Jury seated for trial of US policeman accused of Floyd’s death
A jury sat on Tuesday for the high-profile trial of the white cop charged with murder and manslaughter over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man whose last breaths were caught on video and revealed racial injuries in the United States.
Opening arguments in the trial of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, 44, are scheduled to begin Monday and the case is expected to last about a month.
Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the police, could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge – second degree murder.
Chauvin was seen in a video that went viral with his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while arresting him for allegedly passing a fake $ 20 bill.
Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 sparked protests for racial justice and against police brutality in the United States and around the world.
The judge presiding over the case, prosecutors and Chauvin’s defense lawyer agreed on 15 jurors after two weeks of intensive questioning of potential candidates in a heavily guarded courtroom in downtown Minneapolis.
The 15 selected jurors are six white women, three black men, three white men, two mixed-race women and one black woman.
One of the jurors will be removed by the judge on Monday and 12 jurors will hear the case while the other two will serve as alternates.
A conviction on any of the charges – second degree murder, third degree murder, or manslaughter – will require the jury to reach a unanimous verdict.
“We have 15,” said Judge Peter Cahill. “Fourteen will be seated. That’s all we have room for.”
Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Floyd family, said he hopes the jury will deliver a “fair verdict.”
“George Floyd had more witnesses to his death than anyone – white or black,” Crump said. “We have all seen the same thing – the indisputable and unwarranted torture and murder by a policeman of a black man who was handcuffed, restrained and did no harm.”
The jury selection process was complicated by the intensive pre-trial publicity surrounding the case.
All but one of the jurors said they watched some if not all of the video of Chauvin kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd.
Several would-be jurors were excused after telling the judge they couldn’t be fair or impartial or presume Chauvin was innocent as the law requires.
Others have expressed concerns for their safety.
The trial is closed to the public due to Covid-19 but is broadcast live.
Chauvin, who is out on bail, has been in court every day, taking notes on a yellow legal pad and consulting his lawyer.
The 15 seated jurors reflect the diverse and cosmopolitan nature of Minneapolis, the largest city in upstate Minnesota.
Their identities will not be revealed until after the trial, but some details are known.
They are between 20 and 60 years old.
One is a chemist, a social worker and another accountant. 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 children.
During jury selection, contestants were asked whether they had seen the video of Floyd’s death, whether they had participated in protests against racial injustice and their take on the police.
They were also asked how they view the “Black Lives Matter” movement and whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of Chauvin.
Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson last week asked to delay the trial and move from Minneapolis over the March 12 announcement that the city had reached a $ 27 million “wrongful death” settlement with the Floyd family.
Justice Cahill dismissed the defense motions, stating that “the pre-trial publicity in this case will continue, no matter how long we pursue it.”
Regarding the change of location, he said, “I don’t think there is a place in the state of Minnesota that hasn’t received extreme publicity on this matter.”
Three other police officers – Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng – also face charges related to Floyd’s death.
They are to be judged separately later in the year.
Chauvin’s attorney is expected to argue his client was following police procedure and claim Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose and underlying health issues.