Floyd trial strives to find jurors who can put aside their opinions on death
When questioned by defense attorney for Derek Chauvin, future juror 39 said footage of the death of George Floyd, for which the former Minneapolis cop is on trial, reminded him of “a scene of war.”
In the video, which sparked unprecedented global protests last year, the police, who are seen holding Floyd face down as he cried out for his mother, behaved “like an occupying force,” a he added.
“You have very strong opinions,” said the lawyer representing Chauvin, who pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter. “Can you basically get rid of that?” A blank slate?
The candidate juror insisted he could – “If I couldn’t imagine saying ‘not guilty’ I wouldn’t be here” – but was ultimately barred from serving on the jury.
This scene underscored one of the many challenges of the high-profile trial, which kicked off this week in Minneapolis with the delicate jury selection process. Lawyers interviewed dozens of prospects to find a panel of 12 jurors and four deputies who could put aside their opinions on Floyd’s on-camera murder and the protests that followed – and pledge to make an impartial decision in a case that shook the world.
Jury selection is expected to take several weeks, longer than a typical criminal trial, but this is hardly unusual for a case that received global media coverage and left an indelible mark on the upper Midwestern city where it is. judged. Potential jury members, whose names were withheld, were asked to complete an unusually long 14-page questionnaire covering their attitudes towards the police and the Black Lives Matter movement.
They were then summoned for further grilling at the downtown Minneapolis courthouse – located just three miles north of 38th and Chicago Avenue, an area now known as George Floyd Square – which had been barricaded with fences topped with accordion wire.
The trial, which is expected to begin in earnest with opening statements later this month, is seen as a broader referendum on whether officers can be held responsible for misconduct – especially when the victim is black, like Floyd was.
Police officers are rarely charged with murder or manslaughter when they kill someone on duty, making the Chauvin case the most high-profile police trial in years. While officers are involved in the murder of around 1,000 people a year, a database maintained by a professor at Bowling Green State University shows that only 200 were charged with murder or manslaughter between 2005 and 2015.
Floyd’s murder sparked civil unrest, with widespread peaceful protests accompanied by some looting and arson in Minneapolis and other American cities. Protesters marched through the streets throughout the summer of 2020 to demand an end to racial injustice.
Despite public protests of outrage over the number of deaths in custody, civil rights activists have been disappointed by the frequent lack of serious legal consequences, as when only one of three Kentucky police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a black woman, has been charged with a felony.
Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general, who has led the lawsuits against Chauvin, warned that it would be difficult to secure a conviction, despite footage this summer showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes after a Calling 911 told police that Floyd had used a counterfeit $ 20 bill at a convenience store.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which include second and third degree murder and manslaughter.
Whether what Chauvin did was a crime will be at the heart of what jurors are called upon to decide. A recent poll from USA Today / IPSOS showed a clear division between black and white Americans when answering this question.
According to this poll, 64% of black Americans considered Floyd’s death murder, compared to only 28% of whites. More white than black respondents described Chauvin’s actions as negligence, but a majority of those familiar with the case said they hoped for a conviction.
Among the jurors selected so far for the Chauvin case, one is black, one Latino, one multiracial and three are white.
All jurors will be residents of Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located, which has a population of 1.2 million according to census data. Of this total, 74 percent identify as white, while about 14 percent identify as black.
Compared to the protests that rocked cities across the country this summer, the protests and protests during the jury selection have so far been relatively low-key. City officials are bracing for that to change as the process draws closer to a verdict.
The city also announced on Friday that it had settled a civil lawsuit brought in by the Floyd family for $ 27 million, one of the highest such settlements on record.
Activists gathered in Minneapolis earlier this week, ahead of jury selection, as protesters carried signs showing Floyd’s face, Black Lives Matter and a banner across the street saying, “Justice 4 George Floyd, the the whole world is watching ”.
“I am fighting here for justice,” DJ Hooker, activist from Minneapolis said to the crowd. “It’s not just our duty to fight, it’s our duty to win, and that’s what we’re going to do. We will stay here. We will stay in the streets. We have to keep our boots on the ground.