One juror was chosen Monday as the 14th seated in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, leaving the selection process one shy by day's end in the case against the fired Minneapolis police officer who is accused of killing George Floyd late last spring.
No other jurors were seated among the rest who were called Monday to the Hennepin County Government Center. District Judge Peter Cahill said he'll have 12 jury candidates standing by for questioning Tuesday.
"We're going to call in 12, and we're going to go through all 12," if necessary to find that final juror, the judge said.
Cahill also clarified that the 15th and last seated juror will be excused next Monday, when the trial starts in earnest. He said he wants to have 15 ready to go should one drop out before opening statements. Fourteen jurors, two of them alternates, will hear the case.
The newest juror is 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 was unwavering in her confidence that she could judge only the evidence presented in the trial and added that her profession has provided her with the ability to be empathetic and keep an open mind about people.
"I'm always thinking about the person and where he came from," she said of viewpoint bout Chauvin. "Was it his training?"
As for 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 said "hearing both sides would definitely help" her be fair and impartial to Chauvin, the defense attorney reminded her that his client does not need to present his side during the trial.
The woman explained, "Mr. Chauvin's side is his presumption of innocence. That is what I meant by that."
Nelson used one of his discretionary strikes to excuse the morning's first potential juror.
The woman, a nursing assistant who is white, was firm in her pledge to judge the case only on the evidence presented, saying, "I can look at it from both sides; look at the facts and go from there."
She revealed that she marched in a protest about a week after Floyd's death and carried a sign. She also said she saw the widely watched bystander video of Floyd's arrest and gave this impression in the juror questionnaire she filed out months back: "It was not his time to die, and the incident should not have gone as far as it did."
The prosecution followed and used one of its strikes to dismiss the day's second jury candidate, a father whose passion for competitive fishing made for congenial small talk with the attorneys.
The man, who is white, said he has seen very little news coverage about Floyd's death or the civil unrest that followed, and couldn't recall ever seeing the viral video. With that, he said he cold be fair-minded juror. "Everything is based on how it's presented … within the trial," he said.
The man, who services and repairs pumps for a "good sized" company in the Twin Cities, characterized his view of Chauvin as "neutral" on his questionnaire. Not so much for the Black Lives Matter movement, writing, "I do not think the riots helped."
Asked whether he still associates the riots with the movement, he said, "I would have to say I possibly do."
The day's third prospective juror told the court that "my English is not perfect. I might not understand all the words." Cahill quizzed her a bit further in the area and soon excused her.
The afternoon began with a man dismissed by the judge after he said that he would be unable to put out of his mind the settlement that the family reached with the city because it "swayed my opinion that they got that much money."
The next jury candidate also made a quick exit under questioning by Cahill. The man said he was leaning toward Chauvin being guilty.
He explained himself with an analogy of brothers who sometimes get into a scrap.
"You're tussling with your brother," the man began, and he gives up. "You stop. If you don't and something happens, and you're standing in front of your parents. ... There is a line where you have to stop."
Before excusing the juror, Cahill said, "As the little brother to three older brothers, I know exactly what you are talking about."
Before a midafternoon break, Nelson used another peremptory strike against a man who disclosed that he held numerous viewpoints pointing to Chauvin's guilt, among them, "I believe Chauvin used excessive and unnecessary force," he wrote in his questionnaire, and also noted "a lack of intervention by the other officers involved."
Nelson, Chauvin and the prosecution huddled with the livestream audio turned off for a moment or two before Cahill excused the jury candidate. Although Cahill did not dismiss the man for cause, he said the man was "not very credible [and] flippant in his questionnaire."
Nelson read case law to back up his request for a bench dismissal, and Cahill said it can be reconsidered if he runs out of strikes.
The final prospective juror explanation that she had a child at home with a chronic illness. That led to the judge excusing her.
Early on in court Friday, Cahill rejected defense motions to have the trial delayed or moved in the wake of the well-publicized announcement of last week's record $27 million settlement between the city of Minneapolis and Floyd's family. He started Monday's proceedings by saying he has not changed his mind on either motion.
News of the payout led to the dismissal of two seated jurors who said it impacted their viewpoints on Chauvin's role in Floyd's death on May 25 at a south Minneapolis intersection.
Later in the morning, a 13th juror was chosen. She worked in customer service and said she is an animal lover, "especially dogs."
The woman said she saw the oft-mentioned bystander video of Floyd's arrest and wrote in her juror questionnaire months ago, "This restraint was ultimately responsible for Mr. Floyd's demise." That said, she pledged under defense scrutiny Friday that she could presume Chauvin innocent as the law requires her to do.
Chauvin, who is white, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd, who was Black.
Floyd's death sparked a racial reckoning across the world, and this trial is the state's first of a white officer charged with killing a Black civilian on the job.
Through Monday, there are six people of color and eight white people among the 14 jurors chosen. Nine are women, and five are men.
Those chosen are: A multi-race woman in her 20s, a multi-race 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.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482