MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — Jury selection is carrying on for a second day Wednesday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd.
Judge Peter Cahill of the Hennepin County District Court has set aside three weeks to screen jurors, aware that most people have heard of Chauvin and even seen the bystander’s video showing him with his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Two more jurors were seated on Wednesday.
A Black man who said he immigrated to the United States 14 years ago to study in Nebraska and now worked in information technology told the court he believed that “all lives matter,” but that Black lives matter more because he thought Black people had been marginalized.
He also said he disagreed with calls by some activists to “defund the police,” saying that if police are expected to keep communities safe then “they have to have the right to have the funds.”
He became the fifth of the 12 jurors and up to four alternates the judge is seeking to seat.
A fourth juror was also seated, despite a looming appellate ruling that could halt and delay the case as the state tries to add a third-degree murder count. Prosecutors asked the Court of Appeals on Monday to order Cahill to delay the trial, until the issue of adding the third-degree murder count is resolved.
The fourth juror was seated following questioning from Chauvin’s lead lawyer, Eric Nelson, and a prosecutor from the Minnesota attorney general’s office.
The man, who called himself a sales manager, said he tended to think police made more trustworthy witnesses and were more likely to testify based on facts rather than emotions. He also said that he had “strongly favorable” views of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“In my college years, I took a couple of great courses following the Civil Rights movement, and they really just led me on the path of racial injustice throughout our history,” he told the court. He said he was an avid sports fan and supported the right of Black football players to protest police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem before games.
Three jurors – two men and one woman – were seated on Tuesday, and all said they had heard some details about the case against Chauvin but would be able to put aside what they heard or opinions they had formed and make a decision based on evidence in court. One of the selected jurors said he hadn’t seen the bystander video of the May 25 arrest showing Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, saying he couldn’t breathe. The others described seeing the video minimally.
Floyd, who’s Black, died after Chauvin, who’s white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, holding his position even after Floyd went limp as he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach on the street.
Chauvin, 44, is charged with second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison, and manslaughter.
Exchanges between potential jurors, attorneys and the judge this week illustrated the challenges in seating a jury in such a well-known case.
Six prospective jurors were dismissed Tuesday.
“I definitely have strong opinions about the case,” one woman said. “I think I can try to be impartial – I don’t know that I can promise impartiality.”
She was dismissed. So was another woman, who said she didn’t understand why Chauvin didn’t get up when Floyd kept saying he couldn’t breathe.
“That’s not fair because we are humans, you know?” she said.
Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and beyond, leading to a nationwide reckoning on race.
Chauvin and three other officers were fired. The others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges.
Chauvin was released from jail on a $1 million bond last October and is being tried in a courtroom in the Hennepin County Government Center, a tower in downtown Minneapolis now ringed with barbed-wire fencing and concrete barricades.
Protesters chanted anti-racism slogans and blocked traffic on Monday, but few appeared in the largely deserted downtown streets on Tuesday.
The Court of Appeals last week ordered Judge Cahill to consider reinstating a third-degree murder charge that he had dismissed. Legal experts say reinstating the charge would improve the odds of getting a conviction.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, said Monday he would ask the state Supreme Court to review the issue.
Cahill ruled on several pretrial motions Tuesday, setting parameters for trial testimony. Among them, Cahill said jurors will hear when Chauvin stopped working for the police department, but not that he was fired or that the city made a “substantial offer” to settle a lawsuit from Floyd’s family. Those details won’t be allowed because they could imply guilt, Cahill said.
Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Rowader said the city made an offer to the Floyd family last summer that was rejected. He didn’t provide details. A message left with an attorney for the Floyd family hasn’t been returned.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. All reporting by Reuters’ Jonathan Allen and AP’s Amy Forliti.