14th juror seated for ex-officer’s trial in Floyd’s death

Published 6:31 pm Monday, March 22, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS — A 14th juror was seated Monday for the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, leaving just one more to be selected before the proceedings against Derek Chauvin can begin.

Derek Chauvin

The newest juror is a white social worker in her 20s who said she has talked with friends about police reform and that she thinks “there are things that should be changed.” But she also described police and their jobs as important, and said she is “always looking at every side of things.”

A total of 14 jurors will hear the case — 12 to deliberate and two alternates — but Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said a 15th juror will be selected just in case; That juror will be excused when opening statements begin March 29 if the other 14 are still able to serve.

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Cahill told attorneys that up to 12 potential jurors will be questioned on Tuesday if necessary, so they should be prepared for a long day.

“We’re going to get through 12, however long it takes tomorrow, because we only need the one … so 12 or bust,” Cahill said.

Floyd, who was Black, was declared dead May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee on his neck for about nine minutes while he was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death, captured on a widely seen bystander video, set off weeks of sometimes violent protests across the country and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.

On Friday, Cahill declined a defense request to delay or move Chauvin’s trial over concerns that a $27 million settlement for Floyd’s family had tainted the jury pool. Cahill, who called the timing of the settlement announcement “unfortunate,” said he believed a delay would do nothing to stem the problem of pretrial publicity, and that there’s no place in Minnesota untouched by that publicity.

In another significant ruling Friday, the judge ruled that the jury can hear evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest, but only information possibly pertaining to the cause of his death.

Of the 14 jurors seated through Monday, eight are white, four are Black and two are multiracial, according to the court. Nine are women and five are men, and they range in age from their 20s to their 60s.

It’s unclear which jurors will be the alternates. Legal experts said it’s almost always the last people chosen, but the court said that wouldn’t necessarily be the case for Chauvin’s jury.

Several potential jurors were dismissed on Monday. One woman was excused because she has a chronically ill child at home. Another expressed concern about her English proficiency and ability to understand some technical terms. The defense used a peremptory strike to send home a nursing assistant who marched in a protest and carried a sign.

One man said in his questionnaire that he believed this was a case of excessive force, that the force caused Floyd’s death, and that police departments and other organizations work to cover up crimes. That man continued to say in court that he could be neutral, despite his strong opinions. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, tried to have him dismissed for cause, but Cahill refused even though the judge found him to be “evasive” and “flippant.” Nelson used another peremptory strike to send that man home.

Another man was dismissed for cause after he said he was leaning toward finding Chauvin guilty. He compared the events surrounding Floyd’s death to a tussle with a brother, saying the wrestling should stop if someone says they give up.

“You wrestle, tussle or whatever, but there’s a line of where you have to stop when someone says no more,” he said.