Jury nearly complete for George Floyd murder trial

Joy Powell with Chris Lefkow in Washington
·4-min read

Jury selection is nearly complete in the high-profile trial of the white Minneapolis police officer facing murder and manslaughter charges for the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man whose dying breaths were captured on videotape.

Fourteen jurors have been chosen so far for the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was seen kneeling on the neck of the handcuffed Floyd for nearly nine minutes, in a video of the incident shot by a bystander.

Twelve jurors will decide Chauvin's fate and Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill also wants three alternates on the panel in case any jurors are forced to drop out during the trial.

Floyd's May 25, 2020 death sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality across the United States and around the world.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin on March 29 and the trial is expected to last about a month.

The 44-year-old Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge -- second-degree murder.

Eight prospective jurors were brought in for questioning on Monday but only one was selected, bringing the total number of jury members to 14.

The other seven were either excused by the judge for various reasons or dismissed by the defense or the prosecution using what are called peremptory strikes.

The 14 jurors seated reflect the diverse and cosmopolitan nature of Minneapolis, the largest city in the northern US state of Minnesota.

Chosen so far are six white women, three Black men, two white men, two multi-racial women and one Black woman.

Their identities will not be revealed until after the trial but some details are already known.

All but one of the jurors have said they have watched some if not all of the viral video of Floyd's arrest by Chauvin for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill in a store.

The jurors selected range in age from their 20s to their 60s.

One is a chemist and one is a social worker. One works in a bank while another is a nurse. Two are immigrants to the United States.

One is a grandmother, one is recently married and one is a single mother of two teenage boys.

- Judge rejects change of venue motion -

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, asked last week to have the trial delayed and moved because of the March 12 announcement that the city of Minneapolis had reached a $27 million "wrongful death" settlement with the Floyd family.

"The fact this came in the exact middle of jury selection is perplexing to me," Nelson said of the record settlement.

Cahill rejected the motions.

"Unfortunately I think the pre-trial publicity in this case will continue no matter how long we continue it," the judge said.

"As far as change of venue, I do not think that that would give the defendant any kind of a fair trial beyond what we are doing here," he said.

"I don't think that there's any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case."

Cahill also recalled that he already dismissed two seated jurors who said they had heard about the settlement and no longer believed they could still be fair and impartial.

One juror, identified only as Juror No. 20, told the judge the "dollar amount was especially shocking."

"It sent a message that the city of Minneapolis felt something was wrong and they wanted to make it right to the tune of that dollar amount," the juror said.

"That sticker price shocked me and swayed me a little bit."

Three other police officers -- Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng -- also face charges in connection with Floyd's death.

They are to be tried separately later in the year.

Chauvin's trial is receiving worldwide attention and UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said last week that it presents a crucial and defining opportunity for justice.

"So many cases involving deaths of people of African descent never make it to court, and the pain of so many families goes unacknowledged or even denied," Bachelet said.

"No police officer or any other agent of any state should ever be above the law," the former Chilean president said.