In the coming weeks, the trial of the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd will begin.
Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Jury selection has started in preparation for the trial. The process of selecting the 12 members of the jury from Hennepin County is expected to take three weeks while prosecutors and defense attorneys work to ensure impartiality.
Questionnaires were sent to prospective jurors to see how much they had learned about the case and whether they had developed any opinions.
Some of the questions asked whether they had ever demonstrated against police brutality, whether they think the justice system is fair, and if so, how many times they had seen the bystander video of Floyd’s arrest.
Unlike other jury selection procedures, this jury pool will be questioned individually rather than in a group setting. The judge, defense attorney, and lawyers will all have the opportunity to question the defendant. The defense can object to up to 15 prospective jurors without offering a reason, while the prosecution can obstruct up to nine jurors without providing a reason. If the other side believes the only justification for disqualifying a juror is because of race or gender, they may object to these so-called peremptory challenges.
Both sides will object to an unlimited number of jurors “for cause,” which means they must provide a reason why the juror should not be selected.
Prosecutors will likely seek out jurors who support the Black Lives Matter movement or who are outraged by Floyd’s death, according to Mike Brandt, a local defense attorney, while Chauvin’s attorneys will likely favor jurors who support the police.
A total of 14 people will be chosen, two of which will not participate in the deliberations unless necessary. The names of the jury members will be kept secret until the court issues a new order.
Initially, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ruled that jury selection would be today as planned, but prosecutors have said they would petition the state Court of Appeals to order Cahill’s jury selection to be halted before a third-degree murder charge against him is resolved.
Prosecutors replied by requesting that the Court of Appeals put a hold on jury selection until the matter was resolved. They stated in their filing that they want to prevent a mistrial because the district court may not have allowed the trial to proceed. Due to the constitutional defense against double jeopardy, which states that an individual cannot be prosecuted twice for the same offense, the prosecution only has one opportunity to prosecute Chauvin.
Cahill sent prospective jurors home for the day, and the case was put on hold until the Appeals Court deliberated. Jury selection will be postponed until at least Tuesday, according to Cahill.
After a brief recess, Cahill said “I did indicate it was my intent that we’d go forward with motions and the jury selection unless someone tells me not to,” he added, “I think realistically we’re not going to get to any jury selection or we won’t have an answer until at least tomorrow.”