case.

According to the Washington Post, officials in Minneapolis and Hennepin County are spending about $1 million dollars to fortify the hub of last year’s fiery protests against George Floyd’s killing with fencing and barbed wire, as well as bringing in reinforcements from law enforcement and the National Guard.

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From WaPo:

The Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial will be held, and adjacent buildings have been fortified with several blocks of concrete barricades and multiple layers of high-security fencing topped by barbed wire — an intimidating scene unlike anything anyone here can remember.

Other buildings across the city also have been secured with concrete, fencing and plywood, including police stations and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, where the staff’s handling of Floyd’s autopsy and their views on his cause of death are expected to be a central focus at the trial.

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Isn’t that just how America works? We’ve spent weeks hearing how police in the nation’s capital and officials at the Pentagon demurred from bringing in troops to protect against a violent white supremacist threat that ultimately left five people dead, but all the stops are being pulled out to present a posture of robust defense in the (probable) event that another white cop fails to be held accountable for killing a Black person in this country.

Minneapolis will undoubtedly be under the spotlight for much of this year, as it was in 2020 since the trials of the other officers who apprehended Floyd and stood watching as the man struggled to breathe while Chauvin knelt on his neck will not happen until this summer.

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Former Minneapolis officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao will face trial together in August, on charges of aiding and abetting murder.

Writer, speaker, finesser, and a fly dresser. Jamaican-American currently chilling in Chicago.

DISCUSSION

Minnesotan here.

This is honestly not surprising as the cases continue to be bungled by the judge with odd decisions to split Chauvin from the other officers charged and removing 3rd Degree Murder charge.

I would not be surprised if this continues to drag on and on and on and on...