Bodycam video from police on the scene and testimony about asphyxiation were crucial in convicting fired Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, the second juror to speak out in the historic case said Thursday.
Journee Howard, known until now only as Juror No. 9, said "there was a multitude of things" that played into the prosecution meeting the legal standard that she and the other jurors needed to agree beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin was guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The 25-year-old Howard, who put her modeling and acting studies on hold for the trial, is the second of the 12 jurors who deliberated to speak publicly since the verdicts were reached on April 20 in Hennepin County District Court. An alternate juror also gave interviews shortly after the trial ended.
Howard, of Minneapolis, said she was especially swayed by the detailed testimony of Dr. Martin Tobin, the lung specialist who bolstered the prosecution's contention that Floyd died from asphyxiation as a direct result of being pinned facedown on the pavement at 38th and Chicago on May 25, 2020, for more than nine minutes by Chauvin and two other officers.
"He was fantastic," Howard told the Star Tribune, who added that Tobin's credibility was enhanced by not being paid for his testimony. "He was very, very convincing. He was probably my favorite."
Among the other witnesses for the prosecution, Howard also gave high marks to Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
"He shocked me with his testimony," she said. "I wasn't expecting him to be so blunt when he said this is not what we teach or how we train."
The jurors and the global audience watching the trial online saw a substantial amount of video that showed Floyd's arrest that night, and Howard said she gave greater weight to the officers' bodycam recordings than to the bystander's viral video of Floyd's arrest and death that sent shock waves around the world.
Howard, who first spoke to nationally syndicated radio host Erica Campbell, said that even if the video from curbside witness Darnella Frazier never existed, she still would have voted to convict Chauvin.
"Her video was only one very small perspective," Howard said. "The bodycam footage and audio was more damaging against Derek Chauvin than anything else.
"When you get to be in the position of those men and hear the conversations of those men, that was overwhelming."
Reluctant to criticize the defense's case for acquittal, Howard did point out a couple of areas that fell short, including when attorney Eric Nelson raised the possibility that carbon monoxide from a squad car close to Floyd's head might have contributed to his death.
"If he was subjected to carbon monoxide, wouldn't that have been exposed to [the officers closest to Floyd] as well? That didn't hold too much water for me," Howard said.
And even if she accepted the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning, "they would have been at fault. He was in their custody."
Howard, who identified herself during the jury selection process as biracial and is the daughter of a white mother and a Black father, said she didn't like how Nelson was confrontational with prosecution witness Donald Williams II, another of the witnesses who stood within feet of Chauvin and Floyd. Nelson drew criticism for appearing to portray Williams as an angry Black man whose foul language and tone created a threatening atmosphere for the officers.
Nelson tried to make Williams "seem angry and emotional in a negative way," Howard said. "[Williams] did an excellent job staying poised and truthful in his testimony. I don't think it turned out as well for the defense as he wanted it to."
Chauvin's choice to exercise his constitutional right and not testify on his own behalf had little effect, Howard said.
"I wouldn't say I wanted him to," she said. "I don't want to lie, it wouldn't have made a difference to me. If he had something he really, really wanted to say to get off, he would have."
Howard declined to give an opinion on what sentence Chauvin should receive June 25, when he is scheduled to be back in court before Judge Peter Cahill.
"I think Judge Cahill is great," she said. "I fully trust in his decisionmaking."
She also deferred to the next group of jurors who will decide in a single trial the guilt or innocence of the other fired officers involved in Floyd's arrest: J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
Howard described the officers' first contact with Floyd over a counterfeit currency allegation and his unwillingness to get in a squad car as "a little bit of a hostile situation more than it needed to be."
Once Chauvin and two other officers had Floyd detained on the street, "they could have tried to do something or not. But at the end of the day, Mr. Chauvin was the senior officer and running things."
Howard was the second juror selected, and she explained during the jury selection process that she was "super excited" to receive her summons because she believed it was her civic duty. She said she was eager to serve regardless of the case, but especially in Chauvin's trial, given the gravity of it. "It's a very important case, not just for Hennepin County … but nationwide," she said. "It's just something everyone's heard about, talked about … No matter the decision, people are still going to talk about it."
Deliberations after more than three weeks of testimony lasted just a few hours spanning two days before the unanimous verdicts were reached — a brief amount of time that "came as a shock to all of us" on the jury, Howard said Thursday. She pointed out that she and the other sequestered jurors had enough clothing packed to last several weeks.
"We were expecting at least through the end of that week and maybe come back Monday and be done," she said. We did not know [at the start] where everyone stood. We started having dialogue and realized we were all on the same page. We were a lot more in sync than any of us expected."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482