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

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

File photo
Police respond to reports of suspicious visitors in Vavenby

Clearwater RCMP responded to 54 calls for service this past week.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

District of Clearwater meetings are open to the public. The meeting agendas and past meetings minutes can be viewed on the DOC's website. Every meeting has time allocated at the end for comments from the public.
District of Clearwater hires new chief adminstrative officer

The new CAO will arrive at the end of June.

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. to use remaining AstraZeneca vaccine for 2nd doses

Health officials say the change is due to the limited availability of the vaccine

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Capt. Arpit Mahajan of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Snowbirds 2 - shows off his ‘Jenn Book’ dedicated to Capt. Jennifer Casey. Zoom screenshot
Homecoming for B.C.-raised Snowbirds pilot training in the province

Capt. Arpit Mahajan flies Snowbird 2 in his first year as a solo pilot with the team

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

What3words was first created in the U.K. in 2013 and is credited to saving the lives of outdoor enthusiasts around the world. (Contributed)
‘This is a life saving tool’: App helps paramedics find capsized canoeists near Revelstoke

What3words pinpoints the person’s phone location to a three-meter range

Most Read