MPR News will stream live coverage of the trial on Facebook beginning at 9 a.m. Monday. Some images or material discussed during the trial will be disturbing to many viewers. Watch Friday morning proceedings here. Watch afternoon proceedings here:
3 things to know:
Judge declines to move, postpone trial
Judge allows some evidence from a 2019 Floyd arrest
13 jurors now seated; jury selection continues Monday
Updated 6:55 p.m.
Judge Peter Cahill said Friday he will not delay or move the Derek Chauvin trial. He also said he would allow limited evidence from a 2019 arrest of George Floyd.
Cahill’s decision followed a defense request to delay or move the trial in the wake of last week’s $27 million wrongful death settlement announced between Minneapolis and the family of George Floyd.
Chauvin’s attorneys argued that the massive settlement and the notoriety around it might taint the jury pool.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
Cahill, who’s expressed his unhappiness over Minneapolis publicizing the settlement during jury selection for Chauvin’s criminal trial, acknowledged Friday that the high-profile nature of this case would be inescapable no matter if it were postponed or moved.
“I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case,“ Cahill told the court, explaining his decision to keep the trial in Minneapolis.
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.
Cahill also agreed to allow some body camera footage from Floyd’s May 6, 2019 arrest that shows Floyd’s physical reaction to officers as they take him into custody. A paramedic who attended to Floyd that day can testify as to why she told Floyd he needed medical attention.
“The whole point here is we have medical evidence on what happens when Mr. Floyd is faced with virtually the same situation — confrontation by police, at gunpoint,” Cahill said, adding that the paramedic can testify that Floyd’s blood pressure during the 2019 arrest was so high he was at risk of a stroke or heart attack.
The judge, however, will not allow a state witness to testify as to Floyd’s emotional reactions, which according to the defense are very similar to his behavior during his fatal encounter with police on May 25, 2020.
One more juror — described by the court as a white woman in her 50s — was chosen on Friday. So far 13 people have been chosen to serve on the jury. Selection resumes Monday.
Opening statements in the trial are expected March 29.
‘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.
On Friday, Cahill admitted he was “a little shocked” to hear two previously chosen jurors admitting they could not be impartial anymore after hearing of the settlement.
The judge 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.
Those concerns resurfaced on Thursday when Minneapolis officials called a press conference and 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 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 thirdhand information about the press conference.
Cahill was clearly tired of 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 Thursday.
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.
The prosecution had planned to call on a forensic psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion on Floyd’s apparent emotional responses during the May 25, 2020 encounter with Chauvin and other officers.
But Cahill ruled Friday that’s not admissible unless the defense says something to open the door to that line of inquiry.
The judge cautioned that if the psychiatrist testimony was allowed, ”then the entire 2019 arrest would be in as well, since the defense would have a right to confront her opinion by playing the entire videotape of Mr. Floyd’s emotional reaction” that day.
Prosecutors had said they wanted 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 noncompliance mean that he’s resisting arrest?” prosecutor Jerry Blackwell asked on Thursday. “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?”
3 jurors picked Thursday
With Friday’s big decisions looming, 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 communications. 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.
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.
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 13 seated as of Friday morning, there are three Black men, including two who are immigrants; one Black woman; two women who identify as multiracial; two white men; and five white women.
Race remains an underlying constant during jury selection.
Having a diverse jury of impartial jurors is important because it brings different perspectives into the room, said Paul Butler, a Georgetown University law professor.
"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.”
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.
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.
Chauvin's lawyer is outnumbered, but has help: No fewer than four attorneys have appeared for the prosecution so far, compared to a single attorney to defend Derek Chauvin.
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.
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.
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?