The Chauvin jury is more racially diverse than the city of Minneapolis

By: - March 23, 2021 1:12 pm

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill.

The jury that will decide whether Derek Chauvin is guilty of murder or manslaughter in the death of George Floyd is more racially diverse than the state of Minnesota, Hennepin County or the city of Minneapolis.

Among the 15 jurors selected — 12 jurors and three alternates — there are four Black people, nine white people and two Minnesotans who identify as multiracial. There are six white women on the jury. 

“It’s much more (diverse) than what we would typically see in a jury in Hennepin County,” said Mary Moriarty, former chief Hennepin County public defender. “That’s good. I think it brings in different lenses.”

Among the first 12 jurors chosen — who are believed to be those who will actually deliberate — there were six white people and six people of color. That’s much more diverse than the demographics of the state, which is 84% white, 7% Black and nearly 3% multiracial; and Hennepin County, which is 74% white; 14% Black, 3% multiracial. 

The jury is also more diverse than the city of Minneapolis, which is 64% white, 19% Black and nearly 5% multiracial, according to 2019 Census data.

Before jury selection began, Moriarty said she was concerned the jury would not be diverse, because some people can be dismissed without coming in due to COVID-19 concerns. That has been resulting in juries with fewer people of color since the pandemic, she said.

That didn’t happen with this jury.

Although one-third of the dozen jurors who will decide Chauvin’s fate are Black, just 8% of jurors in the Fourth Judicial District — Hennepin County’s district — were Black in fiscal year 2020, while 80% were white, according to the Minnesota Judicial Branch annual report.

Moriarty cautioned not to assume Black jurors are more likely to convict, however. In her experience, for instance, some African immigrants come from countries where government repression is common and police tactics are much harsher than in the United States, so they tend to view police here with a less critical eye. One of the jurors is an immigrant believed to be from West Africa.

The state culls jurors from people with driver’s licenses, state IDs and registered voters. Other states also find jurors through income tax records, unemployment, public assistance and utilities records.

Civil rights lawyer and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong has expressed concern that the Chauvin jury still needs more Black representation. She was particularly frustrated when the defense struck a Black man who lived near where Floyd died outside Cup Foods in South Minneapolis.

The prospective juror talked about the frustration of seeing Black men get killed, and nobody held accountable. He recalled police taunting Black people in the neighborhood, saying when a Black person would get shot or go to jail, police would ride through playing the song “Another one bites the dust.” 


His inability to get on the jury shows systemic racism in the system, Armstrong told the Associated Press.

During questioning, about a third of the jurors seated had a favorable view of Black Lives Matter, a quarter favored “all lives matter,” and a couple had mixed views. Most of the jurors had varying views on discrimination in policing and the criminal justice system.

Moriarty’s point about people being able to opt out due to COVID-19 concerns could also explain why the jury is fairly young, with four jurors in their 20s; three in their 30s; three in their 40s; four in their 50s and one in her 60s.

Jurors can postpone jury duty or get excused for various reasons. During the pandemic, the maximum time they can postpone jury duty was extended, according to Spenser Bickett, spokesman for Hennepin County District Court.

Prospective jurors who are 70 or older can be excused without providing evidence of an inability to serve. That could be why there are no people over age 70 on the jury.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd. Chauvin’s attorney has argued drugs in Floyd’s system and a heart problem caused his death, while the prosecutors argue he died of what’s called positional asphyxia as Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was prone for more than nine minutes.  

Opening arguments begin Monday morning, and the trial is expected to last up to four weeks. 

If Chauvin is convicted, Nelson is likely to appeal based on Cahill’s decision not to delay or move the trial, Moriarty said.

The three other officers who were involved go on trial in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.