Derek Chauvin murder trial update: Day 3 of jury selection

Photo by Chris Juhn

The MSR will provide continuous Derek Chauvin trial updates and observations. Chauvin is one of four former Minneapolis police officers charged with the murder of George Floyd. 

There are no spectators allowed for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, with the exception of one family member for the Floyd family and one for Chauvin’s.

Floyd’s aunt on his mother’s side Kathleen McGee was there Wednesday morning and in the afternoon Floyd’s cousin Terra Brown switched places with McGee.

There is a seat for Chauvin’s family but no one has shown up as of yet. The only other people allowed in the courtroom are the lawyers, court reporters, and the judge. The jurors come into court separately.

Selected for jury:

Juror #20: White male with dark hair who appeared to be in his early 30s.

Sampling of juror #20 statements during lawyers questioning:

Juror #20 said he had a favorable opinion of Black Lives Matter. On his questionnaire, he disagreed that “police in this country treat Black and White people equally.”

Juror #:27 Black male (West African immigrant) in his early 30s. He’s been in the U.S. for 12 years.

Sampling of Juror #27 statements during lawyers questioning:

He said he talked to his wife about Floyd’s death and said, “It could have been me.” He further explained that he meant “it could have been anybody, any human; it could have been you [the lawyer]. It could have been anybody,” he said.

Other comments by Juror #27:

“Black people’s lives matter even more since they are marginalized.”

“Cops need to feel safe and be safe to protect our community.”

Rejected jurors

Four jurors were rejected on Wednesday, an elderly White woman, a White male church worker, a 40-something Asian male and White woman attorney.

The total number of jurors to date is five. Yesterday, the attorneys chose three jurors, a male who some say appeared Hispanic, a White male who said he worked with and attended a synagogue—so he may be Jewish—and a Black or biracial/mixed young woman.

Defense motions before jury selection Wednesday morning:

  • Defense motion 22 involved whether one of the witnesses of Floyd’s death, Donald Williams, who works out at the Northside Boxing Gym, can be allowed to give expert testimony about the effects of chokeholds. The prosecution referred to a “blood choke,” which affects blood flow to the brain. Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said that Williams knew from his experience that the way Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck “was cutting off his blood supply and his ability to breath,” which is why Williams was so vocal at the scene of Floyd’s death.

Judge Cahill ruled that Williams cannot give expert testimony but he can say that the hold was kept on too long. In his testimony, Williams can explain his observations and what he thought about the hold.

  • Defense motion 23 was to deny a firefighter on the scene a chance to give an expert medical opinion.

Judge Cahill ruled that the firefighter can only testify to what she saw, but not provide expert opinion.

  • Defense motion 26 was a motion to exclude any testimony about the “blue line of silence” or some sort of conspiracy for police to remain silent.

Judge Cahill ruled that he agreed with the defense and that the term was inflammatory.

  • Defense motion 31 was a motion to exclude testimony by former officers Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng given to the BCA.

Judge Cahill agreed and the prosecution said it would not call on them to testify.

  • Defense motion 36 was a motion to limit “spark of life” testimony. Spark of life refers to lawful testimony about the life of a human being and it affirms that the victim was a human being and so relatives and others are allowed to tell a jury about who the person was. The defense was concerned that Floyd may be referred to as a “gentle giant,” which could open the door to character references.

Judge Cahill ruled that the prosecution is “entitled to let the jury know that he was a human being who had a family and was loved.”

  • Defense motion 35 involved the defense’s concerns about being allowed to present testimony looking into his drug abuse history and how that played a role in his cause of death.

Judge Cahill said whether or not he used drugs experts may say were inconsequential.

Stray impressions/observations

I was in the courtroom today and in order to get there, I had to go through three checkpoints. At the first two checkpoints, the security was fairly friendly but the national guardsmen nearby were armed with assault rifles.

Today, the lawyers chose another Black person, an African immigrant, possibly West African, who has been in the U.S. for 12 years. The other Black (bi-racial) person was originally from outside of the Brainerd area and during her questioning she related that she did not have any close friends that were People of Color.

According to MN Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is leading the prosecution, more jurors than usual may be seated for the trial—12 jurors and six alternates—due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, Judge Cahill is expected to decide whether to reinstate third-degree murder charges against Chauvin. He had previously been charged with third-degree murder, but Judge Cahill dropped the charge in the fall citing lack of probable cause. But a state appellate court ruled that the conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor set a precedent in the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

The defense filed a petition with the MN Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s decision, but on Wednesday, the MN Supreme Court dismissed that petition.