Chauvin trial: 12th juror chosen; big decisions loom

Thursday proceedings done for the day

A man speaks from behind a desk.
A view of the courtroom during pretrial motions in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Thursday.
Screenshot of Court TV video

MPR News will stream live coverage of the trial on Facebook beginning at 8:15 a.m. Friday. Some images or material discussed during the trial will be disturbing to many viewers. Watch Thursday morning proceedings here. Watch the afternoon proceedings here:

3 things to know:

  • Defense wants Chauvin trial moved, delayed in wake of $27 million Floyd family settlement; judge to rule on Friday

  • 12 jurors now, 2 more needed; two previously chosen jurors who knew of the settlement were dismissed Wednesday

  • Judge to rule Friday on whether to allow evidence from a 2019 Floyd arrest

Updated 5:30 p.m.

Pivotal moments in the Derek Chauvin trial arrive Friday. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill is set to decide on several motions that will shape the trial’s future.

Cahill is expected to rule on a defense request to delay or move the trial due to last week’s $27 million wrongful death settlement announced between Minneapolis and the family of George Floyd.

Chauvin’s attorneys continue to argue that the massive settlement and the notoriety around it may taint the jury selection process, although the process continued on Thursday with the selection of three more jurors. Two more are needed for a jury of 12 plus two alternates.

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The judge is also expected to rule Friday on whether to allow evidence from a 2019 arrest of Floyd, a question the defense and prosecution sparred over on Thursday.

Chauvin, an ex-Minneapolis police officer, faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s killing last year while in police custody.

Opening statements in the trial are expected March 29.

3 more for the jury

Despite those major decisions approaching, lawyers for the defense and prosecution were still able to agree Thursday on the selection of three more jurors.

One was described by the court as a white suburban woman in her 50s who works as a cardiac care nurse. She was questioned about her medical training and whether she would second-guess police on resuscitation efforts. She was also asked whether she would reference her nursing experience during deliberations. She said she could avoid it.

Another juror was described as a Black grandmother and youth volunteer in her 60s. She said she watched a few minutes of the bystander video of Floyd’s arrest before shutting it off. She said she doesn’t follow the news closely and does not know enough yet to judge the case.

The third juror picked Thursday, described as a white woman in her 40s, works in communication. She said she disagrees with “defunding” the police but believes change is needed based on what she's seen in media coverage of racism.

Three prospective jurors were dismissed Thursday morning.

One, described by the broadcast pool reporter as a Black female, perhaps in her 30s, was excused by Cahill after she said she was swayed by news of the large civil settlement to the Floyd family from the city of Minneapolis. 

The next person, described as a white woman in her 40s, said she had strong respect for law enforcement and strongly opposed Black Lives Matter, clarifying that her opposition was to the organization, not to the idea that the lives of Black people have value. 

The defense accepted her after lengthy questioning, but prosecutors did not.

Another juror was excused for cause after answering questions with the courtroom audio feed muted. Cahill later said she knew one of the central witnesses to the case.

‘Everybody just stop talking about it’

The challenges of finding impartial jurors in an era of 24-hour news coverage and social media have been clear all week as the defense and prosecution queried prospective jurors. The Floyd family settlement continues to loom large over Chauvin’s criminal trial.

Two jurors who’d been chosen for the jury before the settlement were dismissed on Wednesday after acknowledging to Cahill that the settlement news had an influence on their views.

One said he’d seen a news headline reporting the $27 million payout. "I would say that dollar amount was shocking to me and that the city of Minneapolis felt something was wrong,” he told the judge.

Cahill has worked this week to balance the concerns of the defense and prosecution after the settlement news roiled the court and Chauvin’s lawyer questioned whether the pretrial publicity could create problems finding an impartial jury.

Judge Peter Cahill speaks
Judge Peter Cahill speaks during Derek Chauvin's trial at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on Wednesday.
Screenshot of Court TV video

But the concerns continue.

Minneapolis officials on Thursday turned aside talk that the settlement announcement had affected the trial.

"There is no good time to settle any case, particularly one as complex, involved and sensitive as this," Minneapolis city attorney Jim Rowader told reporters during a briefing with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. "There is no guarantee for instance, that that deal would be available two, four, six, eight weeks from now or six months from now.”

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson later noted Rowader’s comments in court and renewed his concerns that the settlement talk could taint a jury. Prosecutors then criticized the defense for sharing third-hand information about the press conference.

Cahill was clearly frustrated by all of it.

"I've asked Minneapolis to stop talking about it. They keep talking about it. We keep talking about it. Everybody just stop talking about it,” he told the court. “Let me decide what the ramifications are."

Resisting arrest, or panic attack?

Prosecutors and defense lawyers on Thursday argued over whether allowing testimony from a forensic psychiatrist would open the door for the defense to enter evidence of a 2019 arrest of Floyd.

Prosecutors say they want to refute the notion that Floyd was resisting arrest last May and offer the psychiatrist’s testimony to provide an alternate explanation — that Floyd could not comply with officers’ orders to get into the squad car because he was suffering from anxiety or a panic attack.

“Does the non-compliance mean that he’s resisting arrest?” asked prosecutor Jerry Blackwell. “Or does it mean that he’s not capable of getting into the squad car because he’s suffering from the effects of anxiety or panic?”

The defense argued that would open the door for them to bring in evidence of the 2019 arrest. Body camera video from that arrest shows Floyd displaying some of the same reactions to officers as he did in 2020.

Chauvin’s lawyers counter that if the state’s witness says Floyd was displaying symptoms of claustrophobia during the 2020 encounter, they should be able to introduce evidence of Floyd willingly getting into the back of the squad car in 2019.

Race a constant in jury selection

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.  

Among the 12 seated as of Thursday afternoon, there are three Black men, including two who are immigrants; one Black woman; two women who identify as multiracial; two white men; and four white women.

Race remains an underlying constant during jury selection.

Georgetown University law professor Paul Butler said that having a diverse jury of impartial jurors is important because it brings different perspectives into the room.

"The court has also said that in race-related cases, it's important to have jurors of color, and particularly African American jurors, because their presence on the jury strengthens public confidence in the system, and respect for the rule of law," Butler said.

A Black man was dismissed Wednesday from the jury pool after describing past experiences with the Minneapolis Police Department.

When asked why he might want to serve on this jury, he said: “You see a lot of Black people getting killed and no one is being held accountable for it. And you wonder why or what were the decisions, and for this maybe I’ll be in the room to know why.”

Nelson, the defense attorney, pressed the potential juror on why he wrote in his questionnaire that he strongly disagreed with the statement that the media exaggerates discrimination.

“Being a Black man in America, I experience racism on a day-to-day basis,” the juror said, insisting he could be a fair and impartial juror. “My opinion doesn’t really matter, it’s whether I can do what the judge and you guys ask me to.” 

A defense attorney talks behind a Plexi glass.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson (center) speaks during the trial of Derek Chauvin on Wednesday.
Screenshot of Court TV video

Nelson found the juror's bias toward Minneapolis police troubling. He also pointed to the man’s answers, which included the word "murder," when he talked about his knowledge of the case.

The prosecution, however, said the juror was simply reflecting on his lived experience as a Black man.

MPR News reporter Nina Moini contributed to this report.

Trial basics

Defendant ex-cop Derek Chauvin and his attorney stand during a trial.
In this image taken from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson (left) and defendant former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (right) and Nelson's assistant Amy Voss (back) introduce themselves to potential jurors Monday at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
Via Court TV

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.

Role of alternate jurors in ex-officer's trial: The two alternates will play important role, ready to sub in for other jurors who are unable to continue with the trial.

What's behind some Chauvin jury questions? Some questions are less pointed, and their reasoning more subtle.

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

A group of people stand on a stage while a man speaks from a podium
Attorney Ben Crump (left) speaks to the press, standing next to Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, along with family members of George Floyd and City Council members. The City Council unanimously has agreed to a $27 million civil settlement with George Floyd's family.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

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.

Rescuing the plywood — and memorializing a movement: Two Black women are leading the effort to preserve the murals painted on storefront boards in the Twin Cities.

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.

Read more

People march down a street behind a banner.
People march through downtown Minneapolis holding banners and signs calling for justice in the killing of George Floyd and other people killed by police on March 8.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Mpls. church holds 'safe space' to deal with trauma after Floyd’s death: Jalilia A-Brown, a pastor who leads community engagement at Shiloh Temple, said it is a place where anyone, especially Black Minneapolis residents, can come to be supported — and never judged.

Who belongs on Chauvin's jury? Three community members discuss how jury selection does or doesn’t work — and how it should work. (Sahan Journal)

What is the impact of racially diverse juries? Scholars, courts and legal groups have increasingly advocated for greater jury diversity — not just of race, but of gender and socioeconomic backgrounds — as a way to make trials fairer. (The Associated Press)

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?

Questions about the Chauvin trial? Ask us