15th And Final Juror Chosen For Derek Chauvin Murder Trial; Opening Statements Set For Monday

MINNEAPOLIS (Star Tribune/TNS) -
The murder trial of Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd entered its second week of jury selection at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis. (Mark Vancleave/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

A 15th and final juror was chosen Tuesday in the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, with opening statements scheduled to begin Monday.

A white man in his 20s was selected late in the morning after a relatively brief round of questioning, ending a sometimes tedious process that lasted more than two weeks during which many dozens of jury candidates were quizzed.

The newest juror, an accountant who is married, rounds out the jury, but he will be dismissed at the outset Monday unless someone drops out before then.

Under questioning before a global audience watching the livestream, the man said he is analytical thanks to his profession and could weigh the evidence fairly. He said that while he understands why athletes kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in America, he wishes they would do so in a different manner.

“I think it’s more of a respect of those that have come before us and the system that we have in the United States,” he said. “I have a great sense of pride in being a United States citizen.”

Concerning the mission behind the alternative Blue Lives Matter rallying cry on behalf of police, he wrote months ago in his juror questionnaire that it “has not done enough to enhance the conversation about other issues such as gun control.”

There are six people of color and nine white people among the 15 jurors selected. Nine of the jurors are women and six are men. Chauvin is white. Floyd was Black.

The jurors are: A multi-race woman in her 20s, a multi-race woman in her 40s, two Black men in their 30s, a Black man in his 40s, a Black woman in her 60s, four white women in their 50s, a white woman in her 40s, a white man in his 30s, two white men in their 20s, and a white woman in her 20s.

The judge will keep 14 jurors, including two alternates. Before deliberations, the remaining alternates will be dismissed.

Then 12 jurors will be sequestered while they deliberate whether to convict or acquit the fired Minneapolis police officer on any or all of the charges — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

The first potential juror questioned Tuesday before a global audience watching the livestream, a man from Minneapolis who works as a pipe fitter, expressed strong support for police officers and held disdain for the mainstream news media and for the perpetrators who inflicted so much damage to the city during the civil unrest after Floyd’s death.

“I don’t think a policeman wakes up in the morning to have a tragedy happen during the day,” he said, when asked about his impression of Chauvin after watching the widely viewed bystander video that has loomed large over jury selection.

He also said he doesn’t believe police, for the most part, target minorities unfairly. “I just don’t think they want to single out one race over another. … It’s not the color of the person, it’s actions.”

Asked of his thoughts about Floyd, he said, “If I struggled for who knows how long, what would happen to me? Why is somebody resisting?”

Cahill excused the man, citing his bias in favor of police.

The next jury candidate admitted being extremely nervous about being part of the selection process and was concerned about her family’s safety should she be chosen and her identity ultimately be revealed. After two out-of-earshot discussions between the attorneys and Cahill, the judge dismissed her.

She was followed by a man who said the viral video “and everything that I saw over the summer definitely did affect me in a lot of ways. … I know that kind of goes against being fair and impartial.” Cahill needed little time to excuse the man.

At the end of the day Monday, Cahill said it was “12 or bust” on Tuesday, referring to the number of jury candidates who were told to report to the courthouse for questioning.

“We’re going to call in 12, and we’re going to go through all 12,” if necessary, the judge said. Lawyers were told to be prepared to work a longer day to seat the final juror. That turned out not to be the case.

The lone juror selected Monday among the eight quizzed was a white woman in her 20s. She is a newlywed and a social worker in Wright County whose clients are coping with mental health difficulties.

She said her profession had trained to her to be empathetic. “I’m always thinking about the person and where he came from,” she said of her views on Chauvin and his actions the day Floyd died. “Was it his training?”

When the woman talked about hearing both sides at trial, defense attorney Eric Nelson reminded her that Chauvin does not have to present evidence and the state has the burden of proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The juror responded: “Mr. Chauvin’s side is his presumption of innocence. That is what I meant by that.”

The other defendants in the case — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are scheduled to be tried in August in the same proceedings on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.