MINNEAPOLIS — Wednesday, March 17
- Two seated jurors were dismissed after saying the civil settlement with George Floyd's family influenced their impartiality
- The jurors removed were a Hispanic man and a white man
- Eighth and ninth jurors seated Wednesday afternoon
- Judge gives defense three more peremptory strikes, state one more
- Court in recess until 8:30 a.m. Thursday
- Judge to make decision on whether to delay or move trial on Friday
The total number of seated jurors for the Derek Chauvin trial remains at nine as of the end of the day Wednesday, after two jurors were removed from the panel and two more were added.
Judge Peter Cahill questioned several of the seated jurors Wednesday morning to ask what they know about a historic civil settlement between the city of Minneapolis and George Floyd's family. That settlement was announced Friday.
Earlier in the week, Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson told Judge Cahill he is "gravely concerned" about the potential that news has to prejudice the jurors who already seated, and the ones still needed for the trial.
After questioning the jurors, Cahill dismissed two who said they can no longer be impartial. Two new jurors were added Wednesday afternoon for a total of nine.
Due to pre-trial publicity, Cahill said he is giving the defense three more peremptory strikes, which give attorneys the right to reject potential jurors. He said he is giving the state one more peremptory strike.
Cahill said he will rule Friday on a defense request to delay and change venues for the trial due to the settlement news.
Potential juror #85, a multiracial woman in her 40s who works in corporate reorganization, has been seated as the ninth juror.
On her questionnaire, she said she has a "somewhat negative" opinion of Chauvin based on what she's seen on the news. She has a neutral opinion of Floyd, and does not know whether or not Chauvin caused his death. She has only seen parts of the bystander video, and said she can put aside what she saw.
When questioned by the state, #85 said she has strong faith in police but believes they do not treat Black Americans equally based on what she's seen on the news.
Both sides passed for cause, and #85 was seated.
Due to pre-trial publicity, Cahill said he will give the defense three more peremptory strikes. He will give the state only one additional strike.
Potential juror #79, described as a Black man in his 40s who works in management, has been seated on the jury. As two jurors were dismissed Wednesday morning, he is now the eighth juror chosen for the case.
On the questionnaire, he said he was unsure if he wants to be a juror on this case. He said that's because he is not originally from the United States and doesn't know if he's qualified.
When asked about his exposure to recent news, #79 said he has heard about the civil settlement, but he doesn't know much about it and can set it aside.
He said he has seen the bystander video two or three times, and saw clips of it on the news. He has a neutral opinion of Chauvin and a "somewhat positive" opinion of Floyd after seeing him described positively in media coverage and because people demonstrated in support of him.
Juror #79 said he has not formed an opinion on who caused Floyd's death or his cause of death.
On his questionnaire, he said he “somewhat agrees” with the statement that Black Americans do not receive equal treatment as white Americans in the criminal justice system. He "strongly agrees" that police make him feel safe. He holds a "somewhat favorable" view of both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, and said he believes every life matters.
He said if someone doesn't cooperate with police, the police officers should still have to follow the law and proper procedure
Lawyers for both the defense and the state passed for cause, and #79 was seated before 3 p.m.
Court went into lunch recess after an active morning that started with Judge Cahill offering a stern warning to the media, moved into a zoom session that ended with the dismissal of two already-seated jurors, and then the resumption of jury selection. The session started with seven jurors seated of 14 needed, and ended with the same number.
Juror #75 is described as a white male in his 30s or 40s. He told the court he has been unemployed after losing his job to the pandemic, and is expecting a job offer this week. The potential juror said serving would probably present a financial hardship, and after some questioning and a sidebar conference the man was excused for cause.
Juror #76 was a Black man who spoke a lot about discrimination and his views of MPD. He said when he lived near 38th and Chicago, he heard squads drive up playing the song, "Another One Bites The Dust" when responding to a shooting, Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson made a motion to excuse the juror for cause, based on Juror #76's views of MPD. Judge Cahill rejected the motion, forcing Nelson to use one of his peremptory challenges, which are running short. The prosecution opted not to use a Batson Challenge, meaning they did not accuse Nelson of dismissing the juror based strictly on his race.
The questioning of juror #76 was extensive, and when he was dismissed it was getting close to lunch time. Judge Cahill mulled over the option of starting with another potential juror, but decided to stop proceedings right there. He noted that several challenging issues had been addressed, two jurors lost and multiple sidebar conferences held.
"It's been a morning," said Judge Cahill as he went into recess.
Jury selection resumed Wednesday morning after the seated panel was reduced by two.
The defense, prosecution and the judge in the Derek Chauvin trial need to find seven more jurors to hear the case. They already had nine people seated but two were dismissed Wednesday after being questioned about a civil settlement between the city of Minneapolis and George Floyd's family.
Fourteen people in total are needed for the jury: 12 jurors and two alternates.
Judge Peter Cahill started the morning in court with a stern warning to reporters he said have been attempting to read post-it notes on the attorneys' tables, and reporting the exact security arrangements in the courthouse.
He called the reporting of security specifics "completely irresponsible" and said if those behaviors continue "there will be sanctions."
After that, the judge began speaking with the first seven seated jurors by Zoom one by one. He asked the jurors whether they had been exposed to coverage of the settlement. The judge also took the opportunity to ask each seated juror to avoid all news, not just news about the case, because of the prevalence of media coverage.
The first person questioned, Juror #2, said his fiancee had told him there was a development and to be "extra vigilant" about avoiding the news.
Juror #36, however, said he believes the quantity of the settlement will impact his ability to be fair.
"Clearly the city of Minneapolis has some strong opinions as well," he said. "And this just confirms my strong feelings that I had."
The juror told the judge, "I think it would be hard to be impartial." Judge Cahill excused him for cause.
Juror #20 said the amount of the settlement "shocked me and kind of swayed me a little bit." He was not able to answer the judge's question about whether it would impact his ability to hear the trial fairly.
Judge Cahill said he is going to "exercise extreme caution" and excuse that juror, as well.
The other jurors questioned either had not heard about the settlement, or had heard about it but said they could remain impartial.
Judge Cahill said he'll consider everything he heard from the jurors when he makes his decision on whether to continue or change venues for the trial. He said he will make that decision on Friday.
"This is more data for the court to make that decision," Cahill said.
Cahill also said further argument surrounding George Floyd's 2019 arrest will be heard Thursday, and he'll give an oral order on Friday.
Judge Cahill said Tuesday that while he's concerned about the settlement announcement, he believes a report in the New York Times published last month about a potential plea bargain could be even more problematic.
"That is particularly problematic, and I said so, because of its impact on the presumption of innocence," Judge Cahill said about the report. "The $27 million settlement is unfortunate, it is something to consider, but let's face it, it's not just a legal decision, that's a political decision, and I think people realize that."
Jury selection will resume around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. On Tuesday, no new jurors were selected for the trial, though numerous people were questioned.
Nine jurors have already been selected, and five more are needed to complete the roster of 12 jurors and two alternates. Of those nine people, five identify as white, four are people of color and three of the seated jurors are women.
Regardless of the time it takes to seat the rest of the jury, at this time Judge Cahill has said the trial will not begin before March 29.