By William McCurry
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – On Day 8 Wednesday—Day 7 of jury selection—in former officer Derek Chauvin’s trial for the killing of George Floyd, two seated jurors were dismissed by Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill following his questions about hearing anything new about the case.
Two jurors at the beginning of the day admitted they heard about the $27 million federal lawsuit settlement that was reached last week, and admitted that it affected their ability to presume Chauvin innocent during the course of the trial.
Nine were seated of the 14 needed as of Tuesday, but when two were knocked off it left only seven on the jury—but two more jurors would be added later Wednesday.
As Judge Cahill called potential Juror 76 to the stand, he asked if he had learned any more information about the case inadvertently, including any other cases. He told the judge, “No, only things that have come on the news.” Judge Cahill told this juror to explain further about what he may have seen on the news.
“The last thing was the settlement,” stated the juror. He added he tries to switch the channel quickly when he hears something about the case. He doesn’t know much about the settlement case, only that it was $27 million, but when something like this comes on, he changes the channel or exits the room.
He understands that this case is completely different, including the laws, and can put it aside and make a decision based on the facts presented in court.
The former officer’s defense attorney Eric Nelson then questioned Juror 76, who describes himself as a quiet person that keeps to himself and has mixed emotions about this case and serving on the jury. “I don’t want to be a part of something like this and then, on the other hand, you do want to be a part of something like this,” he said.
“You see a lot of Black people get killed and no one is held accountable for it and you wonder why or what was the decision and so with this maybe I’ll be in the room to know why,” the juror explained.
Nelson then questioned him, following his statement, asking “you understand that there are two possible outcomes, right? And can you see yourself entering a not guilty vote?” The juror understands that there are two possible outcomes and, if the facts presented itself in a not guilty manner, he would enter a not guilty vote.
The prosecution had no questions for this juror following Nelson’s questioning. Judge Cahill excused this juror. Nelson provided that they excused this juror for cause Juror 76 made several remarks regarding the Minneapolis Police Department and his experiences with them.
He referred to their killing of George Floyd and they played “another one bites the dust” as they rode through his neighborhood. Nelson felt his bias was against the Minneapolis Police Department.
Although the prosecution had no questions for the juror, they strongly opposed the dismissal of this juror due to cause.
“I don’t believe that the prospective juror reflecting on his actual life experience reflected any bias against anybody, he was simply reflecting reality as he sees and perceives it every single day,” stated Maslon Partner Steve Schleicher. He thought that this juror was fully capable of putting aside his opinions and life experiences and judging the case fairly.
Judge Cahill stated “there was a substantial basis for the defense to exercise,” noting the strong negative view of the Minneapolis Police Department and other suburban police departments. “His opinions about ‘this is another Black man murdered’ is certainly an honest opinion that is widely held by many people.”
Although the jury box was shortened to seven at the start Wednesday, two more jurors were seated—a Black suburban father and a corporate consultant, returning to the original nine seats being filled, leaving five more seats to be filled (12 jurors and two alternates).
The panel right now of seated jurors includes four people of color and five who are white—it includes three white women, two white men, one multi-racial woman and three Black men.
William McCurry is a fourth year at Sacramento State, majoring in Criminal Justice. He is from Brentwood, California.
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