MINNEAPOLIS — Tuesday, March 9
- Jury selection in Derek Chauvin trial began Tuesday after one-day delay
- Awaiting ruling from state court of appeals on prosecution request to pause proceedings until related appeals are resolved
- Defense asks state Supreme Court to review issue of third-degree murder charge, but wants trial to proceed
- Judge: "Unless the court of appeals tells me otherwise, we're going to keep moving."
Jury selection in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin began Tuesday after a one day delay, despite efforts by the prosecution to put it on hold.
As of Tuesday evening, three jurors have been seated so far. The first was juror #2, described as a white male in his 20s or 30s from Minneapolis, who told the court he has some knowledge of the case, and talked about visiting 38th and Chicago, the intersection where George Floyd died.
The second juror seated was juror #9, a woman of color who originally grew up in northern Minnesota. Prosecutors questioned her about a relative who is a police officer, but she was ultimately seated for the jury.
The third juror seated just before wrapping up for the day was juror #19, a white male in his 30s. He said he has "a friend of a friend" who is a Minneapolis Police Department K9 officer. He added that he hasn't discussed the case with the officer and said his decision would have no impact on their relationship.
KARE 11's Lou Raguse explains that attorneys are able to use peremptory challenges to excuse jurors they don't want, but they have to have a reason other than just race. The other side can raise a Batson challenge if they believe there is not a valid race-neutral reason to using a challenge.
Potential jurors were supposed to be questioned beginning Monday morning, but at a hearing held one hour before, the defense and prosecution faced off over the possible addition of a third-degree murder charge for Chauvin. He is already charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
The defense has asked the state Supreme Court to review a previous decision on that charge, which means that anything related to that specific matter is out of Judge Peter Cahill's jurisdiction now. The defense wants the rest of the trial to proceed, though, and so does the judge.
The prosecution has now asked the court of appeals for a "writ of prohibition" to halt the proceedings until the matter is resolved, but Judge Cahill has said unless and until that writ is granted, he'll move forward.
Sources tell KARE 11 that due to COVID-19 social distancing space issues, only two alternate jurors will be selected rather than four.
KARE 11 has live updates on the trial proceedings below, and Lou Raguse will be posting real-time developments on Twitter.
Juror #19, described as a white man in his 30s, is the third juror selected to the jury panel. While being questioned by the defense, the juror said he has no safety concerns for him or his family and said he can weigh both sides. In the questionnaire, he indicated that he had a "somewhat negative" view of Chauvin because he didn't resuscitate, but can set any bias aside. He also said he has "a friend of a friend" who is a Minneapolis Police Department K9 officer, but said he hasn't discussed the case with them. He added that his decision in the case will have no impact on his relationship with that friend. He told prosecutors he was aware George Floyd had previous incidents with law enforcement. Just before recessing for the day, juror #19 was selected to be on the panel and is told not to discuss the case.
Earlier, juror #17 was excused by Judge Peter Cahill for cause based on the juror's views of how he would treat police officer witnesses. The prospective juror was described by the court pool reporter as 19-year-old biracial/possibly African American male. The juror told prosecutors that he doesn't trust law enforcement, but added that he can be fair and impartial. When questioned by the defense, the juror admitted bias against law enforcement before being excused by Judge Cahill.
The court began questioning the next panel of jurors after accepting juror #9, a woman originally from northern Minnesota, as the second juror seated in the case.
Prosecutors questioned her about a relative who is a police officer, but she was ultimately seated for the jury.
Prosecutors used one of their strikes to dismiss juror #8, described by the court pool reporter as a white male in his 50s or 60s. Their line of questioning focused mainly on the man's safety fears, and whether a police officer should ever be questioned over a decision they make in the line of duty. The dismissed juror also expressed negative thoughts of Black Lives Matter, and positive reactions to Blue Lives matter on his questionnaire and during questioning in court.
KARE 11's Lou Raguse reports that juror #1, a Hispanic woman, was struck from the jury panel by Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson after the defense failed to convince Judge Peter Cahill to dismiss her over language issues. Juror #2, a Minneapolis man with a science background, told Nelson that he has some knowledge of the case, and talked about visiting 38th and Chicago, the intersection where George Floyd died. That man, described as white and in his 20s or 30s, was seated on the jury.
Prosecutors raised a Batson challenge after Nelson dismissed juror #3, a Hispanic man. The defense had previously struck a Hispanic woman from the jury panel.
Raguse explains that attorneys are able to use peremptory challenges to excuse jurors they don't want, but they have to have a reason other than just race. The other side can raise a Batson challenge if they believe there is not a valid race-neutral reason to using a challenge.
After hearing the prosecution's Batson challenge, Judge Cahill ruled that Nelson's reasoning in dismissing was valid. The judge said juror #3 had preconceived notions about the case and seemed to be saying it would be up to Nelson to prove Chauvin's innocence, rather than holding the presumption of innocence that's required.
Jury selection in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin began Tuesday morning. Seven potential jurors are expected to be questioned each morning, and seven each afternoon. The judge and the attorneys need to find 14 to 16 jurors – 12 regulars and up to four alternates.
Judge Peter Cahill asked the first round of potential jurors to provide "full and complete" answers to the questions they're asked. He said he may dismiss some of them, and the prosecution or the defense may ask to have some of them dismissed as well.
"In either case it does not mean that you are not a fair person," Cahill said.
The judge first asked if any of the potential jurors knew the prosecution, the defense or Derek Chauvin. No one raised a hand.
The judge gave some instructions before the in-person questioning began, including warning people that they should not post about the trial or about being a potential juror on social media.
By 9:15 a.m., the first juror was being questioned.
Judge Cahill has said that the opening statements in the trial will not start until at least March 29, no matter how long jury selection takes.
First at 8 a.m., the judge and both the defense and prosecution met in the courtroom to go over pretrial motions.
The state asked the judge to allow them to introduce evidence of Minneapolis police training that Chauvin received, but may not have been in effect yet at the time of George Floyd's death.
Judge Cahill said he can address that when it comes up, but added, "If it's training that Mr. Chauvin received before the death of Mr. Floyd, I think we have to recognize that it is relevant and that I would allow it regardless of policy."
The judge also ruled on a disagreement about one witness – an off-duty first responder who witnessed George Floyd's death and said she believed he needed medical attention and could have saved him. The judge said the woman may testify, and may say she believed Floyd needed medical help. However, she will not be allowed to say that she could have saved him.
The judge heard arguments from the defense and prosecution about what elements of Chauvin's termination by the Minneapolis Police Department – and the reasons for that termination - should be admitted.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said that Chief Medaria Arradondo will indeed be called as a witness at trial.
Judge Cahill said the fact Chauvin was terminated may not even be admissible. He agreed that the prosecutors can mention the date Chauvin's employment ended, but cannot say that he was fired.
In the course of the discussion Tuesday, there was a mention of a "Rule 68" offer made by the city of Minneapolis to the family of George Floyd. The family has filed a civil suit in Floyd's death. KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse confirmed through sources that a settlement has been offered to the family, but they have not yet accepted it.
Judge Cahill asked whether there were any updates from the court of appeals when all the motions for the day had been heard, and told prosecutors that they could check their phones. As of 8:30 a.m., there was no update on that front, so jury selection is still scheduled to start at 9 a.m.
The third-degree murder issue
The legal issue of the third-degree charge is working its way through the higher courts. Initially, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder in George Floyd's death, but the defense asked to have the charge dropped for lack of probable cause and a judge agreed.
On Friday, March 5, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that removing the third-degree charge was an error on the judge's part, and that the district court needs to reconsider the state's motion to reinstate third-degree murder.
On Monday, the defense officially asked the Supreme Court to review the third-degree charge.
The prosecution, meanwhile, is asking the court of appeals to order a halt to jury selection until the appeals issues around the third-degree charge are settled. Prosecutor Matthew Frank says the state does not want to choose jurors without knowing the final charges. The defense has filed a response opposing that, and wants the trial to move forward.
While the prosecution and defense argued their positions in the Hennepin County Courthouse on Monday, people from more than 20 local organizations chanted, danced and held up protest signs on the streets of downtown Minneapolis, calling for justice and healing for the community.
"We will not rest until we see all four of George Floyd’s killers taken off the streets, and our communities have the power to decide who polices our communities and how our communities are policed," organizers wrote in the description of a Facebook event for the march.
At the end of the day's proceedings, Bridgett Floyd, George Floyd's sister, spoke after being the only family member allowed into the courtroom. COVID restrictions limit the number of people allow inside.
She told reporters outside in an emotional interview that "I just really wanted that officer to know how much love Floyd had," and thanked the community for their support.