MINNEAPOLIS — The jury selection for a murder trial as high profile as that of Derek Chauvin's in the death of George Floyd is complex.
Because news coverage of Floyd's May 2020 death under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin has been so widely viewed across the world, along with a bystander video of the event, the focus is not on finding people who have no knowledge of the case. Instead, the judge and the legal teams are looking for people who can set aside what they know and have seen, let go of their opinions, and look at all the evidence with new eyes.
Judge Peter Cahill can dismiss any juror "for cause" if he believes they cannot be an impartial juror. However, if he does not, the defense and the prosecution each have a limited number of "peremptory strikes" to use to eliminate people without a specific cause.
Jury selection ran from March 9 through March 23. Two previously seated jurors, a Hispanic man and a white man, were dismissed on March 17 after telling the judge that news of a civil settlement with George Floyd's family would affect their ability to be fair.
The 12 who will deliberate are three Black men, one Black woman, four white women, two white men and two multiracial women. Two white women were dismissed as alternates after they heard the entire case.
Below is a running list of the jurors who have been seated in the case. They are referred to by their juror numbers, in order to protect their identities. However, they have each revealed some general information about their lives and backgrounds during questioning. Here's what we know about the people who will decide this case.
Juror #2 was the first person to be seated for the Derek Chauvin trial. He was described as a white man in his 20s, from Minneapolis. He described himself as a chemist, passionate about his work, and logical. He said he has not watched video of Floyd's death, but has seen photos. He said that he has some knowledge of the case, and talked about visiting 38th and Chicago, the intersection where Floyd died.
When asked about his feelings on Black Lives Matter, he said he supports the movement and the message but not the "organization."
"I support the message that every life should matter equally," he said. "I don't think the organization necessarily stands for that."
Neither the defense nor the prosecution tried to strike him, and he was seated.
The second juror seated was juror #9, a multiracial woman in her 20s who originally grew up in northern Minnesota. When asked about her availability, she said she can set everything aside because "this is more important." She said she was "super excited" to be summoned for jury duty and believes it is her civic duty.
She said in her questionnaire that she watched the video of Floyd's death one time, and she has a "somewhat negative" view of Chauvin. But she said she feels she can make an impartial decision based on the evidence.
She said she believes that both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter have turned into marketing schemes.
Juror #9 has an uncle who is a police officer, and the prosecution questioned her about this. She said she has no regular contact with him except holiday gatherings or when she gets a ticket. She said having a family member in law enforcement will not affect her impartiality.
JUROR #19: Foreperson
The third juror seated was juror #19, a white man in his 30s. He described himself as an honest and straightforward person. He said he works in client services and has to resolve conflicts frequently. He said he approaches those situations through conversation, and learning what both sides are looking for. He uses more facts than emotions.
He said his view of Chauvin is "somewhat negative" because he did not attempt to resuscitate Floyd, but said he can weigh both sides and will have no problem finding Chauvin not guilty if the state does not meet the burden of proof. He said he has watched the bystander video two or three times, but not in full.
Juror #19 said he has a "friend of a friend" who is a Minneapolis Police Department K9 officer, but that he hasn't seen him since the COVID-19 pandemic started. He said that relationship would not affect his verdict.
He said he supports Black Lives Matter in a general context and has some unfavorable views of Blue Lives Matter.
Juror #27 was the fifth juror seated. A Black man in his 30s, he said he came to the U.S. 14 years ago. He works in IT and manages several people at work. He moved to Minnesota in 2012 and is married with no children. He said he was surprised and anxious about potentially being a juror. He said it will be time consuming but he believes it is his civic duty.
He said he has discussed George Floyd's death with his friends and wife, and talked about "how it could have been me or anyone else." He used to live near the intersection where Floyd died. He said all lives matter, but he believes Black Lives Matter more because they are marginalized.
Juror #27 said that he does not support defunding the police, because in order for police to make the community safe, "they have to have the right funds."
JUROR # 44
Juror #44 is a white woman in her 50s who works in the nonprofit sector, and said she has an "analytical" mind. She is the second woman to be seated on the jury.
The defense spent time questioning her about her belief that systemic racism is an issue in the criminal justice system, and that people are treated differently due to the color of their skin. She also said she believes that people have "implicit bias" that impacts the way they view the world.
The prosecution asked her about her strong views on the harmful impact of drugs, and how that might affect the way she sees George Floyd.
The prosecution also questioned her about her statement, "I believe that humans are inherently good." They said she will be asked to determine intent, and potentially ill intent, in Chauvin's actions. She said she can set aside her opinions to do that.
She told both sides that she will be able to look at the case fairly and judge it based on the facts.
Juror #52 described himself as “majorly into sports,” writing and music. He coaches youth sports.
He is in the banking industry and said the “consistency” draws him. He was asked if he knows anything about the civil litigation around George Floyd’s death, and he said no. He was described by the pool reporter as a Black man, likely in his 30s.
Juror #52 said he deals with conflict regularly as a coach, mediating disputes with parents. He said he allows each person to “get their voice heard” and “see if they can come to a common ground or agree to disagree.”
He told the defense that he is “neutral” about Chauvin because he doesn’t know his thought process, and that he thinks George Floyd looked like a regular guy. He said he thinks discrimination is “well beyond what the media can even report,” and said he supports Black Lives Matter.
Juror #52 told defense that he has personally witnessed Minneapolis police officers use what he saw as excessive force, but he also said he goes to the gym with officers who are “great guys.”
The prosecution asked him about a statement he made that no one had an intent for someone to die. They said he will have to judge intent, and put aside that presumption. “I don’t think it would be that difficult at all,” he said.
When the prosecution asked him what he thinks of people who use drugs, he said that’s something they struggle with but “they’re still just like anybody else.”
He said on the stand that he can “for sure” set aside any opinions about the case and judge it fairly, based on only the evidence.
Juror #55 is a white woman in her 50s who is a single parent and works in the health care field. She said she manages conflict regularly at work when helping to resolve patient issues.
She said she rides a motorcycle in honor of her late husband. The prosecution asked her if she has gone to Sturgis, and she said not in a long time.
The woman said she believes all lives matter and responded on her questionnaire that she has a neutral or slightly negative view of Black Lives Matter.
“All lives matter to me, it doesn’t matter who they are or what they are,” she said. She didn’t remember why she responded the way she did about Black Lives Matter on her questionnaire, but said she might have thought that “maybe they were taking it too far.”
However, when questioned by the prosecution she said, “Maybe they felt that they never were seen, they never were heard, whereas I don’t believe that to be true. But I’m not them and I might see things in a different view.”
She said she has never watched the whole bystander video of the moments leading up to George Floyd’s death because it was disturbing. But she said she would be willing to watch it during the trial if she were seated as a juror.
She drew a strong distinction between rioting and protesting, and said during the unrest following Floyd's death that she was afraid it would come to her neighborhood.
Juror #55 told a story of witnessing police respond too aggressively to a boy with a water bottle in his hand last summer. That boy was white, she told the prosecution.
She said she has trust in the police “until they show me something different” but that she will be able to give the word of a bystander equal weight when witnesses testify at trial.
Juror #79 is a Black man in his 40s who works in a management capacity. He said he is an immigrant to the U.S. and this would be his first time being a juror. He has lived in the Twin Cities area for about 20 years.
He said when resolving disputes, he listens to both sides and follows company policy.
Juror #79 said he has seen part of the bystander video of George Floyd under Chauvin's knee, two or three times. He said he has a neutral opinion of Chauvin, and a "somewhat positive" impression of Floyd.
He said he has not formed an opinion about who is responsible for Floyd's death, and can set everything he knows aside. He said he "somewhat agrees" that Black people do not receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system, and "strongly agrees" that police make him feel safe. He said he has a "somewhat favorable" view of both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, saying that he believes every life matters.
The prosecution asked him about a comment he made on his questionnaire, saying that if you cannot breathe, you say you cannot breathe. He said he "strongly disagrees" with defunding the police, and has a neutral view on people who use drugs.
He said if someone doesn't cooperate with police, the police officers should still have to follow the law and proper procedure.
Potential juror #85, a multiracial woman in her 40s who works in corporate reorganization, has been seated as the ninth juror.
On her questionnaire, she said she has a "somewhat negative" opinion of Chauvin based on what she's seen on the news. She has a neutral opinion of Floyd, and does not know whether or not Chauvin caused his death. She has only seen parts of the bystander video, and said she can put aside what she saw.
Questioned by the defense, #85 said she has a neutral opinion of both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.
When questioned by the state, #85 said she has strong faith in police but believes they do not treat Black Americans equally based on what she's seen on the news. She said it is important to cooperate with police.
Juror #89, a white woman in her 50s, is a nurse who said she works with a lot of ventilated patients and cares for COVID patients. Before that, she did cardiac care. She has never worked in an ER but has resuscitated patients before.
The defense asked her several questions about whether her personal medical training will "bias" the way she listens to medical evidence.
“We all use our life experiences to make judgments,” she said.
Judge Cahill stepped in after several questions about her medical experience, explaining to Juror #89 what the defense was trying to get at.
“One of the elements of a fair trial is that we’re all working off the same script,” he said. “You can’t be the expert witness in the jury room. ... You cannot add to the evidence with your own expert opinion."
She said she can follow those instructions.
The prosecution asked her about administering drugs in her role as a nurse, and about working with opiate-addicted patients.
“It could be anybody,” she said.
Juror #89 said she believes discrimination against Black people and minorities is worse than the media portrays it to be, and that the justice system does not treat everyone equally.
She said she “somewhat disagrees” with defunding the Minneapolis Police Department. “I believe the police have a job to do and for the most part it gets done, so they need money for that.”
Juror #91 is a Black woman in her 60s and a grandmother. She said she will be able to handle conflict in the jury room. “Absolutely, I feel like I do it every day with two grandkids," she told the defense.
She said she knows an officer on the Minneapolis police force, and that she heard about the civil settlement between the city and George Floyd's family, but that neither of those things will impact her impartiality.
Juror #91 said when she received her summons, she was excited to fulfill her civic duty. Before she was retired, she worked in marketing. Her undergraduate degree was in child psychology and she told the prosecution she has worked with underserved children in her retirement.
She said she has no personal experience with the criminal justice system being fair or unfair, but believes in general that Black people and white people do not receive equal treatment. She said she has a favorable opinion of Black Lives Matter, saying, "I am Black; my life matters." She has a neutral opinion of Derek Chauvin because there are two sides to every story and she just knows the surface.
Juror #91 said she used to live within 15 blocks of 38th and Chicago but moved about 25 or 30 years ago. She said she "seldom" visits south Minneapolis now, but doesn't intentionally avoid it.
The defense and the prosecution both passed for cause, meaning they did not us a peremptory strike to remove her, and she was seated as the 11th juror.
Juror #92 is a white woman in her 40s who works in insurance and said she loves her job. She has a bachelor’s degree in communication.
She said she has not seen the bystander video of George Floyd in its entirety.
Juror #92 said she believes that there is discrimination in the criminal justice system against Black people and other minorities, but also said that police make her feel safe and she has strong respect for them.
“I’ve had some friends who have been treated differently because of their race,” she said. She said she has a somewhat favorable view of Black Lives Matter but is not involved in the movement herself.
She also said she had a “very favorable” view of Blue Lives Matter. She said she would be “terrified” if the police departments were dismantled, but she believes change needs to happen. When asked to elaborate by the prosecution, she said based on what she sees in the media, “other races aren’t necessarily treated fairly.”
The prosecution also asked Juror #92 about a comment she made about George Floyd having a criminal record. She said she believed he had been “involved with drugs.”
She said drug use would give her pause if she needed to trust the person using drugs. “That doesn’t make them a bad person,” she said. “It would just make me cautious.”
JUROR #96: Alternate
Juror #96, a white woman in her 50s, was the thirteenth potential juror chosen to hear the trial. She described herself in court as an animal lover who is passionate about fair housing and ending homelessness.
During questioning, juror #96 told the courtroom that her workplace (which was not specified) was damaged during civil unrest. She does not, however, think that fact would make her biased. She said she does not like the way MPD has handled homeless people in Minneapolis, but does not harbor any ill will towards the department.
The juror said she heard about the settlement, but doesn't think it'll affect her ability to stay impartial. She has also seen the bystander video two or three times, but only a shorter version shown on the news. On the questionnaire, she said Chauvin's restraining hold on Floyd led to his death. When questioned by the defense, she said that was the assumption she made based on the video.
#96 said she has a somewhat negative opinion of Chauvin and a neutral opinion of Floyd.
Asked by the defense about discrimination, she said she believes the media sometimes chooses headlines that "grab people's attention," and that she is only aware of discrimination she sees on the news.
On her questionnaire, the juror said she believes the police treat Black people and white people equally. Asked for more information by the state, she said her questionnaire response was based on situations she's witnessed.
On Black Lives Matter, #96 said she doesn't participate but wrote on her questionnaire that she believes people have a right to stand up for themselves and ask for change. She expressed similar sentiments on Blue Lives Matter and said she believes people need law enforcement.
Asked by the state about the probability of speaking when unable to breathe, the juror said it depends on the circumstances.
JUROR #118: Alternate
Potential juror #118, a white woman in her 20s, said she is a social worker. As part of her job, she works with people who are in a mental health crisis or having other issues. She said she used to have contact with police in an earlier part of her career, but not anymore.
Asked whether she works with clients who have abused drugs, she said she has worked with some. She added that she doesn't judge people based on that alone.
She told the judge that she's heard of the city's settlement with the Floyd family, but doesn't know much about it and doesn't think it would affect her judgment in the case.
Asked by the defense about how she would handle a dispute, #118 said hearing all sides is important but that she stands her ground.
The juror said she saw clips of the bystander video four or five times on the news. She said her opinion of Chauvin is between somewhat negative and neutral. Asked about her opinion of Floyd, she said she'd heard about both good and bad things.
Asked by the defense about discrimination, she said based on her training, people of color do not have equal opportunities in employment and education. She expressed neutral opinions on both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.
During questioning by the defense, the juror said she thinks some aspects of law enforcement should be changed but that she doesn't think police should be defunded. While she feels safe with police, she said she would not give officer testimony more weight than other testimony.