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12th juror picked, lawyers clash over expert in Floyd trial

MINNEAPOLIS — Attorneys at the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death moved closer to seating a full jury Thursday, choosing three panelists hours after clashing over how much they should hear of Floyd’s own actions.

Derek Chauvin

That brings the jury to 12, with two alternates yet to be chosen.

They include a white registered nurse in her 50s who assured the court that she wouldn’t draw on her medical knowledge at Derek Chauvin’s trial, and a Black woman in her 60s who said she didn’t watch the entire bystander video of Floyd’s arrest and didn’t know enough to form a firm opinion of Chauvin or Floyd.

The 12th juror, a woman who works in the commercial insurance business, said she has experience with someone who struggled with alcohol, and might view someone who uses drugs cautiously. She said she might be fearful they could act violently or aggressively when under the influence.

Still, the woman said she doesn’t ascribe to the sentiment that someone who uses drugs or doesn’t cooperate with police should be treated poorly. “If someone uses drugs, I don’t think there should be ramifications of violence for that,” she said.

Earlier, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell argued that a forensic psychiatrist should be allowed to testify on how Floyd’s behavior, as officers attempted to put him into the squad car, was consistent with any reasonable person’s anxiety or panic during a traumatic event. Officers pointed a gun at Floyd after he allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store, and he struggled and told them he had claustrophobia as they tried to force him into the car.

Prosecutors want to show that Floyd might have been unable to comply with the officers’ orders, and wasn’t actually resisting arrest — something Blackwell said he was certain that Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson intended to do.

“The defense is doing a full-on trial of George Floyd, who is not on trial, but that is what they’re doing,” said Blackwell, adding that the defense also planned to make arguments about Floyd’s drug use.

Nelson said that if the prosecution gets to present that evidence to the jury, the defense should be able to tell the jury about Floyd’s drug arrest in May 2019, when he did not resist getting put into a squad car.

Nelson also has said there are striking similarities between the two encounters that could show a pattern of behavior.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said he’ll rule on the forensic psychiatrist’s testimony on Friday, when he plans to issue a broader ruling on the admissibility of Floyd’s 2019 arrest and on defense motions for delaying or moving the trial.

The judge on Wednesday dismissed two of seven jurors who were seated before news broke last week that the city had reached a settlement with Floyd’s family for $27 million in a civil case. Cahill re-questioned them to see if the massive settlement affected their ability to be fair and impartial.

City leaders have taken sharp criticism for the timing of the settlement. City Attorney Jim Rowader said Thursday that the city agreed to it because there was no guarantee the offer would still be available later.

“In general, there is no good timing to settle any case, particularly one as complex and involved and sensitive as this,” Rowader said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Of the 12 seated jurors, five are men and seven are women. According to the court, five are white, two are multiracial and four are Black. The race of the 12th juror was not immediately disclosed. Their ages range from 20s to 60s.

The first juror selected Thursday was questioned extensively by attorneys and Cahill about her experience as a nurse, whether she has ever resuscitated anyone and how she would view medical evidence in the case.

The woman said she would draw upon her knowledge to evaluate medical testimony and that she recognizes the amount of time a person can be without air before going unconscious. At one point, Cahill told her: “You can’t be an expert witness in the jury room.”

She said she could refrain from relying on her knowledge.

The second juror, who worked in marketing before retiring and currently volunteers with underserved youth, said she watched the bystander video of Floyd’s arrest for about four or five minutes, then shut it off because “it just wasn’t something that I needed to see.”

She somewhat agreed that Black people and other minorities do not receive the same treatment as white people in the criminal justice system. She had a very favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement, writing in her questionnaire “I am Black and my life matters.”

She has a neutral view of Blue Lives Matter, saying everyone is important and that she has a relative who is a Minneapolis police officer.

Potential jurors excused Thursday included a woman who said she had been constantly exposed to news of Floyd’s death and that the city’s settlement pushed her to favor the state’s position, and a man who had a deep mistrust of police and couldn’t weigh police testimony as credible.

Another potential juror was dismissed because she is acquainted with a central witness in the state’s case.

Cahill has set March 29 for opening statements if the jury is complete by then.

Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd, a Black man who was declared dead after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes. Floyd’s death, captured on bystander video, set off weeks of sometimes-violent protests across the country and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.

Three other former officers face an August trial in Floyd’s death on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.