A 14th juror was selected in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial on Monday, one week before opening arguments are scheduled to begin on March 29. The court initially called for 12 jurors and at least two alternates; it could now add additional jurors to the panel in case anyone drops out.
Chauvin, who is white, is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in last year’s killing of George Floyd, who was Black. Video recordings showed that Floyd was held facedown on the asphalt — and that Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
The jury reflects a range of ethnicities, although slightly over half of the jurors have been described in court as white.
“Among the 14 seated, there are three Black men, including two who are immigrants; one Black woman; two women who identify as multiracial; two white men; and six white women,” Minnesota Public Radio reports.
The trial is expected to last at least four weeks. The two alternate jurors won’t know of their status until the panel heads to the deliberation phase.
Jury selection in the case has often moved more quickly than was predicted: When it began on March 9, the process was expected to last several weeks as the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys quizzed dozens of potential jurors about their lives and any opinions they held about Floyd’s death in police custody last Memorial Day.
The relatively fast pace endured despite the loss last week of two jurors who were struck from the panel after they said that because of Minneapolis’ recent $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family, they could no longer promise to be impartial.
A wave of publicity about that payout prompted Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to give both sides of the case additional peremptory challenges to strike potential jurors from the panel.
The jury reached 14 members days after Cahill denied defense motions to move the case to another venue or delay the proceedings – steps that Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, called for because of the potential impact of the settlement news on the jury pool.
“I do not think that that would give the defendant any kind of a fair trial beyond what we are doing here today,” Cahill said on Friday. “I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case.”
The initial jury pool included 326 people; as of late last week, Cahill said that the court had questioned around 60 of them.
The selection process continued on Monday as the judge and the two sides of the case sought to ensure the jury is fair and impartial. As of around midday Monday, the defense had used 14 of its 18 challenges, and the prosecutors had used eight of their 10 challenges, Cahill said.
In another ruling from Friday, Cahill found that only a portion of the evidence and details from an earlier police stop of Floyd would be allowed in the trial.
Cahill noted similarities between Floyd’s interaction with police on May 25, 2020, and the earlier police stop on May 6, 2019. In both instances, the judge said, there were signs that Floyd had ingested drugs after being approached by police officers. In the two cases, Cahill said, Floyd’s physical behavior is “remarkably similar.”
But the judge also said Floyd’s “emotional behavior” from that earlier encounter was not admissible. And he restricted how much of a police video recording from the 2019 arrest could be used in court.
The only recordings from the 2019 incident that are relevant to the current case, he added, are segments that could be linked to the cause of Floyd’s death and his medical condition.
The case is being closely watched, with Floyd’s death having inflamed widespread protests against racial inequality and police brutality.