Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin (right) and his lawyer Eric Nelson (left) on March 11.
By day’s end Thursday, nearly half the jury that will decide the fate of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had been seated.
They will render a verdict on Chauvin, who faces charges of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Jury selection is moving at a much faster pace than expected. Up to three weeks were set aside for jury selection, which was expected to be a difficult endeavor given the highly publicized police brutality case in which George Floyd died while being arrested on May 25 in south Minneapolis.
But in four days, six jurors were chosen; 12 jurors and two alternates are needed.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said at one point Thursday that of the six jurors selected so far, one identified as multiracial, three as white, one Hispanic and one Black. Several of those selected had an interesting mishmash of views on police, racism and social justice movements that defied facile categorization.
Their names and identifying details are being kept confidential by the judge until after the trial, so they are referred to by number. Here’s a summary of the jurors selected so far:
The first juror seated was a white male in his 20s, according to information provided by the judge.
He is a chemist who tests samples for contaminants for a company that makes sure products won’t be harmful to the environment. He said he didn’t see the viral video of Floyd’s death, and said he has not formed an opinion on whether a murder took place. He has no problem with police and is an advocate of community policing, he said.
He thinks the criminal justice system is biased against people of color, but he also doesn’t “love” the Black Lives Matter movement because he said, “I think all lives matter equally.”
He said he has worked at a K-6 camp through his childhood synagogue in a western suburb.
He and his fiancée are familiar with the 38th Street and Chicago Avenue area, where Floyd died, because they looked at buying a house there and praised the neighborhood for having a “good sense of community.”
Perhaps the most interesting juror was the second to be seated.
Described by the judge as a female of mixed race in her 20s, she said she grew up in a “really small town” in northern Minnesota and described herself as an open-minded person who can talk to anyone and is considered by friends to be a mediator.
She said she was “super excited” to be summoned to jury duty, because she finds the jury process fascinating. She said she watched the viral video of Floyd’s death once and has a “somewhat negative” impression of Chauvin because “nobody wants to see someone die.”
She said the protests after his death somewhat positively affected the community by raising awareness of discrimination, which she said was a “possible explanation” for what happened in this case.
Her uncle is a Brainerd police officer, and she feels strongly that people of color don’t receive equal justice. She said Minneapolis police are somewhat more likely to respond with force against Black suspects than white. And, she thinks both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter have become propaganda to “get people to buy stuff.”
“I think I can be fair,” she told the judge.
This juror is a white male in his 30s who works as an auditor.
He described himself as honest, straightforward and easy to talk to.
He has a “friend of a friend” who is a Minneapolis police officer in the K-9 unit but only sees him about twice a year. He saw clips of the Floyd incident two or three times and views Chauvin somewhat negatively because “someone died.”
He said he supports Black Lives Matter but disagrees with some of its tactics, and has an unfavorable opinion of Blue Lives Matter.
Although he said Floyd may have had a “checkered past” and may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of his arrest, he doesn’t think that should have much impact on the case.
This juror is a white male in his 30s who is scheduled to get married in Florida on May 1, but he said he is willing to serve on the jury even though that may mean postponing his wedding.
He grew up in central Minnesota and works in sales management with a team of about 20 across the nation. He is “casual friends” with a forensic scientist on the possible witness list, but hasn’t spoken to her in about a year and a half.
He described himself as a devoted father who is into sports and music.
He said he saw the Floyd video once and saw a couple of clips of it, and said Floyd appeared to be under the influence of something and was somewhat unruly. He wrote on his jury questionnaire that the incident didn’t have to end in his death.
He has a cousin on the East Coast who worked in law enforcement up until a few years ago, and indicated he’d assign more credibility to the testimony of law enforcement officers based on their training and obligations.
But he also thinks police and the criminal justice system is biased against people of color. He said he has no problem with NFL players taking a knee during the “Star Spangled Banner” and views Black Lives Matter favorably and considers Blue Lives Matter a short-sighted ripoff of the former.
But he also thinks people don’t give law enforcement the respect they deserve, because there are good and bad cops.
This juror is a Black man in his 30s.
He speaks multiple languages, primarily French, is married and works in information technology, managing eight people nationwide helping businesses with security.
He said he came to the U.S. 14 years ago and went to school in Nebraska before moving to Minnesota in 2012.
He wrote on his questionnaire that what happened to Floyd could have happened to him, because he used to live near 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. He has a somewhat negative opinion of Chauvin based on the video of the incident, but said he wasn’t there and doesn’t know everything that happened.
He said people had a right to protest Floyd’s death, but he was also concerned about the impact on businesses that were closed or destroyed during the unrest that followed.
Although he said “all lives matter,” he thinks Black lives matter even more “because they are marginalized.” But he also agrees Blue Lives Matter because cops need to be safe to protect communities. He opposes defunding police.
This juror is an Hispanic man in his 20s who said he is a route driver and family man who likes soccer.
After seeing the Floyd video, he said he had a very negative impression of Chauvin because he knelt on Floyd’s neck as Floyd desperately screamed he couldn’t breathe. But he said he can set that aside and be impartial. He had a neutral impression of Floyd but wrote on his questionnaire that if he’d complied with officers’ orders, “This wouldn’t have happened.”
He felt the protests “just went bad” last year and devolved into arson and looting. He strongly disagreed that you shouldn’t second guess police officers just because they have dangerous jobs. Overall, however, he has a positive view of police, saying they’re here to help people.
He somewhat agrees the justice system is biased against racial and ethnic minorities. He’s a fan of true crime shows.
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