By Alexander Ramirez and William McCurry
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – It’s slow slogging, but two more jurors were selected Wednesday here in the second day of jury selection in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with the murder of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police led to months of protests throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Five seats are now filled, with seven plus alternates still remaining to be selected for a full jury.
These two more seats were filled after extensive questioning by the judge and attorneys present in court at the time; questioning that included a questionnaire sent out before the potential jurors arrived in court today, as well as questions from the attorneys present regarding the potential juror’s responses in said questionnaire.
To begin Wednesday’s jury selection, Judge Peter Cahill swore in the potential jurors and asked them a series of questions. “The question I have for you to start with is, was everything true on the questionnaire?” And, “As you sit here right now, do you have any additions or amendments to it?”
As the jurors are summoned, they are supposed to avoid reading any articles or doing any research about the case.
Judge Cahill stated they may inadvertently be exposed to the case by seeing a headline or having a friend or family member bring it up in conversation, but he asked the jurors “is there anything
about the case, since the time you filled out the questionnaire, where you have received more information about the case?”
Jurors also have to put their opinions aside if they are selected to serve on the jury.
Judge Cahill asked “as you sit here right now do you think you could put aside what you’ve heard outside the courtroom and decide the case just on the law and evidence you hear in court?”
Another question the judge asked a juror was “did you recognize anyone on that long list of witnesses?”
After Judge Cahill was finished asking his series of questions, defense attorney Eric Nelson began his questioning. Nelson began by asking a potential juror general questions to get to know him and then later asked specific questions pertaining to his questionnaire.
Nelson began by asking “if you and I were to meet in a social circumstance, a party or some other event, what are some things you would want me to know about you after that conversation?”
This juror told Nelson that he came to the United States a little over 14 years ago and went to school in Nebraska. In 2012 he moved to Minnesota where he worked in IT.
“When you first received the notice that you were going to be a juror, or potentially could be a juror, what was your first reaction to that?” asked Nelson. This juror said he was surprised and anxious.
Nelson then continued by asking him, “Can you think of a situation in your professional life where you have had to resolve a conflict between two of the people who work for you?” He states that yes, it happens all the time. Conflict happens when they try to make a decision about technology or strategy for a project.
After Nelson asked his general questions, he moved to more specific questions pertaining to the questionnaire. He led with, “Would you be able to follow the law, even if you think it should be different?” The juror stated he would follow the law.
Nelson wanted to know if the juror can put his opinion aside and make a decision based on the evidence that is presented to him in court. The juror responded by stating, “Yea, I think I can do that.” Nelson highlighted that he uses the word “think” and said “what we need to hear you say is, (that is) ‘I can do that.’ ”
After Nelson was finished questioning this juror, the prosecution passed on their cross. Judge Cahill told this juror that he will serve on this jury. He has to return to the same courtroom at 9 a.m. on March 29.
The next potential juror to be questioned was Juror 28, an 80-year-old man who was in the real estate business.
Because of a busy work schedule and the nature of the case, the man had mixed feelings about being on the case and his role as a jury member in general.
Attorney Nelson asked the man about a comment on the pre-answered questionnaire regarding Chauvin’s aggressive tactics toward Floyd, to which the man attributed the comment to his recollection of different media that portrayed the incident. The man had seen scenes relating to the incident about six times, including photos of the incident and video.
In general, the man had a very negative view toward the defendant, but the man made sure to affirm that it would not get in the way of his decision.
This affirmation also occurred when it was brought up that his daughter had participated in the marches after the incident, and, despite having a brother-in-law with medical experience, he would not ask them any questions regarding the case. Even if he disappointed his daughter with his decision, it wouldn’t weigh on his mind, the man said.
Attorney Nelson asked the man about his thoughts on the 5th Amendment and the right to remain silent. Namely, how you cannot presume a defendant is guilty solely on the invoking of this amendment.
Although the man said he understands what this means, he wrote he was uncomfortable about this on the questionnaire.
“It doesn’t feel quite right, but I understand it is the law,” the man said. A philosophical discomfort of sorts.
The man in real estate was out—he was the fourth strike by Attorney Nelson.
After a few minutes, Juror 29 was brought in—a woman practicing law. She affirmed that her role as a practicing lawyer would not affect her decision, and, if anything, she was looking forward to jury duty.
When asked by Attorney Nelson as to how she would resolve a dispute between different parties, she answered by saying she would filter through the emotions in the dispute to get to the bottom of the true problem between the two parties.
In regard to the incident involving the defendant, the woman said that she had only seen a couple of short clips from Instagram, then CNN.
Although the woman also said that she was neutral toward the Black Lives Matter movement and the Blue Lives Matter movement, she also said that while she understood the message of the Black Lives Matter movement, she did not participate or agree with the methods of achieving that goal.
When asked about the criminal justice system and whether or not it is fair, she answered by saying it is as fair as it can be if the rest of the system is working.
However, during the questioning by the prosecution, she did say that Blacks and minorities may have unequal access to attorneys and many socioeconomic factors that make them treated unequally in the court system.
A theme present in the answers the woman provided was the wanting of complete information before making a complete decision. This could be seen in her answer to the question of whether or not Minneapolis police are more likely to use force against Blacks, and whether the criminal justice system is biased against racial and ethnic minorities.
Both questions were met with uncertain answers because of a lack of basis for a “real decision.
“I feel like a lot of people…are jumping to a conclusion based on feeling and gut reaction and ‘this is what I would do.’ But the vast majority of people saying that are not police officers and I’m not a police officer and I don’t know what police protocol is,” she said.
The woman affirmed that her respect toward police officers would not alter her feelings of accountability toward them anymore than, say, the feelings of accountability toward teachers.
The prosecution used a strike to excuse Juror 29.
The last juror brought in for this court session was Juror 30, a man who works in a church.
Attorney Nelson asked the same questions he asked the other potential jurors previously, including how the man would resolve disputes between different people, and how he felt when he had received the summons.
In regard to the case, the man said that there is a lot more attention and weight placed on it.
When Nelson asked about the man’s general impression of the case according to the questionnaire he had answered, it was very negative. There were also comments on the questionnaire that included lines like, “It seemed Derek murdered Floyd,” and it was a chokehold that led to Floyd’s death.
However, the man stated that he was willing to put the feelings of social justice, policing, and other issues aside for the court.
When it came to the man’s support of Black Lives Matter and the unfavorability of Blue Lives Matter, the man said that he was in favor of some defunding, and that police are well-intentioned, but misguided.
Because of this, and other answers on the questionnaire that pointed to support of racial justice and less support toward police officers, Nelson had to make sure that the man could put aside the feelings reflected in the questionnaire.
“I can be a fair juror who puts his perspective only within the bounds of this courtroom.”
Juror 30 was excused by the defense.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9
Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link: