The names of the jurors who convicted former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd will become public on Nov. 1, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill ruled Monday.
He will release the identities of the 14 jurors, including the two alternates who heard the case but didn't deliberate. Cahill also ordered the release of the names of the 109 prospective jurors considered during voir dire as well as the questionnaires they filled out before coming to court. The original verdict form signed by the jury foreperson also will become public.
Cahill encouraged reporters to make "respectful inquiry and scrutiny of jurors so that the public can better understand their verdict and the workings of the criminal justice system."
The judge, who has previously kept the names sealed, issued the detailed 31-page ruling after a coalition of local and national news outlets, including the Star Tribune, filed a motion in early August asking him to unseal the names.
The media and other members of the public will have access to the names at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, where the trial was held. Cahill said he would not release the information online or reveal the addresses of the jurors.
A Hennepin County jury convicted Chauvin on April 20 of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for killing Floyd after kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest in May 2020 that was captured on bystander video. Cahill sentenced Chauvin to 22½ years in prison.
Three days after the trial, Cahill ordered juror names and background information sealed. The move was unusual. In most trials, juror information is publicly available after a verdict.
But the Chauvin case was the highest profile trial in state history and the first to be broadcast to a global audience. Cahill noted that 18 million viewers watched Chauvin's sentencing. In most cases, jurors work in anonymity due to a lack of public interest in their cases.
"The Chauvin jurors, in contrast, have been called upon to carry out their duties as jurors in a case that played out on a stage of unprecedented public interest and press coverage in wake of tremendous social upheaval and civil unrest not only in the city of Minneapolis but in other cities around the country," he wrote, adding that the court and the community owe the jurors an "extraordinary debt of gratitude."
The judge's order mentioned the extensive harassment of participants, including lawyers, witnesses and himself. His office received more than 3,000 postcards and more than 100 handwritten or typed pieces of correspondence offering opinions on the case, he wrote.
His order recognized that three of the 14 jurors already stepped publicly forward shortly after the verdict, revealing their identities in multiple interviews. Of those who spoke out, Cahill said none had notified him of threats or safety concerns.
"There simply is no objective evidence from which this court can conclude there is any present strong reason to believe that making the Chauvin jurors' names and juror questionnaires public information at this time, six months after the jury returned its verdicts, presents any external threats to the jurors' safety," he wrote.
Both sides praised the decision.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office, which led Chauvin's prosecution, filed a memorandum seeking to keep juror information sealed, citing upcoming trials of three other officers in Floyd's murder and a pending federal trial for all four.
In a written statement Monday, Ellison said, "I am deeply grateful for the diligent service of the jurors in the Chauvin trial. I appreciate the careful steps the court has taken up to this point to protect their anonymity. In its order today, the court has stuck to its reasonable, original plan of waiting 180 days from the end of the trial before releasing jurors' identities, as the state asked."
Media coalition lawyer Leita Walker wrote, "The Court said it best: That we all owe an extraordinary debt of gratitude to these jurors, that there's a presumption of access to juror information, and that, four months after sentencing, there's no basis for continued secrecy."
Staff Writer Chao Xiong contributed to this report.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747