Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill dismissed two seated jurors on Wednesday from serving in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. They said they might not be able to remain impartial after hearing news of the city’s unprecedented $27 million settlement with the family of George Floyd.
Cahill interviewed seven of the nine seated jurors on Zoom after city leaders joined the Floyd family and their lawyers on stage on Friday for a highly publicized news conference about the settlement of their federal lawsuit.
The loss of two jurors will extend the selection process to select 14 jurors including 2 alternates, which has already been complicated by the city’s settlement. After the settlement was announced, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson also moved to delay and move the trial. Cahill said he would rule on the motions Friday.
Three of the seven jurors hadn’t seen the news, and Cahill praised them for their diligence in avoiding reports on developments in the case. Four of the seven, however, had inadvertently seen the news.
“It kind of confirms opinions that I already have … I think it will be hard to be impartial,” said Juror No. 36, a Hispanic man in his 20s. He was dismissed.
Juror No. 20, a white man in his 20s, said he saw the headline with news of the settlement, and while he avoided reading the story, he wasn’t sure if it affected his view of the case or how much.
“Especially that dollar amount was kind of shocking to me. That sent the message that the city of Minneapolis felt something was wrong and they wanted to make it right to the tune of that amount,” he said. “I think that sticker price shocked me and swayed me a little bit.”
The other jurors said they were able to set aside news of the settlement, and it wouldn’t affect their ability to decide whether or not Chauvin is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt of second- or third-degree murder or second-degree manslaughter.
“I don’t think it affected me at all because I don’t know the details. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know what went into that decision,” Juror No. 27 said.
So far, the defense has used 11 of 15 peremptory strikes, which they can use to reject jurors without a reason. The prosecution has used five of nine peremptory strikes.
Cahill on Wednesday also issued a stern warning to reporters covering the case after a pool reporter tweeted details of notes on the desks of the attorneys and specifics about security measures on the floor where the trial is taking place.
“If that continues, the media is going to be excluded and we’re going to shut down the media center,” Cahill said. “So I hope everyone takes this to heart that I consider the security issue very serious and reporting out to the general public what our arrangements is extremely irresponsible.”
He told reporters not to speak to people in the hallways or report on what they see in the courtroom.
Deena Winter contributed reporting.