Chauvin trial: Civil settlement roils criminal case; 9th juror chosen
Defense wants criminal trial postponed, moved; Monday's court proceedings have ended for the day
MPR News will stream live coverage of the trial on Facebook beginning at 8 a.m. Some images or material discussed during the trial will be disturbing to many viewers. Watch the Monday morning proceedings here. Watch the afternoon proceedings here:
3 things to know:
9 chosen so far for a jury of 12, plus two alternates
Mpls. City Council agrees to $27 million civil settlement with George Floyd’s family
Chauvin's attorney wants trial postponed amid worries the civil settlement will taint jury selection
Updated 3:17 p.m.
Derek Chauvin’s attorney on Monday called for Chauvin’s trial in the killing of George Floyd to be postponed and moved in the wake of Friday's news of a historic $27 million civil settlement between the city of Minneapolis and Floyd’s family.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson told the court he was "gravely concerned" with the settlement’s potential influence on jurors in Chauvin’s criminal trial. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill called it a legitimate worry and agreed to consider a postponement.
“I wish city officials would stop talking about this case so much but at the same time, I don’t find any evil intent that they are trying to tamper with this criminal case,” Cahill said.
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Nelson also asked for jurors to be sequestered and for the seven chosen last week to be called back for more questioning. The judge said he will call back the jurors who’ve been picked.
A prospective juror told Cahill that she heard news about the settlement on Friday, and said it would make it difficult for her to be an impartial juror.
”When I heard that, I almost gasped, the amount,” said the woman. “When that happened, it leaned me so far to one side over the other that I couldn't say under oath I'd be able to take that out of my mind.”
Cahill praised the woman for her honesty and excused her from jury service.
It’s unusual to see a civil settlement reached while its companion criminal trial has barely begun. Nelson said he was perplexed by the decision of city officials to appear at Friday’s press conference announcing the settlement and using phrases such as “the unanimous decision of the City Council.”
“It goes straight to the danger of pretrial publicity,” said Nelson.
But prosecutor Steve Schleicher said the jurors who have been selected have made assurances that they could set aside any information that they’ve absorbed from outside the courtroom. He also said it would be impossible to divine how the the settlement news would tilt jurors’ opinions.
“I don’t even know which way that cuts — if that cuts for us, if that cuts against us,” Schleicher said.
“The problem is, it cuts,” said Cahill.
Chauvin faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s killing while in police custody.
Opening statements in the trial are expected March 29.
9th juror selected
Cahill’s court has so far seated nine of the 12 jurors and two alternates needed for Chauvin’s trial.
The eighth juror, a Black male in his 30s, was chosen midmorning Monday. He said he’d seen headlines about the trial since he received his jury summons but had not seen any news about the pretrial settlement. He said he works in the banking industry and is a youth sports coach.
The juror was asked about his views about police officers and if he’s ever seen them use more force than was needed.
Nelson read back one of the man’s written responses.
“You wrote, ‘In downtown Minneapolis I’ve seen police body slam and then Mace an individual simply because they did not obey an order quick enough,’ ” read Nelson.
The man said he didn’t see the whole altercation because he was just passing by.
The man also elaborated on an answer he gave about discrimination and whether he thinks the media makes it out to be worse than it actually is. He said discrimination is very prevalent.
“It’s well beyond what the media can even report,” he said. “Discrimination is such a broad spectrum of things. It would just be impossible for the media to cover it all. Some of the smallest things could be discrimination.”
State special assistant attorney general Steve Schleicher questioned one of the juror's statements made during questioning by the defense. The man had said he didn’t think anyone had the intent to cause Floyd’s death.
Schleicher said Chauvin’s intentions will be contested during the trial and asked him if he’d have a problem setting aside his opinion.
“I don’t think it would be that difficult at all,” he said. “I think I can definitely look at it with an objective point of view.”
The ninth juror chosen is a white woman in her 50s. She described herself as a single mother of two, and works in health care as an executive assistant.
She said she couldn’t watch the full video because she found it too disturbing. She also said in her questionnaire she has a somewhat negative opinion of Chauvin but that he’s innocent until proven otherwise. She said she has a somewhat unfavorable opinion of Black Lives Matter.
Monday began with arguments about pretrial motions seeking to limit what expert witnesses can testify to. One motion concerned a forensic psychiatrist who will testify for the state.
Nelson said he wants to prevent the witness from testifying about Floyd’s state of mind during his interaction with officers.
Cahill agreed that while the psychiatrist can point to the video and say the actions Floyd made were consistent with someone who suffers from anxiety and or claustrophobia, but they cannot say definitively that Floyd was experiencing those conditions.
The parties did not argue about a defense motion to offer additional information about a 2019 arrest of Floyd by Minneapolis police. Cahill agreed to listen to arguments on Tuesday.
Race, ethnicity questions bubble in jury selection
Prosecutors have raised questions of bias in several decisions by Chauvin’s defense attorneys to dismiss prospective jurors of color.
It became enough of an issue last week that Cahill described the race and ethnicity of the six anonymous jurors selected by that time after the defense eliminated a man from the jury pool who identified himself in jury records as Hispanic.
That prospective juror had said bystander video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck made him feel like the police were behaving like an "occupying force" and that it reminded him of images of World War II.
Prosecutors argued the exclusion was race-based. Cahill said he saw “no pattern whatsoever from the defense of striking racial minorities.”
Cahill is protecting the identities of people in the jury pool. There are cameras in the courtroom, but they are not allowed to show the potential jurors, who are identified only by number, not name.
The court, though, has collected information self-reported by the jurors. The seven seated last week include a Hispanic man, a Black man who is an immigrant, a woman who identifies as multiracial, three white men and one white woman.
MPR News reporter Matt Sepic contributed to this report.
Who’s who: A look at the key players in the trial.
Need to know: 14 key questions about the trial, answered.
Jury selection: The complex process to pick jurors who will weigh charges fairly.
MPR News on its coverage: Ahead of Chauvin’s trial, Nancy Lebens, the newsroom’s deputy managing editor, answered audience questions about our reporting plans.
George Floyd and his legacy
Remembering George Floyd, the man: Before he became a symbol in the fight for racial justice, friends say Floyd was a “gentle giant” who sought a fresh start.
Making George Floyd Square: Here’s how the site of Floyd’s killing — 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis — is being reshaped.
Calls for change: Here’s what some Floyd activists tell MPR News about their experiences with race in Minnesota, why they march and what they hope for the future.
Minneapolis council OKs $27M Floyd family settlement: It’s a record settlement amount for the city.
Your questions about the Chauvin trial, answered: Why are potential jurors asked about religion, who can dismiss them and why can the jury hear about Derek Chauvin’s past but not George Floyd’s?
Activist and Christian hip-hop artist remembers his friend, George Floyd: NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Ronnie Lillard as the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin continues. (NPR)
Possibility of an unpopular verdict makes some in jury pool nervous: Several people have said they fear retribution if they were to render an unpopular verdict. (NPR)
What would 'Justice for George Floyd' look like? Sahan Journal invited four diverse community members to this discussion. (Sahan Journal)