Minneapolis braces for day one of Derek Chauvin’s trial as city holds vigil for George Floyd

Derek Chauvin (pictured in a Minneapolis courtroom on March 15) has been charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 death of George Floyd

As of Monday, all 15 jurors who will hear the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin have been impaneled.

Twelve jurors will deliberate and three will serve as alternates. 

Alternate jurors will step in if a juror can’t continue in the trial for reasons such as illness, a family emergency, or further exposure to information on Floyd’s death that would taint their decision. 

In the middle of jury selection, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill dismissed two jurors – a white man and a Hispanic man – after they admitted their views were altered by the announced $27million settlement between the family of George Floyd and the City of Minneapolis. 

The seated jurors include six men and nine women. 

The 15 jurors seated through Monday are split by race, with nine white jurors, four black and two multiracial, according to the court. 

Juror No. 1: A white man in his 20s or 30s who works as a chemist. He told the court that he has an ‘analytical’ mind.

He claims not to have seen the infamous nine-minute clip during which George Floyd died under the ex-Minneapolis police officer’s knee. 

The juror described himself as a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, though he criticized it as ‘too extreme’ and said: ‘All lives should matter.’ 

Juror No. 2:  A woman of color in her 20s or 30s who is also related to a police officer.

The young woman from northern Minnesota described herself as ‘super excited’ to be called to be part of the jury pool in such a high profile case.

She said that she had seen the video of Floyd’s death only once and revealed that she has an uncle who is a police officer in the state, but was clear that it would not affect her ability to be fair and impartial in this case.

Juror No. 3: A white man in his 30s who works as an auditor and is friends with a Minneapolis police officer in the K9 unit.

The juror described himself as honest and straightforward.

He said that while he has seen Facebook video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck at least twice, he has not formed an opinion about the former officer’s guilt. 

The juror did acknowledge having a ‘somewhat negative’ view of Chauvin in light of the clip.

On his juror questionnaire, he wrote that Floyd had done ‘hard drugs’ and had a ‘checkered past’ – though he said he could set aside his opinions and be impartial. 

Juror No. 4: The fifth juror seated is a married IT manager in his thirties who emigrated from West Africa to the United States 14 years ago.

Like other jurors, he said that he supported the ideals of the Black Lives Matters movement but went further than his peers saying, ‘All lives matter, but black lives matter more because they are marginalized.’

He also voiced support for Blue Lives Matter and when questioned by the prosecution said he was strongly opposed to defunding the police, stating that the presence of police made him feel safer.

‘I believe our cops need to be safe and feel safe in order to protect our community,’ he said.

He told the court that he believed in the country’s justice system and wanted to serve on the jury because it was his civic duty.

‘I also believe that to make the justice system work I think we need people that are part of the community to sit as a juror,’ he said.

He said that he was not on social media but had seen the video of Floyd’s death and formed a slightly negative view of Chauvin.

All prospective jurors are asked about their views on the video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck during his fatal arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020

All prospective jurors are asked about their views on the video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck during his fatal arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020

He added that he was conscious that he did not know what had happened before or after the short clips he had seen.

Chauvin’s attorney pressed the potential juror on one answer that he had written in response to the jurors’ questionnaire. He stated that, while discussing Floyd’s death with his wife, he had said, ‘It could have been me.’

Asked what he meant by that the juror explained that he used to live in the area where Floyd died and said, ‘It could have been me or anyone else. It could have been anybody. It could have been you, that’s what I mean.’ 

Juror No. 5: The single mother-of two, white and in her early 50s, described herself as being in the ‘C-class’ of executives and works in healthcare advocacy.

She admitted to knowing Attorney General Keith Ellison and having had work dealings with his office, but neither defense nor prosecutors viewed this as any impairment to her service.

In response to a jury pool questionnaire, she said she had a ‘somewhat negative’ view of Chauvin, and that she thought he held his knee to Floyd’s neck for too long.

She said she felt empathy for both Floyd and the officers, adding that ‘at the end of the day I’m sure that the intention was not there for this to happen.’ 

Juror No. 6: A black man in his 30s, works in banking, and is youth sports coach.

He said that he was keen to be a juror at a trial which he viewed as ‘historic moment.’

Answering the prospective jurors’ lengthy questionnaire he said that he did ‘not believe the defendant set out to murder anyone,’ but that, having viewed the video of Floyd’s death he was left at a loss as to what Chauvin was thinking.

He professed himself strongly in favor of Black Lives Matters – as a statement not a movement or organization. 

But his view of Blue Lives Matters was ‘somewhat negative.’

He said, ‘I think that police lives matter but I feel like the concept of Blue Lives Matter only became a thing to combat Black Lives Matter, where it shouldn’t be a competition.’    

Juror No. 7: A white single mother in her 50s who works as executive assistant for a health clinic near Minneapolis.

She wrote in her questionnaire that she could not watch the entire video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck ‘because it was too disturbing to me.’

Nonetheless, she said: ‘I’m not in a position to change the law. I’m in a position to uphold the law.’

She added: ‘[Chauvin] is innocent until we can prove otherwise.’ 

Juror No. 8: A black father of one son expressed neutrality on almost all key points though he strongly disagreed with defunding the police.

The man, who is in his early 40s, said that he had no opinion of Chauvin and only a ‘somewhat favorable’ view of Floyd based on the fact that there had been so many demonstrations in support of him.

Asked about Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter he said that he believed, ‘Every life matters but black people their lives are not valued.’ 

Chauvin's attorneys will argue that Floyd's death was caused by drugs in his system

Chauvin’s attorneys will argue that Floyd’s death was caused by drugs in his system

He added, ‘Just because that’s what they think doesn’t mean that’s what it is but we have to respect it.’ 

Juror No. 9: A mixed-race mother of one who convinced all parties that she could be fair and impartial.

She said that she did not believe the justice system was perfect ‘because humans are involved so there’s always room for improvement where humans are involved.’

And she admitted to having formed a slightly negative view of Chauvin, though had a strong faith in the police in general. 

She said she felt ‘neutral’ about Floyd but what scant opinions she had formed she said she could set them aside and start from the ‘blank slate’ of presumed innocence. 

Juror No. 10: A white woman in her 50s who works as a registered nurse and lives alone in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina.

She said that, though she questioned why Chauvin had kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for so long, she had not formed an opinion regarding cause of death or where the responsibility for it lay. 

She was questioned over whether her medical experience, and specifically her familiarity with resuscitating patients, would impact her ability to be an impartial judge of any measures taken to save Floyd.

When asked if she could avoid using her medical expertise to act as an expert witness she gave a confident ‘yes’. 

The woman said she would like to know more about what training Chauvin had in ‘de-escalation and restraint’ and wanted to know if Floyd was armed, stating that would make a difference to the decisions she might expect an officer to make. 

Juror No. 11: A black grandmother-of-two thought to be in her 60s who grew up in the south Minneapolis neighborhood where Floyd died.  

The woman retired from her job in child psychology about five years ago and now volunteers with youth to ‘help them find their way.’ 

She said she had seen the video of Floyd’s death only once and had turned it off after four or five minutes because ‘it just wasn’t something I needed to see.’

She has a relative in the Minneapolis Police Department and said she was ‘proud’ of them but insisted she had never to them about Floyd’s death or their job in law enforcement.  

The woman said she was aware of the settlement between the city and Floyd’s family but said it did not impact her view of the case ‘at all.’

The woman said she was ‘neutral’ about Chauvin and also had ‘no opinion of [Floyd] one way or another.’ 

She wrote in her juror questionnaire that she agreed with Black Lives Matter because ‘I am black and my life matters’ and responded that she ‘somewhat agrees’ that black and white people are often treated differently. 

Juror No. 12: The third juror selected Thursday – and number 12 out of 14 confirmed – is a white female thought to be in her 30s who works in commercial insurance. 

The woman, who has a bachelor’s degree in communications, said she had seen the video of Floyd’s death four to five times and had spoken to friends about it. 

She also said she had heard about the settlement but said it did not affect her opinion or ability to sit on the jury. 

The woman had written in her juror questionnaire that she had ‘somewhat negative’ views on both Floyd and Chauvin.

‘The media painted Mr Chauvin as an aggressive cop with tax problems,’ she wrote. 

‘George Floyd’s record wasn’t clean but he abused drugs at some point.’ 

The woman said she would be ‘terrified’ if the police department was defunded and dismantled and has a strong respect for police officers but she also agreed that ‘it is obvious change needs to happen’.  

She said she supported Black Lives Matter but does not get involved in protests. 

But she said she was able to set aside everything she already knows about the case and on both Chauvin and Floyd and make a decision based only on the evidence presented in court.   

When asked by the prosecution if her opinion of Floyd could differ if she was told he struggled with addiction to illegal drugs, she replied: ‘Quite honestly maybe.’  

‘It doesn’t make them a bad person… but it would make me more cautious,’ she said.

Juror No. 13: The white female juror, who is believed to be either in her 40s or 50s, described herself as a dog-lover who enjoyed walks in nature and an advocate for homelessness and affordable housing said that her reaction, on opening the prospective juror packet for the case was, ‘Go big or go home.’

She said that she had a slightly negative view of Chauvin who she viewed as having a ‘leadership’ role in the incident that led to Floyd’s death but she didn’t assign more responsibility to him for that.

She went onto say that she believed police treat black and white people equally and disagreed that officers are more likely to use force when dealing with a black suspect. 

She did, however, express the belief that the criminal justice system is bias against black and racial minorities – a view she said she based on economic disparities. 

Juror No. 14: The juror, a white woman in her 20s who works as a social worker, said that she didn’t think her opinion would be affected by the $27million settlement between Minneapolis and Floyd’s family.

She said she was neutral on both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter and does not support ‘defunding the police’ or doing away with the Minneapolis Police Department.

‘I believe black lives matter as much as Latina, police etc,’ the woman said. 

Juror No. 15: The final juror, a white man in his 20s who works an accountant, was on chosen Tuesday, wrapping up a process that took more than two weeks.

The final juror chosen is a married accountant who said he initially formed a somewhat negative opinion of Chauvin, saying it seemed like the length of his restraint on Floyd was longer than necessary. 

But he said he would be able to put that aside and weigh the case based on the evidence.

He said Floyd’s death sparked discussions about racism at work, and he decided to educate himself by reading a book about the subject. 

He said he has a healthy respect for police and views Black Lives Matter somewhat favorably. 

However, he said some of the frustrations boiled over and may have been a factor in violent unrest in Minneapolis.

He also said he understands that professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem are trying to start a dialogue on race, but ‘I would prefer if someone would express their beliefs in a different manner.’    

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