The first juror to have been confirmed on day one of jury selection in Derek Chauvin’s trial 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 – the second potential juror to be called on Tuesday morning – told defense attorney Eric Nelson that he had not seen the video but was familiar with still images of the notorious incident that sparked protest across the world.
The anonymous white man, a chemist by profession, described himself as a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
But he said that he didn’t ‘love the organization’ which he viewed as ‘too extreme,’ adding, ‘All lives should matter.’
Earlier this morning the first potential juror, a Mexican mother of three, was excused after the defense used one of their 15 peremptory challenges to have her dismissed.
Chauvin’s attorney had sought to convince Judge Peter Cahill to strike the juror for cause due to language difficulties but while Cahill described the juror as ‘unsophisticated,’ he did not agree that her language was a significant barrier to her serving.
Derek Chauvin is seen above looking through papers and jotting down notes on the first day of jury selection in his murder trial in Minneapolis on Tuesday
The defense was forced to use one of its challenges – citing as a reason one of the answers she gave on the prospective jurors’ lengthy questionnaire in which she stated she would like to serve because she ‘wanted people to know her opinion,’ of the case.
Shortly after lunch potential juror 9 became the second juror, and first woman, selected to the Chauvin case.
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.
As with the first juror selected she said that she supported the idea of Black Lives Matter but was not a fan of the organization.
She said, ‘I like the idea of what they’re supposed to stand for but I think it’s been turned into a propaganda thing by big companies just saying, buy our stuff.’
She said that she believed that Blue Lives Matter was no better and had simply ‘piggybacked off the hashtag.’
Chauvin was back in court this morning as jury selection, which was halted before it even got started Monday, began in earnest on Tuesday.
Cahill stalled yesterday’s proceedings while he waited word from the State’s Court of Appeal over whether selection could proceed while the exact charges that Chauvin faces remain pending.
But he made clear his intention to press on today.
Outside the courthouse, Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies were seen taking one protester into custody.
The man who appeared to be in his 40s or 50s was seen holding a portrait of Floyd as he was being handcuffed by sheriff’s deputies.
A spokesperson for Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department said the protester was given a citation and was not arrested.
Chauvin is currently charged with second degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after Judge Cahill removed a lesser charge of third-degree murder last October.
But three judges from the Minnesota State Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the judge had erred in that ruling and instructed Cahill to consider reinstating the charge that carries a maximum sentence of 25 years and may present the prosecution’s best chance of securing a conviction.
Indeed, a potentially damaging leak published by the New York Times in February, revealed that Chauvin, 44, had agreed to plead guilty to this lesser charge in a plea deal that ultimately fell apart when the then Attorney General William Barr rejected it.
Cahill ruled on pretrial motions on Tuesday, setting parameters for trial testimony.
Among them, Cahill said jurors will hear when Chauvin stopped working for the police department, but they will not be told that he was fired or that the city made a ‘substantial offer’ to settle a lawsuit with Floyd’s family.
Those details will not be allowed because they could imply guilt, Cahill said.
The city had no immediate comment when asked about the settlement offer. A message left with an attorney for the Floyd family was not immediately returned.
Cahill also ruled that a firefighter who can be heard in the bystander video, urging the officers to check Floyd’s pulse, will be allowed to testify about what she saw, and whether she thought medical intervention was needed, but she will not be able to speculate that she could have saved Floyd if she had intervened.
Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies detain an activist gathering outside the Hennepin County Government Center before the second day of jury selection begins at the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday
The man is seen second to right being led away in handcuffs by Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputies in Minneapolis on Tuesday
The man is seen above wearing glasses and a knitted cap as sheriff’s deputies pin him up against a vehicle in Minneapolis on Tuesday
The man is seen with a portrait of George Floyd in his hand as he is being taken into custody on Tuesday by Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies
In addition, testimony about what training Chauvin received will be allowed.
Prospective jurors have been drawn from the predominantly white and left-leaning, Hennepin County.
The defense had sought to see the jury pool taken from a more rural, conservative area.
Each potential juror was sent a lengthy questionnaire ahead of the one-to-one selection process now expected to start this morning.
The 14-page document seen by DailyMail.com was distributed in December and includes question such as whether the prospective jurors have seen the infamous video showing 46-year-old Floyd dying under Chauvin’s knee, if they have formed views of Floyd or Chauvin and if they believe themselves able to set any opinions aside and apply the law as instructed.
Both the defense and prosecution agreed to strike sixteen of the first 50 potential jurors Monday afternoon in decisions based on their answers and the intense background searches conducted by both the prosecution and the defense ahead of individual selection, or ‘voire dire.’
Just outside the courthouse, two men held artwork depicting George Floyd on Monday
Toussaint Morrison speaks to the crowd of Black Lives Matter supporters outside the courthouse in Minneapolis on Monday
A woman wears a face mask that reads ‘Black Lives Matter’ while holding a portrait of George Floyd outside the courthouse in Minneapolis on Monday
Both sides are expected to have scrutinized prospective jurors’ social media as well as possible conflicts of interest and criminal records in a bid to establish what views they may truly hold.
The defense has 15 peremptory strikes at jury selection while the prosecution has nine chances to get rid of jurors they deem undesirable.
With jury selection halted Judge Cahill instead heard a host of pretrial motions in the afternoon as the prosecution and defense hammered out many rules of engagement regarding treatment of witnesses, language to be used in court, sequestration of witnesses and basic decorum.
Protesters gather at New York City’s Bryant Park and march through streets in memory of George Floyd on the first day of Minneapolis trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin
Protesters held up signs denouncing the police and waved portraits of Floyd as they marched through Manhattan
A demonstrator holds up an image of George Floyd in New York City on Monday
The trials of the four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest and subsequent death will be highly anticipated nationwide
A Black Lives Matter protester stands opposite a New York Police Department officer in Manhattan on Monday
One of the many defense motions to which the prosecution agreed was a decision not to call Doctors Michael Baden and Alicia Wilson as witnesses. Baden and Wilson were recruited by the Floyd family to conduct an independent autopsy.
They concluded that Floyd died solely of asphyxiation, unlike the state’s Medical Examiner who listed several potential comorbidities or underlying health issues including untreated hypertension, COVID-19 and the presence of fentanyl in Floyd’s system.
In fact, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank said that the state did not intend to call the experts whose opinions some have said could actually aid the defense by introducing potential confusion and dissent among jurors.
One motion at which Judge Cahill expressed bemusement was the defense request that Floyd’s death should not be compared to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Black Lives Matter demonstrators march through the streets of Chicago on Monday night
The demonstrators in the Windy City took to the streets as the trial of Derek Chauvin got underway about 400 miles away in Minneapolis
A woman holds a Black Lives Matter sign during a demonstration in Chicago on Monday
A Black Lives Matter supporter holds a sign that reads ‘Black Women Matter’ in Chicago on Monday
A Black Lives Matter supporter holds a sign that reads ‘Get your knee off our necks’ in Chicago on Monday
A protester in Chicago wears a mask that reads ‘Defund the police’ on Monday
Judge Cahill asked Frank, ‘How did that question even come up?’ before stating that ‘under no circumstances would that analogy be used.’
Judge Cahill knocked back the defense request to reveal details of a prior arrest in 2019 in which Floyd consumed a ‘large quantity’ of methamphetamine as officers approached and required hospitalization.
Asked what relevance this had in relation to Chauvin’s potential crime his attorney Eric Nelson said it showed, ‘A modus operandi of Mr Floyd…Is he actively ingesting narcotics that could cause his death?’
Nelson, an attorney from the Halberg Criminal Defense firm based in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, pointed out that traces of narcotics were found in Floyd’s car and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in Floyd’s blood.
But though Judge Cahill left it open for the defense to raise the issue again during trial he said, ‘I’ll be honest I’m not convinced. I could see how that might be relevant if Mr Chauvin was part of that arrest or knew about that arrest. He could say, “I have knowledge that this is how George Floyd reacts to this situation.”
‘But I’m not convinced yet. I don’t see that it is a modus operandi that is relevant…and any probative value is certainly outweighed by its prejudicial nature.’
Demonstrators hold a vigil in honor of George Floyd in Atlanta on Monday
Mourners light candles underneath a portrait of Floyd in Atlanta as the Chauvin trial got underway in Minneapolis
Mina Turabi chants with demonstrators while holding a vigil in honor of George Floyd in Atlanta on Monday
Several demonstrators are seen above lighting candles during a vigil for Floyd on Monday
Chauvin is the first of the four officers charged in connection with the death of Floyd to face trial.
Former officers Tou Thao, 35, Thomas Lane, 38 and J Alexander Keung, 27, are all charged aiding and abetting Second Degree Murder and Second Degree Manslaughter and will be tried together in August.
Opening statements in Chauvin’s trial are slated to begin Monday 29 allowing a remarkable three weeks for jury selection.
Chauvin’s legal representation is being provided by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) which draws from a panel of about a dozen attorneys, which includes both Nelson and the lawyer he replaced in June, Tom Kelly of Kelly & Jacobson.
Kelly told Reuters he gave up the case for medical-related reasons. The case was assigned to him by the association, which provides legal services to Minnesota’s police, because he was the on-call attorney at the time of Chauvin’s arrest, Kelly said.
DESPITE GEORGE FLOYD VIDEO, DEREK CHAUVIN’S CONVICTION IS NO SLAM DUNK, LEGAL EXPERTS SAY
Derek Chauvin, 46, faces the prospect of decades in prison if he is convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter
Jury selection begins Tuesday in Derek Chauvin’s trial, which is expected to come down to two key questions: Did Chauvin’s actions cause Floyd’s death, and were his actions reasonable?
‘It’s hard not to watch the video and conclude that the prosecutors will not have any trouble with this case,’ said Susan Gaertner, the former head prosecutor in neighboring Ramsey County.
‘But it’s not that simple.’
Floyd died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, holding his position even after Floyd went limp as he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach. Floyd’s death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond, and led to a nationwide reckoning on race.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter, and a panel of appeals court judges ruled Friday that the judge must consider reinstating a third-degree murder charge that he dismissed last fall.
Three other officers, all of whom also were fired, face trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting the second-degree murder and manslaughter counts.
The second-degree murder charge requires prosecutors to prove Chauvin caused Floyd’s death while committing or trying to commit a felony — in this case, third-degree assault.
The manslaughter charge has a lower bar, requiring proof that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through negligence that created an unreasonable risk, and consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death.
Exactly how Floyd died is shaping up as a major flashpoint of the trial.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argues in court documents that Floyd likely died from fentanyl he consumed, or a combination of fentanyl, methamphetamine and underlying health conditions — not as a result of Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
Chauvin’s attorney will argue that his client’s actions didn’t cause the death of George Floyd
But Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill wrote last fall that for the second-degree murder charge, prosecutors don’t have to prove that Chauvin was the sole cause of Floyd’s death — only that his conduct was a ‘substantial causal factor.’
Still, defense attorneys who aren’t connected to the case say all Nelson has to do is raise reasonable doubt in a single juror’s mind.
‘Although he had him pinned under his knee and he’s yelling “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” there’s an argument that (Chauvin) wasn’t exerting pressure and his inability to breathe was due to the drugs in his system or something to that effect, or his anxiety,’ said F. Clayton Tyler, a prominent local defense attorney.
Defense attorneys say it also may not be easy to establish that Chauvin was committing the felony of assault — as required for the second-degree murder charge in this case.
That’s because Chauvin is authorized to use force as a police officer, and his attorneys will argue that his use of force against Floyd was reasonable.
Gaertner said the defense will face a challenge of trying to move the jury’s focus off of the video and the strong emotion it generates.
They’ll instead try to focus on the medical evidence and Floyd’s underlying conditions while trying to portray the circumstances of the arrest as ‘justifiable consistent with police norms,’ she said.
Brandt and Tyler said Chauvin will likely have to take the stand to explain why he felt he had to hold Floyd down for so long.
Brandt said he’ll likely say he followed his training, and that it was necessary because his experience with other suspects under the influence of drugs shows that things can suddenly become erratic and dangerous.
Prosecutors, however, have submitted a list of previous instances in which Chauvin used chokeholds or similar restraints on the job. Cahill ruled they can admit only one as evidence: a 2017 arrest in which Chauvin restrained a female by placing his knee on her neck while she was prone on the ground.
Cahill also ruled that prosecutors can tell jurors about a 2015 incident in which Chauvin saw other officers place a suicidal, intoxicated male in a side-recovery position after using a stun gun on him.
Cahill said prosecutors can introduce that if they can show Chauvin was present when a medical professional said that the male could have died if officers had prolonged the detention.
Brandt said telling the jury about those events will allow prosecutors to show that Chauvin knew the proper way to restrain someone and provide relief, and that he has done it in wrong before.
Brandt said the third-degree murder charge could be easier for prosecutors to prove if it’s reinstated because they wouldn’t have to show Chauvin intended to commit assault.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank wants to impose a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin
Instead, they must prove his actions caused Floyd’s death, and that they were reckless and without regard for human life.
The second-degree manslaughter count alleges Chauvin took a risk that a reasonable person would have known could cause death. To defend against that, Brandt said, Chauvin could argue that he had used the same hold in the past and didn’t think it would cause a problem.
However, Brandt said ‘the whole case’ against Chauvin is the video capturing the amount of time he restrained Floyd.
‘You hear on the video the passersby, the onlookers saying, “Dude, he can’t breathe. Let him up. What are you doing? You are killing him”,’ Brandt said.
‘I mean, it’s almost like they are giving a play-by-play.’
Tyler said if he were a prosecutor, he’d use a still shot of Chauvin’s expressionless face from that video and keep it in view for the jury to see.
‘I mean, the look on his face,’ Tyler said. ‘If I was prosecuting this case, I have to say, I’d have that picture up there. “You want to show indifference? Just look at him”.’
It is rare for police officers to face criminal charges for police-involved deaths of suspects.
Between 2005 and 2014, there have been 10,278 criminal arrests involving 8,495 non-federal sworn law enforcement officers in the United States.
Of those, just 110 law enforcement officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter in an on-duty shooting – this despite the fact that around 1,000 people are fatally shot by police annually, according to The Washington Post.
Of the 110 officers who were charged, just 42 were convicted, according to the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database.
Why is it so difficult to bring charges – let alone a conviction – against a police officer involved in the death of a suspect?
‘If a civilian is displaying a weapon, it’s very hard to charge [the police officer] with murder for taking action against that civilian,’ Kate Levin, a professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, said.
‘And even if a civilian doesn’t have a weapon, it’s hard to charge a police officer if [the officer] can credibly say they feared for their life.’
Source: FiveThirtyEight, The Associated Press