Derek Chauvin is scheduled for sentencing on June 16 for the murder of George Floyd last year, and juror identities will remain secret for six more months, a judge ordered Friday.
The fired Minneapolis police officer was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death; Floyd was pinned to the pavement under Chauvin's knee for more than nine minutes on May 25 at 38th and Chicago. Sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. in Hennepin County District Court.
Also Friday, Judge Peter Cahill ordered that the jurors' identities remain under seal for at least six more months, along with the list of prospective jurors, juror questionnaires and the unredacted verdict forms containing the foreperson's signature.
Cahill cited "ubiquitous and omnipresent" news media coverage along with intense public interest in keeping the 14 jurors' identities private. However, he added, the jurors have been told they may identify themselves if they wish and speak with whomever they like about their experience.
"The lawyers have reported receiving unprecedented levels of e-mails regarding this case, frequently of incendiary, inflammatory and threatening nature," Cahill wrote in his order. "The Court itself has received unprecedented levels of e-mails and telephone calls about this case."
The judge concluded that "continuing restrictions on public disclosure of jurors' identities remain necessary to protect those jurors deciding to remain anonymous from unwanted publicity or harassment."
In a prepared statement, Leita Walker, an attorney representing a coalition of local and national media, said the coalition "has nothing but respect and gratitude for the service these jurors performed and understands that they may need time to decompress."
"But part of understanding the administration of justice is understanding the people who hand down verdicts," she wrote. "And that's more important — not less — in a trial like this one. This Court has been a model of transparency throughout trial and we hope it gives the press a chance to be heard on this important issue, consistent with the First Amendment."
One of the 14 jurors who heard the testimony, alternate Lisa Christensen, has disclosed her identity and done a series of news interviews.
Christensen told the Star Tribune she was "sad and disappointed" when she was excused before deliberations began but agreed with the verdicts from the 12 jurors who deliberated.
"I felt [Chauvin] was guilty," she said, adding that a bystander's video and prosecution witnesses overpowered the defense's inability to deliver on claims that Floyd died of heart problems and a drug overdose.
At the livestreamed trial, Cahill and the attorneys did their best not to let the questioning of the jurors reveal any specifics about their identities. Their voices could be heard, but they never appeared on camera and were referred to only by their jury number.
Livestreaming of sentencing has yet to be determined. Cahill would have to receive requests in writing from news media and then approve the coverage.
Chauvin, 45, remains in nondisciplinary solitary confinement at the Oak Park Heights prison, where he is confined to his cell for his own safety and allowed out for one hour each day for exercise.
Between now and June 16, Cahill must decide whether there were aggravating factors that could merit a prison term above state sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors previously said there were five aggravating factors that should compel a stiffer sentence, including that Floyd was "particularly vulnerable" and was treated with "particular cruelty."
Second-degree unintentional murder is punishable by up to 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. However, Minnesota sentencing guidelines call for identical presumptive prison terms for both counts, starting at 12½ years for someone such as Chauvin with no criminal history.
Second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $20,000. The count carries a presumptive sentence of four years for someone with no criminal history.
Chauvin will be sentenced on the highest charge. Ted Sampsell-Jones, a professor of law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said that if Cahill finds aggravating factors and applies them to sentencing, Chauvin would receive a maximum of 30 years in prison. Without those factors, he said, Chauvin would receive 15 years maximum.
Cahill earlier ordered a presentence investigation report, which is routinely nonpublic.
A lengthy sealing of the jurors' identities also occurred after former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was convicted in 2019 of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond while responding to her 911 call about a possible sexual assault in an alley.
Following legal challenges by Twin Cities news outlets including the Star Tribune, Judge Kathryn Quaintance released the jurors' names 18 months after Noor's conviction.
Three other officers at the scene of Floyd's arrest — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — face trial Aug. 23 on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. All three, who also were fired, are out on bond.
Staff writer Chao Xiong contributed to this report.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482