A look at jury selection and the seated jurors in the Chauvin trial

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By: JD Duggan, Freelance Journalist

Fifteen jurors were seated over the course of more than two weeks. Here’s what they said during questioning, and some reflection from a local attorney on the process.

The jury selection process in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with killing George Floyd, gave the broader public a glimpse into the criminal justice system.

The case is “everything about race,” said Mary Moriarty, former chief public defender for Hennepin County. As news organizations have detailed daily proceedings, the race of each seated juror has been front-and-center.

 All-white juries convicted Black defendants 16% more often than white defendants, according to a Duke University-led study in Florida. Even one Black juror nearly eliminated that gap. Another study noted that racially diverse juries are more likely to be thorough in deliberations. This could prove pivotal in a case of a white officer kneeling on a Black man, which set off a global event of racial reckoning.

Fifteen jurors were seated. One will likely be excused Monday, and two will be alternates. The pool includes nine white people and six people of color: six white women, three white men, three Black men, two multiracial women and one Black woman.

The publicity of the case brings extra scrutiny. Many jurors have already seen the video of Chauvin on Floyd’s neck and formed some opinions. Lawyers asked prospective jurors questions like what they know about the case, their feelings about Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter and their feelings about police. The attorneys often probed them further depending on each answer.

“What you’re hearing is jurors attempting to answer the question of whether they can set [details of the case] out of their mind. And I don’t really know that it’s humanly possible,” Moriarty said. “This is like telling the jurors not to look at the elephant in the room.”

Potential juror 76, a Black man, detailed his experiences with racism and Minneapolis police. While he said that he’s seen Minneapolis Police Department act disrespectfully, he repeatedly maintained that he could stay impartial. Chauvin’s defense struck him regardless.

Moriarty said his experiences don’t necessarily make him biased against Minneapolis police, but they make him a witness to things that some in MPD have done.

“We certainly have white jurors who aren’t that familiar with racism and discrimination and bad experiences with police,” Moriarty said. “One question in my mind is, why is that a fairer juror than juror 76?”

Here’s a quick breakdown of each seated juror:

Seated jurors

Juror #2

Juror number two is a white male in his 20s. He is a chemist and plays Ultimate Frisbee. He previously visited George Floyd Square because he said the death of George Floyd was such a “transformative event for the area.” He said that with his science background, he considers himself a pretty “logical person.”

Juror two has a generally favorable view of Black Lives Matter. He said that all lives matter equally. He said he has not seen the video of Floyd’s death. 

Juror #9

A mixed-race woman in her 20s, juror nine was “super excited” to be a part of the case, because she said it is her civic duty. She grew up in northern Minnesota and has an uncle who is a police officer in Brainerd but does not have regular contact with him. She said she is easygoing and acts as a mediator among friends.

The woman believes Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter have become marketing schemes. She saw the video of Floyd’s death once and has a somewhat negative impression of Chauvin. “No one wants to see someone die,” she said.

Juror #19

The white man in his 30s is an auditor who said he tries to make his decisions based on facts rather than emotions. Juror 19 has a friend of a friend who works for the Minneapolis Police Department K9 unit.

He supports “Black lives matter” as a general concept, but does not agree with all of the group’s tactics. Because his only experience with Chauvin was through the video, he has a generally unfavorable view of the former officer. He also has some unfavorable views of Blue Lives Matter.

Juror #27

Juror 27 is a Black immigrant man in his 30s who came to the U.S. 14 years ago. He has lived in Minnesota since 2012, works in IT security and speaks multiple languages. In a conversation with his wife about the video of Chauvin on Floyd’s neck, he said “We talked about how it could have been me, or anyone else.” He previously lived “not too far” from 38th and Chicago.

He felt somewhat positively toward both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. He does not believe in defunding the police, because he said they keep people safe.

Juror #44

A white woman in her 50s, juror 44 is a single mother who works as a high-level executive in healthcare advocacy and has two sons. She was exposed to a lot of news about the case, but said the media is biased and she doesn’t have all the facts. She said she had a somewhat negative view of Chauvin and a neutral view of Floyd.

She strongly believes the criminal justice system is biased against racial minorities and that “not all police are bad” but “bad police need to go.”

Juror #52

Juror 52, a Black man in his 30s, is a youth basketball coach. He said he is confident he could return to his players knowing he made a fair decision based on the facts. He said he wondered why the other officers didn’t stop Chauvin but didn’t think Chauvin intended to kill Floyd. He said he has neutral opinions on both individuals.

He has a very favorable view of Black Lives Matter and said, “Black lives just want to be treated as equals and not killed or treated in an aggressive manner simply because they are Black.”

Juror #55

Juror number 55 is a white woman in her 50s who works as an executive assistant in a healthcare clinic setting. She likes to ride motorcycle. She was disturbed by the video of Chauvin on top of Floyd and said, “I couldn’t watch it in full, because it was too disturbing to me.”

She has a somewhat unfavorable view of Chauvin. Juror 55 said she has some basic trust in police and a somewhat unfavorable view of Black Lives Matter and said, “All lives matter to me, it doesn’t matter who they are or what they are.” She said she would give equal weight to an officer’s or bystander’s testimony. During the unrest after Floyd’s death, she feared it would come to her neighborhood. She lives outside Minneapolis.

Juror #79

A Black immigrant man in his 40s, juror 79 has lived in the Twin Cities for about 20 years. He is a father who works as a manager. His house was previously burglarized, and he said police handled the situation well. He disagrees with defunding the police for this reason.

He has watched the video a couple times and has a neutral view of Chauvin, but a somewhat positive impression of Floyd. He said he’d be able to set everything he knows aside for the trial. He has a somewhat favorable view of Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter because he believes every life matters.

Juror #85

Juror 85 is a mixed-race woman in her 40s who works as an organizational consultant. She said police are human and can make mistakes but believes people should listen to what they say. “You respect police, and you do what they ask,” she said. 

She saw both positives and negatives from the unrest after the death of George Floyd, including a greater awareness of social issues along with the destruction of peoples’ livelihoods. She does not believe police treat Black Americans equally.

Juror #89 

Eighty-nine is a white woman in her 50s who works as a cardiac care nurse and lives in Edina. She said she can be impartial, but Cahill reminded her not to bring her nursing training into the courtroom. He said she can’t be “an expert witness.”

She believes law enforcement officers discriminate against Black people at a higher rate than what is portrayed in the media, but partially disagrees with defunding police. She added that “people make mistakes,” including police.

Juror #91

Juror 91 is a Black woman in her 60s who is retired from her marketing job and volunteers with underserved youth. She has seen part of the video of Chauvin on top of Floyd but had to turn it off. “It just wasn’t something that I needed to see,” she said.

She grew up in the area where Floyd died and has not revisited the area. She strongly favors Black Lives Matter, writing in her questionnaire “I am Black and my life matters,” but said she is not active in the movement. She has a relative who is a Minneapolis police officer, but they are not close.

Juror #92

A white woman in her 40s, juror 92 works in commercial insurance. She has generally positive views of police and does not believe in defunding them, but she also does not believe Floyd deserved to die. She said she thinks people of other races are treated unfairly by police.

“If someone uses drugs, I don’t think there should be ramifications of violence for that,” she said.

Juror #96

Juror 96 is a white woman in her 50s who is passionate about affordable housing and homelessness advocacy. She said she volunteers at homeless shelters. 

Juror 96 said she has never had a negative experience with police and does not believe there is a disparity in how people of color are treated. She said, “if you can speak somewhat, you’re breathing somewhat.” She said people should not fear police if they cooperate. She wrote in her questionnaire that Chauvin’s knee was responsible for Floyd’s death, but said that was her assumption based on what she has seen.

Juror 118

Juror 118 is a white woman in her 20s who is a social worker with clients that cope with mental health challenges. She said police have often been helpful with disruptive people in her job. She believes law enforcement is important but does believe that “there are things that should be changed.”

She said everyone needs to be treated with respect, even if suspected of committing a crime. She said her job has given her the ability to be empathetic and she is able to judge only the evidence in the trial.

Juror 131

A white man in his 20s, juror 131 is an accountant and a sports fan. He believes police treat people of color differently and worked to educate himself on racism after Floyd’s death. Still, he respects police and is against defunding them.

While he views Black Lives Matter somewhat favorably, he believes the movement contributed to the violence during the unrest.  Regarding athletes who take a knee, he said he wishes they would express their beliefs in a different way. He is likely to be excused by the time of opening statements.

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