MINNEAPOLIS – The second week of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began on Monday morning with arguments over Friday’s breathtaking news $ 27 million settlement in George Floyd’s death.
The arguments centered on whether the news that happened during the selection of the jury would affect the impartiality of the jury pool in Chauvin’s process.
Hennepin District Judge Peter Cahill said he would consider delaying the trial and ordered the seven jurors selected last week to be brought back and questioned about their familiarity with the news.
Chauvin is charged with second degree murder, third degree murder – which was added last week – and manslaughter.
Floyd, a black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020 when the white chauvin held his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. While lying on the floor under Chauvin, Floyd yelled “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times. The incident sparked protests around the world.
- Nine jurors were selected to take part in Chauvin’s trial. Five of the jury identified themselves as white, one as multiracial, one as Spanish and two as black, according to the court. Seven of the jurors are in their twenties or thirties and two in their fifties.
- The first potential juror interviewed on Monday was apologized after immediately making headlines on Friday City guides approve a $ 27 million civil settlement on Floyd’s death – something the prospective juror told her that the city couldn’t win the lawsuit. The problem is something that Chauvin’s attorneys have raised as potentially preventing a fair trial.
- The judge has planned at least three weeks for the selection of the jury. Opening statements are not planned for March 29th at the earliest.
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About 30 to 40 protesters blocked traffic near the Minneapolis courthouse where Derek Chauvin is on trial for the death of George Floyd. They called for a fair trial, arguing that the jury must reflect the demographics of the city.
The demonstrators did not bypass the icy temperatures and snowfall. The speakers argued that the first female juror to be dismissed in the process, a Mexican woman, exhibits institutional racism at work.
The woman, who had some trouble understanding questions, said she had seen coverage of the incident on television since completing the questionnaire and that Chauvin’s actions were “not fair because we are human”.
Protest organizer Toussaint Morrison told the crowd from Chauvin’s lawyer: “Eric Nelson is a white man who defends white supremacy and today’s lynching of our brothers and sisters.”
Loudspeakers on Morrison’s van covered with “George Floyd” stickers blew his words.
The judging pool is made up of people from Hennepin County, about three-quarters of which is white. Five of the jury identified themselves as white, one as multiracial, one as Spanish and two as black, according to the court.
The defense used three of their compelling challenges to expel Hispanics from the jury and prompted prosecutors to raise challenges twice. The judge ruled against both, saying he saw no pattern of defense that would exclude racist minorities from the jury.
Defense in the Derek Chauvin Trial called for a continuation, the dismissal of the jury sitting before Monday, and additional strikes during the voir dire over Friday’s announcement that George Floyd’s family had settled with Minneapolis for $ 27 million – a record in the area.
Judge Peter Cahill said he would consider delaying the trial, but denied that Chauvin’s attorneys would receive additional strikes to knock out potential jurors. He also ruled that the seven jurors who sat before Monday should be recalled to ask about their notoriety.
Cahill said he was “concerned” by the timing of the city’s announcement, but doesn’t believe the state has “bad intentions” to coordinate with city leaders, including Mayor Jacob Frey, to announce the settlement now and the city to infect the impartiality of the jury.
Chauvin’s senior attorney Eric Nelson described the timing as “deeply worrying” and said, “The goal of this system is to ensure a fair trial. And that is not fair.”
Two more jurors were selected on Monday to serve in the Derek Chauvin trial, bringing the total number of jurors sitting to date to nine. The two jurors, a white woman in her fifties and a black woman in her thirties, will join seven other people selected last week.
The man works in banking and also trains youth sports. He said he had seen what appeared to be police violence in the past – a child who was beaten up by the police and someone who was macedated “for not obeying orders quickly enough”. But that wouldn’t weigh down his stance on the process or swing him for or against chauvin, he said.
He didn’t have strong views about Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, saying only that he believed Blue Lives Matter was primarily intended to counter Black Lives Matter.
The woman, a mother of two who works as a health care assistant, said she was concerned about her safety but was relived when she heard the jury’s names would not be published immediately. She said she did not fully see the footage of Floyd’s arrest because it disturbed her.
The woman told the court she had a negative opinion on Chauvin because she believed the officials could have handled the situation differently, but also said she had a negative opinion on the protests after Floyd’s death because of some of the unrest in her community came close. The woman said she saw what she called police molesting a young man in the park for the past year, and as she neared the scene, an officer repeatedly told her to back off. She said the instructions made her feel “don’t care”.
Along with the couple, seven other jurors – five men and two women – were selected to serve during Chauvin’s trial. Given the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death – a black man who dies under the knee of a white cop – the racist makeup of the jury is a key concern. According to the court, four of the jury identified themselves as white, one as multiracial, one as Spanish and two as black.
Among the jurors selected: a man who immigrated to the US from Africa, a chemist, a man who said he disagreed with the criminal justice system is biased against minorities, a woman who said she was “great excited “to serve, a man who said he had a pretty negative opinion of Blue Lives Matter, a single mother of two and a groom who will likely have to cancel his wedding to serve on the jury.
The court must have a total of 12 jurors and two deputies.
Early Monday, Judge Peter Cahill ruled that a forensic psychologist who testifies for the state could speak in the footage of his arrest about Floyd’s movements and actions, and whether they agree with someone who is fearful or claustrophobic. But Cahill said he would ponder whether this extends to statements about PTSD and whether this might extend too far into what Floyd was thinking or experiencing.
Cahill ruled in another motion that medical experts could not obtain anecdotal evidence about patients who saw them, Arguing such examples may be rare or strange, but experts could speak broadly about their experiences in treating patients.
Cahill also issued a separate decision on another motion that changed some of the testimony of another doctor, Dr. David Fowler, a forensic pathologist set to testify about Floyd’s death and former chief medical officer in Maryland, admitted.
Cahill said the state could not rule out some statements by Fowler based on his consultation with experts about Floyd’s death who were outside of his scope as a forensic pathologist tasked with determining Floyd’s cause and manner of death.
Fowler is allowed to state what falls within its scope. If Fowler testifies to the opinions of other experts, the state can also question whether it was his or her opinion. Sundeep Iyer, one of the prosecutors, had said this should not be allowed.
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