MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – A judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with the death of George Floyd on Monday paused the selection of jurors for at least a day while appealing against a possible retrial for a third-degree murder charge.
As hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the courthouse to call for Derek Chauvin’s conviction, Judge Peter Cahill said he had no jurisdiction to rule on whether the third-degree murder charge should be reopened. against the former officer while the matter is being appealed. But he said prosecutors̵
Cahill initially ruled that the selection of jurors would begin as planned on Monday, but prosecutors have asked the Court of Appeal to suspend the process until the issue is resolved. The judge then sent the potential jurors home for the day while prosecutors tried to contact the appellate court. Cahill took a break to give the Court of Appeals time to respond, but planned to return lawyers to the courtroom Monday afternoon to deal with other issues.
Cahill said he would continue the trial unless the high courts told him to stop.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter at Floyd’s death. Legal experts say reinstating a third-degree murder charge would improve the chances of a conviction. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, said Monday that he would ask the state’s Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals’ decision ordering Cahill to reconsider the charge.
The selection of the jury is expected to take at least three weeks, as prosecutors and lawyers try to weed out people who may be biased against them.
“You don’t want jurors who are completely blank sheets because that would mean they’re not in tune with the world at all,” said Susan Gertner, a former prosecutor. “But what you want are jurors who can put aside opinions formed before entering the courtroom and give a fair hearing to both parties.”
Floyd was pronounced dead on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee to the black man’s neck with handcuffs for about nine minutes., holding his position even after Floyd relaxed. Floyd’s death sometimes provoked violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond and led to nationwide estimates of race.
Chauvin and three other officers were fired; the rest face an August process of aiding and abetting.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of the courthouse at the beginning of the proceedings, many of them carrying signs reading “Justice for George Floyd” and “Cops Killers of Convicts.”
A speaker picked up a microphone and outlined the concrete partitions covered with chain link fences, barbed wire, and razor wire placed around the courthouse. He also mocked the talk of the Chauvin trial as the “trial of the century”, saying that all the jurors had to do was “the right thing to do”.
He then led the crowd into the chanting “The whole world is watching!”
Inside the courtroom, Chauvin, in a blue suit and black mask, followed the process closely, taking notes on a legal basis.
Nelson had previously argued that the pre-trial publicity of the case and the ensuing riots in Minneapolis would have made it impossible to find an impartial court hearing. in Henpen County. But Judge Peter Cahill said last year he was moving the trial it probably won’t cure the problem of the potentially polluted jury, as “no corner of Minnesota” is protected from pre-trial publicity.
Questionnaires were sent to potential jurors – who must be at least 18, US citizens and residents of Hennepin County – to determine how much they had heard about the case and whether they had formed any opinions. In addition to biographical and demographic information, jurors were asked about previous contacts with the police, whether they protested against police brutality and whether they believe that the justice system is fair.
Some of the questions become specific, such as how often a potential juror watched the video of Floyd’s arrest or whether they wore a protest sign and what that sign said.
Mike Brand, a local lawyer, said prosecutors are likely to look for jurors who have a positive view of the Black Lives Matter movement or may be more outraged by Floyd’s death, while Chauvin’s lawyers are likely to favor jurors who support the police.
Unlike typical juror selection procedures, potential jurors will be questioned individually rather than in a group. The judge, the defense counsel and the prosecutor everyone will be able to ask questions. The defense may object to up to 15 potential jurors without giving a reason; prosecutors can block up to nine without giving a reason. Either party may object to these imperative challenges if it believes that the sole reason for disqualifying a juror is race or gender.
Both parties can argue for the dismissal of an unlimited number of jurors “for a reason”, which means that they must state a reason why they believe that the juror should not serve. These situations can go into some detailed machinations, Brand said, and the judge must decide whether the juror stays or leaves.
“Sometimes there are some tortured interrogations,” Brandt said.
He said that even if the juror said he had a negative interaction with the police or a negative opinion of Black Lives Matter, the key would be to find out if they could put that experience or opinions aside and be fair.
“We all enter them with bias. The question is, can you put those biases aside and be fair in this case, “he said.
The selection of the jury will end after 14 people are selected – 12 jurors who will discuss the case and two deputies who will not be part of the discussions, unless necessary. The jurors will be accompanied to the courtroom daily and sequestered during the discussions. Their names will be kept confidential until further order by the court.
The number of seats in the courtroom is limited in order to maintain social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the seats for jurors are far apart. Like the rest of the courtroom, jurors will have to wear masks.
The earliest introductory statements will begin on March 29.
Associated Press writer Mohamed Ibrahim contributed to this report.
Find the full coverage of George Floyd’s death on AP: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd