Jury selection on pause for ex-cop charged in George Floyd’s death

Billy Briggs, who lives just 170 steps from where George Floyd was killed, created and maintains the countdown sign at the gas station on the corner of George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minn. On Sunday, the eve of the trial date, he updated it to “1”. (Jeff Wheeler /Star Tribune via AP)Billy Briggs, who lives just 170 steps from where George Floyd was killed, created and maintains the countdown sign at the gas station on the corner of George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minn. On Sunday, the eve of the trial date, he updated it to “1”. (Jeff Wheeler /Star Tribune via AP)
This file photo provided by the Ramsey County, Minn., Sheriff’s Office shows former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was arrested Friday, May 29, 2020, in the Memorial Day death of George Floyd. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and jury selection in his trial begins Monday, March 8, 2021. (Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)This file photo provided by the Ramsey County, Minn., Sheriff’s Office shows former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was arrested Friday, May 29, 2020, in the Memorial Day death of George Floyd. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and jury selection in his trial begins Monday, March 8, 2021. (Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2020 file photo, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, right, addresses reporters outside the Hennepin County Family Justice Center in Minneapolis. Jury selection begins Monday, March 8, 2021, for Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in George Floyd’s death. Ellison is the lead prosecutor in the case. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2020 file photo, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, right, addresses reporters outside the Hennepin County Family Justice Center in Minneapolis. Jury selection begins Monday, March 8, 2021, for Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in George Floyd’s death. Ellison is the lead prosecutor in the case. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
Demonstrators gather outside the Hennepin County Government Center, Monday, March 8, 2021, in Minneapolis where the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began with jury selection. Chauvin is charged with murder in the death of George Floyd during an arrest last May in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)Demonstrators gather outside the Hennepin County Government Center, Monday, March 8, 2021, in Minneapolis where the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began with jury selection. Chauvin is charged with murder in the death of George Floyd during an arrest last May in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused in the death of George Floyd on Monday paused jury selection for at least a day while an appeal proceeds over the possible reinstatement of a third-degree murder charge.

As hundreds of protesters gathered outside the courthouse to call for the conviction of Derek Chauvin, Judge Peter Cahill said he does not have jurisdiction to rule on whether the third-degree murder charge should be reinstated against the former officer while the issue is being appealed. But he said prosecutors’ arguments that the whole case would be impacted were “tenuous.”

Cahill planned to go ahead with the trial anyway and initially ruled jury selection would begin as scheduled on Monday. But after prosecutors filed a request with the Court of Appeals to put the case on hold, the judge sent the potential jurors home for the day. Cahill called a recess to give the Court of Appeals time to respond, but planned to bring attorneys back into the courtroom Monday afternoon to deal with other matters.

Cahill said the trial would proceed unless the higher courts told him to stop.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. The Court of Appeals last week ordered Cahill to consider reinstating a third-degree murder charge that he had dismissed. Legal experts say reinstating the charge would improve the odds of getting a conviction.

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, said Monday he would ask the state Supreme Court to review the appellate ruling. He has 30 days to seek a review.

For the unintentional second-degree murder charge, prosecutors have to prove that Chauvin’s conduct was a “substantial causal factor” in Floyd’s death, and that Chauvin was committing felony assault at the time. For third-degree murder, they must prove that Chauvin’s actions caused Floyd’s death, and that his actions were reckless and without regard for human life.

Floyd was declared dead May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against the handcuffed Black man’s neck for about nine minutes, holding his position even after Floyd went limp. Floyd’s death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond, and led to a nationwide reckoning on race.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired; the others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse as proceedings began, many carrying signs that read, “Justice for George Floyd” and “Convict Killer Cops.”

One speaker took a microphone and decried the concrete barriers topped by chain-link fencing, barbed wire and razor wire set up around the courthouse. DJ Hooker, 26, also ridiculed talk of the Chauvin trial as “the trial of the century,” saying the jury simply needs to “do the right thing.”

Then he led the crowd in chants of “The whole world is watching!”

Inside the courtroom, Chauvin, in a blue suit and black mask, followed the proceedings attentively, making notes on a legal pad. Bridgett Floyd, George Floyd’s sister and founder of the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, sat in the seat allocated to Floyd’s family. No one attended to support Chauvin.

Once jury selection starts, it is expected to take at least three weeks, as prosecutors and defence attorneys try to weed out people who may be biased against them.

“You don’t want jurors who are completely blank slates, because that would mean they’re not in tune at all with the world,” Susan Gaertner, a former prosecutor, said. “But what you want is jurors who can set aside opinions that have formed prior to walking into the courtroom and give both sides a fair hearing.”

Nelson earlier argued that pretrial publicity of the case and the subsequent violent unrest in Minneapolis would make it impossible to find an impartial jury in Hennepin County. But Cahill said last year that moving the trial probably wouldn’t cure the problem of a potentially tainted jury pool because “no corner of the State of Minnesota” has been shielded from pretrial publicity.

The potential jurors — who must be at least 18, U.S. citizens and residents of Hennepin County — were sent questionnaires to determine how much they have heard about the case and whether they’ve formed any opinions. Besides biographical and demographic information, jurors were asked about prior contacts with police, whether they have protested against police brutality and whether they believe the justice system is fair.

Some of the questions get specific, such as how often a potential juror has watched the bystander video of Floyd’s arrest, or whether they carried a sign at a protest and what that sign said.

READ MORE: Officer was on George Floyd’s neck for about 9 minutes: U.S. prosecutors

Mike Brandt, a local defence attorney, said prosecutors will likely seek out jurors who have favourable opinions on the Black Lives Matter movement or might have more outrage over Floyd’s death, while Chauvin’s attorneys would likely favour jurors who support the police.

Unlike typical jury selection proceedings, potential jurors will be questioned individually rather than in a group. The judge, defence attorney and prosecutors will all get to ask questions. The defence can object to up to 15 potential jurors without giving a reason; prosecutors can block up to nine without providing a reason. Either side can object to these peremptory challenges if they believe the sole reason for disqualifying a juror is race or gender.

Both sides can also argue to dismiss an unlimited number of jurors “for cause,” meaning they must provide a reason why they believe that juror shouldn’t serve. Those situations can get into “some tortured questioning,” Brandt said. It’s up to the judge to decide whether a juror stays or goes.

He said that even if a juror says they have had a negative interaction with the police or hold negative views about Black Lives Matter, the key will be trying to find out whether they can put those past experiences or opinions aside and be fair.

“We all walk into these with biases. The question is, can you put those biases aside and be fair in this case,” he said.

Jury selection will end after 14 people are picked — 12 jurors who will deliberate the case and two alternates who won’t be part of deliberations unless needed. The jurors will be escorted to the courthouse daily and sequestered during deliberations. Their names will be kept confidential until further order of the court.

The number of seats in the courtroom has been limited to maintain social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and seats for jurors have been spaced out. Like others in the courtroom, jurors will be required to wear masks.

The earliest opening statements will begin is March 29.

___

Associated Press writer Mohamed Ibrahim contributed this report.

___

Amy Forliti And Steve Karnowski, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Racial injusticeUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly Ng (left) tries to get the attention of Podzol and Aquila as twin sister, Pauline Ng, snaps a photo of the two dogs by a field of hyacinths at the Chilliwack Tulips attraction on April 13. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
PHOTOS: Strolling through tulips, hyacinths and daffodils at Chilliwack Tulips attraction

Colourful spring flower attraction opened on the weekend in Chilliwack, continues into May

Cannabis plants visible under bright lights inside a large facility at Shxwha:y Village on July 6, 2018. The reserve was home to the licensed producer for Indigenous Bloom, which opened up a dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve. On April 12, 2021, Shxwha:y announced Health Canada approval for a licensed production facility at the village. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack’s Shxwha:y First Nation approved for cannabis cultivation and processing facility

It will be the first majority-owned Indigenous on-reserve licensed facility in Western Canada

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
UPDATE: 1 of 3 puppies stolen from South Surrey returned to owner

American Bulldog puppy recovered after being sold at Mission car show

Two women walk past ‘The Meeting’ sculptures in White Rock’s Miramar Plaza Wednesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
New public art in White Rock faces criticism as the ‘two Michaels’ remain in China’s custody

‘I would encourage people to go out and enjoy it’ said Vancouver Biennale founder

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Fraser Surrey Docks leads to $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Most Read