Jury selection could conclude Tuesday with the selection of a 15th juror for the Hennepin County District Court trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
One juror, the 14th selected in a process that began March 8, was seated Monday. Judge Peter Cahill wants 15 jurors vetted and on the panel to report for duty next week. But the 15th is a spare who will be dismissed before trial if not needed.
For the trial, expected to last a month beginning with opening statements next Monday, Cahill will keep 14 jurors, including two alternates. At the end of the trial, any remaining alternates will be dismissed before deliberations. Only a dozen jurors will deliberate whether to convict or acquit the former Minneapolis police officer of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and/or manslaughter in Floyd's death May 25.
If a 15th juror is seated, court is expected to recess for the remainder of the week, giving everyone a break from two-plus weeks of the grinding and repetitive but high-stakes process of jury selection.
More than 70 potential jurors have been called into the courtroom for questioning.
At the end of the day Monday, Cahill said it was "12 or bust" on Tuesday, referring to the number of jury candidates who were told to arrive at the courthouse for questioning.
"We're going to call in 12, and we're going to go through all 12," if necessary, the judge said. Lawyers were told to be prepared to work a longer day to seat the final juror.
The newest juror selected Monday was a white woman in her 20s. She is a newlywed and a social worker in Wright County whose clients are coping with mental health difficulties. She owns a Goldendoodle puppy.
She said her profession had trained to her to be empathetic. "I'm always thinking about the person and where he came from," she said of her views on Chauvin and his actions the day Floyd died. "Was it his training?"
Regarding Floyd, she said, "I'm always looking at why someone has done something a certain way. … I had all kinds of thoughts of him … his past with drugs and things like that. I had every emotion."
When the woman talked about hearing both sides at trial, defense lawyer Eric Nelson reminded her that Chauvin doesn't have to present evidence and the state has the burden of proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The juror responded, "Mr. Chauvin's side is his presumption of innocence. That is what I meant by that."
In all, eight jurors stepped in for questioning Monday. The defense used two discretionary strikes on candidates, and the state used one.
Cahill dismissed four himself.
Selection was to resume Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Monday's afternoon session began with a now-familiar problem when the first prospective juror said he couldn't be impartial given the announcement of the record $27 million payout by the city of Minneapolis to Floyd's family. It "swayed my opinion that they got that much money," the man said.
Minneapolis disclosed the settlement March 12, when the court had already seated seven jurors. Cahill recalled those jurors for questioning and then dismissed two who said they were biased by the amount of the settlement.
The judge previously called the city's settlement timing "unfortunate." His frustration leaked through again Monday, when he deadpanned after dismissing the prospective juror that "I guess we can't disagree with the premise anymore."
Cahill didn't elaborate, but his words echoed those of City Attorney Jim Rowader, who publicly pushed back at a news conference Thursday, when asked whether the timing of the civil settlement had affected jury selection in Chauvin's criminal case.
In response to that question, Rowader said, "I disagree with the underlying premise."
Through Monday, six people of color and eight white jurors are among the 14 chosen. Nine are women and five are men.
Those chosen are: a multirace woman in her 20s, a multirace woman in her 40s, two Black men in their 30s, a Black man in his 40s, a Black woman in her 60s, four white women in their 50s, a white woman in her 40s, a white man in his 30s, a white man in his 20s, and a white woman in her 20s. Jurors will be sequestered during deliberations.
The other defendants in the case — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are scheduled to be tried in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Staff writer Liz Navratil contributed to this report.
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