Jury Selection in George Floyd’s Murder Trial Underway

By Cirien Saadeh Mar 12, 2021

Jury selection in the Derek Chauvin is well underway with six jurors chosen as of March 11. The selection  process began on March 8, but was paused as lawyers and Hennepin County trial judge Peter Cahill waited to hear from the Court of Appeals about another charge against Chauvin, and re-started on March  9. Since then, six jurors have been chosen and more than  30 others have been dismissed. 

According to the pool reporter’s observations, the first juror selected is a white man in his 20s or 30s and the second juror is a woman of color who appears to be in her 20s or 30s. The third juror selected is a white man in his 30s and the fourth juror is a white man in his late 30s or 40s. The sixth juror is a Hispanic man in his 20s or 30s.

The defense, led by Attorney General Keith Ellison, has stated concerns that too many jurors of color are being dismissed by the use of the “Batson Challenge,” a legal device that a prosecutor or defense lawyer can use to argue against the dismissal of a potential juror.

Another type of challenge to potential jurors is called a  “peremptory challenge.” A peremptory challenge allows  a limited number of challenges to a juror for “no cause,” or,  a challenge is named for no reason at all. If a peremptory challenge is called, the opposing legal team is allowed to make a “prima facie” argument, arguing that the original peremptory challenge was discriminatory on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex. “ 

In Minnesota, the number of peremptory challenges allowed is  determined by the charges and the defendant’s possible sentence. In Chauvin’s trial, the prosecution is  allowed five peremptory challenges and the defense is  allowed three. 

The jury will be semi-sequestered during the trial, meaning that the public and media will not see their faces. As of now there are no plans to fully sequester the jury in a hotel, though the judge has occasionally asked potential jurors about that scenario. 

One of the biggest issues in jury selection for the trial is the case’s infamy. As the lawyers and judge look for disaffected individuals who are unfamiliar or unaffected by George Floyd’s death, it also means that many non-white potential jurors have been dismissed. 

Outside of jury selection, early on March 11, Judge Cahill agreed to reinstate the third-degree murder charge after the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to take up an  appeal from Chauvin’s lawyers. Whether or not Chauvin’s lawyers will ask for more time to prepare new arguments before the trial begins is still unknown.. 

The charge of third-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter and felony murder, reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin. We look forward to presenting all three charges to the jury,” said Minnesota AG Ellison in response to the third-degree murder charge update. 

Judge Cahill heard new arguments appealing the addition of a third-degree murder charge but dismissed them. Chauvin’s lawyers chose not to appeal the additional charges again. If convicted of third-degree murder, Chauvin could face up to 25 years in prison. 

Meanwhile, jury selection will continue, but is expected to be completed before the trial is scheduled to begin on March 29.