More than six months after fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd, the names of the jurors who heard the case were officially released Monday by the court they served last spring.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill also released the partly redacted questionnaires that 109 prospective jurors filled out in preparation for face-to-face scrutinizing by Chauvin's defense and the prosecution.
The Star Tribune, which earlier this year identified and interviewed two jurors who deliberated, along with one alternate, is awaiting permission from the others to identify them. They have not returned messages seeking comment.
Three days after the trial, Cahill ordered the 14 jurors' names and background information sealed. He said concern for their safety and privacy was paramount given the unrest that erupted in the Twin Cities in the aftermath of Floyd's killing.
Cahill's 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 was watched around the world. A teen bystander's unvarnished video went viral the day after Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, fueling global interest in the case. It showed Chauvin on top of a prone and pleading Floyd for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old man went motionless on a south Minneapolis street corner.
In most cases, jurors work in anonymity due to a lack of public interest in their cases. In the Chauvin trial, which was livestreamed, the faces of the jurors were kept off-camera. Their names were never spoken, and the judge and attorneys on both sides reminded them to be careful about disclosing too much personal information as they were being questioned as prospective jurors to avoid being identified.
Last week, when Cahill announced that the seal would be lifted, he 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."
Before Monday's release, the public record offered only a scant description of the jurors. The court disclosed at the conclusion of selection that the jurors who deliberated included a multiracial woman in her 20s, a multiracial woman in her 40s, two Black men in their 30s, a Black man in his 40s, a Black woman in her 60s, three white women in their 50s, a white woman in her 40s, a white man in his 30s and a white man in his 20s. The alternates were a white woman in her 50s and a white woman in her 20s.
At times, the back-and-forth, or voir dire, during the selection process revealed a sprinkling of generalities about jurors, such as whether they lived in Minneapolis or a suburb, their type of employment, family makeup and the like.
The questionnaires, which identified the jurors by number, filled in for the public a bit about them. For example, the foreperson, a 31-year-old man from Minneapolis, wrote that he was engaged at the time of the trial, he has degrees in accounting from the University of St. Thomas, and he works as an audit manager.
Jurors convicted Chauvin of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He is serving a 22½-year sentence, with two-thirds to be spent in prison until December 2035.
Along with the jurors' names and the questionnaires, the court also released the three verdict forms documenting the guilty verdicts, each signed by the foreperson.
The Star Tribune's interviews with the two jurors who deliberated and an alternate collectively covered several aspects of the closed-door proceedings that ended with three pronouncements of guilty.
In June, 25-year-old Journee Howard, of Minneapolis, said she was especially swayed by the testimony of Dr. Martin Tobin, 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 for more than nine minutes by Chauvin and two other officers.
In late April, several days after the verdicts, 32-year-old Brandon Mitchell, of Minneapolis, described the jury's 9-hour, 45-minute deliberations as "smooth" with a strong focus on the evidence and terminology of the law, and no discussions about race or the broader issue of police killing civilians.
Two days after Chauvin was convicted, alternate Lisa Christensen, 56, of Brooklyn Center, said she was "sad and disappointed" when she was excused before deliberations began but agreed with the verdicts.
Last week, Mitchell and Christensen were among seven jurors — two of them alternates — who sat together identified and on-camera for a group interview with CNN's Don Lemon. They disclosed that their first vote was on the manslaughter count, the lowest of the three, and it was unanimous for guilty. The two murder counts took more work before they could all agree.
Fired officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are scheduled to stand trial together March 7 on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with their actions at the scene of Floyd's detention.
Star Tribune staff writers Chao Xiong and Rochelle Olson contributed to this report.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482