Two weeks of jury selection wrapped up Friday needing two more insurance jurors for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd last May.
Jury selection will resume Monday morning with Judge Peter Cahill saying he wants to have at least 15 jurors ready to go for the start of the trial March 29. Fourteen jurors, including two alternates, will hear the case. Cahill wants the 15th in case a juror drops out before the start.
"I think we're going to try and pick two more so that we definitely have 14 come March 29," when opening statements are scheduled, Cahill said.
Thirteen jurors had been chosen by the end of the day Friday. Absent any dismissals in the coming week, the first 12 seated will decide the case. Those who were selected after that will hear the case as alternates but then be dismissed before deliberations if they're not needed.
Cahill kept the trial's start locked in Friday when he rejected defense motions to either delay or move the proceedings to another city because of the extensive publicity surrounding the city's $27 million settlement with Floyd's family announced March 12.
"Unfortunately, the pretrial publicity will continue no matter how long we continue [the trial]," the judge said.
Regarding a change of venue, Cahill said, "I don't think there's any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity in this case. … With that, we'll continue with jury selection in this case and in this county."
Before resuming jury selection Friday, Cahill also granted a defense motion to allow some details about Floyd's arrest by Minneapolis police in May 2019, a year before his fatal 2020 encounter.
Cahill said Floyd's physical reaction to the remarkably similar 2019 arrest would be allowed, but not his emotional response that included calling for his mother.
The judge noted that Floyd's cause of death is a central dispute in Chauvin's trial with the defense claiming drug use as a factor.
In both encounters captured on law enforcement body-worn cameras, police approached Floyd at gunpoint and he delayed complying with their commands. He was pulled from a vehicle and handcuffed while ingesting and concealing drugs, Cahill said.
"The whole point is we have medical evidence of what happens when Floyd is faced with virtually the same situation," the judge said.
In the 2019 incident, Floyd was seen by a paramedic who determined he was in a "hypertensive emergency." Cahill said he will allow a paramedic to testify about Floyd's blood pressure at the scene and why she recommended Floyd go to the hospital.
Once juror questioning resumed Friday, one more was chosen, sending selection into a third week. The 13th juror chosen is a white woman in her 50s who has worked in customer service and said she is an animal lover, "especially dogs."
She said she saw the bystander video of Floyd's arrest and wrote in her juror questionnaire months ago, "This restraint was ultimately responsible for Mr. Floyd's demise." She pledged to presume Chauvin innocent.
Including the new juror, the panel includes a multirace woman in her 20s, a multirace woman in her 40s, two Black men in their 30s, a Black man in his 40s, a Black woman in her 60s, four white women in their 50s, a white woman in her 40s, a white man in his 30s and a white man in his 20s.
Several observers described the jury as atypically diverse.
St. Paul defense attorney A.L. Brown agreed, saying, "It's certainly a good thing, but this is a unicorn jury given the level of diversity that you see in it."
Ted Sampsell-Jones, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said the diversity is good and "I think it should give some people more confidence that this will be a fair process."
Brown, Sampsell-Jones and Joseph Daly, emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, praised the work of the defense, prosecution and judge in sorting out bias and picking suitable jurors.
"Maybe we just lucked out in terms of getting a broad cross-section of people on the jury. … It does surprise me, and I'm glad," Daly said.
Brown said the jury make-up could add legitimacy to the verdict.
"There's a possibility that Mr. Chauvin could be acquitted, and if so, then what do we make of that if it's an all-white jury?" Brown said. "I can tell you that the community would not rest well with that. I think it certainly helps" that several people of color are on the jury.
But former Hennepin County chief public defender Mary Moriarty said she remains troubled by the dismissal of one prospective juror, a Black man dismissed by the defense on Wednesday.
The man said he previously lived near the intersection where Floyd died and expressed dismay about Floyd, a Black man dying in police custody. He talked about Black people being killed with no one held accountable.
He was dismissed on a strike by the defense.
Moriarty asked, "Why is somebody that knows nothing about the [Minneapolis Police Department] or discrimination a fairer juror than someone who lives it? … I don't know many Black men who haven't had negative experiences with police."
In court Friday, Cahill said the names of 326 prospective jurors were pulled at random in early February. The names come from lists of registered voters. The court has been questioning them in the order they were chosen. They don't skip around the list.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black people make up nearly 14% of residents in Hennepin County while whites make up about 74%. The current jury makeup is about 31% Black, 54% white and 15% multiracial.
"Anyone who's tried a case in Hennepin or Ramsey County knows you're not going to find six people of color on one jury. … I don't know how that came to be," Brown said.
Three other officers face charges in Floyd's death. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are scheduled to be tried in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.