By William McCurry and Lovepreet Dhinsa
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The 15th juror—just in case the alternate juror is needed—was seated here Wednesday for next Monday’s start date for the trial of former cop Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering unarmed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck. The killing led to months of protests all over the U.S. and the world against police brutality.
It’s taken parts of three weeks to choose the jury—only 14 will be seated; the 15th is in case they need the additional alternate. Twelve jurors will be asked to determine the fate of Chauvin.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill reiterated Juror 15 is to ensure that they have a full juror box on Monday. If the jury box is filled prior to the need of the 15th juror, that juror will be dismissed.
But it took two shots at getting Juror 15 Wednesday.
Potential Juror 130 was interviewed first. The candidate had allegedly become aware of the city’s settlement of $27 million with the family, and apparently did not hear of any specific numbers, but was aware that a settlement was in effect.
When questioned whether this knowledge of a settlement would affect his ability to be fair and impartial as a juror within this case, the candidate answered that he was not aware of what happened and was not aware of any specific details.
The judge mentioned that the settlement was separate from the happenings of this trial and that the candidate was unlikely to hear about it as evidence.
When questioned about whether the candidate would be able to move past this to remain impartial, the candidate showed some hesitation before confirming that he could maintain impartiality, and mentioned videos and tweets he saw in the summer, which he stated “affected me in a lot of ways and I cannot easily put aside how it affects me.”
The candidate stated that he would try to do his best to remain impartial, but also stated that he could not give a definitive answer if he would be able to.
Candidate 130 was excused.
Then it was potential Juror 131’s turn. Similar to other potential jurors, this juror also heard about the $27 million settlement to George Floyd’s family a couple weeks ago.
Candidate 131 was also aware of the $27 million settlement because of the massive media coverage and saw various headlines regarding it. However, he stated that he would be able to “put it aside.”
Defense Attorney Eric Nelson, representing defendant Chauvin, began by asking this juror his usual first question: “You and I meet for the first time, in some other circumstance, a party or social event and we have our first conversation, what are a few things that I’m going to learn about you during that conversation?”
The court now learned that this juror is an accountant by trade who is married and competitive.
As this case starts moving along, the names of the jurors will soon be released. Nelson highlighted this and asked the juror “at some point, when the judge determines it’s safe to do so, your name, if you were a juror on this case, will be released publicly, how do you feel about that?” The juror explained to Nelson that he “doesn’t like it as much” but he understands that it’s part of the process.
In the questionnaire, the juror was asked about his impression of Chauvin and he noted that his impression was somewhat negative and wrote “while I do not have all the facts to the case it seems like it would not have taken four officers to respond to a call regarding a counterfeit bill and that the restraint of George Floyd for five to ten minutes may have been unnecessary.”
Nelson followed this statement given in his questionnaire by asking him if he has formed an opinion in this case about the use of force, as to whether it was reasonable or unreasonable. “Well, what I put in there was accurate. I think the duration was a bit, like I said, unnecessary,” the juror responded.
After Nelson brought his questioning to a close, defense attorney Steve Schleicher had a few questions for this juror as well.
This juror used the word “deescalating” when referring to the police force during the Black Lives Matter protests. Schleicher questioned this by asking, “You used that term deescalating, what do you mean by that? What do you think the police could have done better?”
“I’m not quite sure what they could have done, but perhaps something different would have been a more prudent approach,” the juror responded.
When asked what his thoughts were if chosen for this trial, the candidate mentioned that he was shocked that he could be chosen.
When questioned about what his approach was to resolving a conflict, the candidate stated that he first took measures to “ensure that he understood the conflict at its root, make sure he heard both sides, and determine the truth of what happened.”
Candidate 131 mentioned that he was open to reexamining his own perspective if he is given facts that prove his opinion wrong.
The candidate also mentioned viewing a bystander video of the George Floyd murder, in which Chauvin was holding Floyd down, in addition to a newspaper headline.
Candidate 131 did comment that, although he did not have all the facts of the case, it wouldn’t take four officers to respond and restraint” and this may have been unnecessary. The candidate specifically mentioned that the duration of the restraint was more concerning to him.
Candidate 131 claimed he voiced a desire at his workplace in dealing with racism and read a book in hopes of becoming more educated. The candidate recognizes that George Floyd’s murder started a much needed dialogue in people, but stated that he would be able to put his own opinions aside.
The candidate also mentioned that “Blacks and minorities do not receive the same treatment of whites and other majorities generally,” in regards to incarceration rates for minorities for more crimes and longer durations. The candidate mentioned that he was not sure of the reasons for this, but just that they were like this.
The candidate also voiced against defunding the police department. Although he was positive about the Black Lives Matter Movement, he stated that he was also sympathetic to the Blue Lives Matter Movement.
The candidate stated that “he supports what the BLM Movement is trying to do but also acknowledges the dangerous work that the police department does” and would not be in favor of defunding a program to fund another.
The candidate had mentioned earlier that he enjoyed watching sports in his free time. When asked his opinions about players taking political stances like taking a knee, the candidate stated that he understands why players might do that but that he prefers that they choose a different platform to take a political stance.
Candidate 131 also voiced concerns against taking a political stance during the national anthem, as he “feels a great sense of pride being an American citizen” and insisted on “having respect for those who came before us.”
When questioned about the protests that happened this summer, the candidate did agree that the protests did have a negative impact on the community, in regard to the rioting and looting.
When asked whether he thought that the Black Lives Matter group was responsible for the rioting and looting, the candidate stated that, although he thinks that they are not responsible, he believes that the “frustration kind of boiled over to do the rioting, but I would say it is a contributing factor.”
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