Jury selection was completed in a single day Thursday in the federal civil rights trial of three former Minneapolis police officers accused of helping Derek Chauvin kill George Floyd in May 2020 by failing to intervene.
Twelve jurors and six alternates were selected from a pool of 67 questioned in two groups by U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson. Because this is a federal trial, the jurors come from all over the state.
Opening statements are set for Monday in the trial of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. The three are accused of depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights by failing to intervene when Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes outside of Cup Foods at the intersection of 38th and Chicago.
Two of the jurors appeared to be Asian and the rest are white. The only Black man in the jury pool said he couldn't be fair and was excused by the judge. The jurors were selected based on responses to a questionnaire sent to randomly selected Minnesotans late last year.
Of the 12 set to decide the case, five are white men, six are white women and one appeared to be an Asian woman. Of the alternates, three are white women, two are white men and one appeared to be an Asian man. The court does not release their ages or their ethnicity.
Among the 12 main jurors, three are from Hennepin County, two live in Ramsey County and two live in Washington County. There is one juror each from Anoka, Blue Earth, Olmsted, Jackson and Scott counties.
Two of the alternates are from Ramsey County. The remaining four come from Anoka, Hennepin, Nicollet and Olmsted counties.
Magnuson conducted the questioning from the bench. He brought jurors into the courtroom — closed to all members of the public except four media pool reporters — in two groups, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
He started with general statements and questions, including whether the prospective jurors could be fair, impartial and believed in the presumption of innocence. He advised them that Chauvin's convictions had nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the three defendants, saying their actions were "totally separate."
Chauvin pleaded guilty in December to similar federal civil rights violations in Floyd's death and another case involving a juvenile.
Chauvin was convicted in Hennepin County District Court last April of murdering Floyd and is serving a 22½-year state prison sentence.
Alluding to unrest following Floyd's death, Magnuson advised the potential jurors that community difficulties and "anarchy in the streets" may have an impact, but "fear cannot control in a courtroom."
Some jurors raised their hands to voice concerns.
The Black man, a Hennepin County resident, said he didn't think he could be impartial due to the his "color" and "faith."
The judge responded that the case has "unequivocally nothing to do with race ... religion ... or national origin."
But the man persisted, saying "cultural sensitivity" also would make it impossible to be impartial. He was excused.
Two other jurors in the first group didn't want to watch video of Floyd's death. One woman from Hennepin County said her husband had recently died and watching the video would be difficult. Magnuson excused her.
A prospective male juror from Houston County said he had seen the videos and didn't want to see them again. Magnuson dismissed him as well.
In the afternoon pool, Magnuson asked juror 68, a man who lives in Ramsey County, whether his daughter's involvement in protests following Floyd's death would hinder his ability to be impartial. The man said he didn't think it would.
The judge then revealed that his granddaughter "kind of got caught" up in the same thing.
That man was not seated on the jury, but it wasn't clear which side objected. The strikes were conducted on paper by the defense and prosecutors.
When court resumed, Magnuson listed the numbers of the seated jurors but did not indicate which side removed those who were excused.
Juror 73, an Asian American man from Ramsey County, asked whether his service on a civil case in state court in August would excuse him from serving on this jury. Magnuson laughed and said, "Unfortunately, you rolled snake eyes on the dice." He told the man, "I'm going to have to ask you to stay with us."
The juror was seated as an alternate.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Floyd's family, issued a written statement, saying the day was another milestone in the journey to justice for Floyd and his family.
Crump said he expects the three defendants to be held accountable for violating Floyd's civil rights in the "unforgettable video" seen by the world. "They deprived George of his liberty without due process and failed to provide the medical attention he so obviously needed," he said. "This trial will be another painful experience for the Floyd family, who must once more relive his grueling death in excruciating detail."
Thao, Kueng and Lane also are charged in state court with aiding and abetting murder in connection with Floyd's death. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill on Wednesday moved that trial's start date from March 7 to June 13 after defense attorneys and prosecutors asked for a postponement.
Staff writers Paul Walsh and Andy Mannix contributed to this report.