Welcome to our ongoing coverage of the Minnesota murder trial of Derek Chauvin, over the in-custody death of George Floyd. I am Attorney Andrew Branca for Law of Self Defense, providing guest commentary and analysis of this trial for Legal Insurrection.
As a reminder, I am “LIVE Parlering” the trial in real-time over at my Parler account, which you can find using my Parler handle: @LawofSelfDefense.
As we noted in this morning’s blog post on this trial, two of the already nine seated jurors were dismissed for cause after telling Judge Cahill they could no longer be fair and impartial after learning of the $27 million settlement that Minneapolis agreed to pay the Floyd family. This brought the number of seated jurors down to seven.
Two Jurors Seated, Bringing Total Seated Back to Nine
The good news of today is that of the six prospective jurors subject to voir dire, two of those–#79 and #85—were acceptable to both the state and defense, bringing the number of seated jurors back up to nine.
The even better news is that both of these jurors struck me as perfectly fine jurors for this case, from the perspective of either the prosecution or defense. More on jurors #79 and #85 in a moment.
#76, Self-Identified Black Male, Believes Floyd Murdered, Struck by the Defense
Less good, prospective juror #76, who self-identified as a black male who lived in the area in which Floyd died, and who had the firmly established opinion that the Minneapolis Police Department was racist and hard murdered George Floyd, had to be removed by the defense burning a precious peremptory strike.
Despite the explicit bias expressed by #76, Judge Cahill declined to remove him for cause because #76 was willing to say the “magic words,” that he could set aside those strongly held beliefs and be a fair and impartial juror.
Surprisingly, the state did not raise a Batson challenge to this peremptory strike (a claim that the defense removed #76 for reasons of race), apparently being sufficiently satisfied to have the defense burn another peremptory challenge in removing #76.
I have more on prospective juror #76 below.
Defense Gets Three More Strikes, State One More Strike
Better for the defense, however, was news not announced publicly until the end of the day’s court proceedings, but apparently told to the parties this morning, in light of the pre-trial publicity that exploded around the $27 million settlement Judge Cahill has agreed to allow the defense three additional peremptory strikes, and the state one additional peremptory strike.
This means the defense now has six peremptory strikes remaining (after today’s strike), and the state has five remaining peremptory strikes.
Juror #76 (Black Male): Struck by the Defense
It did not take long for voir dire of prospective juror #76 to reveal a well-established bias against the defendant. Despite this, #76 insisted repeatedly that he could set this well-established bias aside in order to be a fair and impartial juror, and that he could return a not guilty verdict if it was supported by the evidence.
He also cited the killing of Trayvon Martin as a comparable event to the death of George Floyd, and desired to be a member of the jury so he could “make a difference.”
He also told defense counsel Nelson that although “as a black man I face discrimination on a day to day basis,” he could nevertheless set that view aside to be a fair and impartial juror.
He also stated that both the criminal justice system, and the Minneapolis Police Department in particular, were racist, but again he could set those views aside to be a fair and impartial juror in the case of a defendant who “murdered” George Floyd as a member of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Here’s the voir dire of prospective juror #76:
After the defense used a peremptory challenge to remove #76, the court took a few minutes to make a record of each side’s position on the juror, so that this reasoning would be available in the event of an appeal.
Here’s the video of that record being made:
Juror #79: Seated on Jury (Eighth Juror)
Juror #79, a male, came across to me as a perfectly reasonable juror for the defense, as well as for the state. He worked in some kind of managerial position, with oversight of a staff. Interestingly, he had a rather pronounced accent, which sounded to my ear as one of central-African origin. He was, however, a United States citizen, and had lived in the Minneapolis area for some 20 years. He had once had his home burglarized, and afterwards had a very positive interaction with responding police.
Ultimately, #79 was found acceptable by both the state and defense, and seated as the eighth juror in this trial.
Here is the voir dire of juror #79:
Juror #85: Seated on Jury (Ninth Juror)
Juror #85, a female, also came across to me as a perfectly reasonable juror for the defense and state. She worked as a consultant for organizational restructuring.
Ultimately, #85 was found acceptable by both the state and defense, and seated as the ninth juror in this trial.
Here is the voir dire of juror #85:
Remaining Prospective Jurors Dismissed for Cause
All the remaining prospective jurors today were dismissed for cause.
Specifically, prospective juror #75, a male, was dismissed for cause after saying he was inclined to trust police testimony more than he would bystander testimony.
Prospective juror #78 was dismissed for cause after stating that he would have great difficulty starting the trial with the presumption that Chauvin was innocent:
Finally, prospective juror #83 was very quickly dismissed after the court spent just a few minutes conducting voir dire entirely off microphone. The suggestion made was that she was so emotional about the Floyd death that she simply couldn’t be a fair and impartial juror. Indeed, Judge Cahill indicated that she appeared to be wiping tears from her eyes as she left the courtroom.
Housekeeping On Various Motions
At end of the day, Judge Cahill provided some updates on various motions before the court.
Judge Cahill Scolds the Media
Finally, I’ll note that at the very start of today’s proceedings Judge Cahill spent about a minute and a half chewing out the media for apparently trying to view documents on the lawyer’s tables, as well as for disclosing some of the security arrangements in place. He threatened to cut off their access to the trial unless such behavior ceased.
Here’s Judge Cahill’s scolding of the media:
And that was it for today, folks. We’ll be covering the trial again live when things start up tomorrow morning at 8:45am CT.
Until next time, stay safe!
Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
Attorney Andrew F. Branca’s legal practice has specialized exclusively in use-of-force law for thirty years. Andrew provides use-of-force legal consultancy services to attorneys across the country, as well as near-daily use-of-force law insight, expertise, and education to lawyers and non-lawyers alike in the form of blog posts, video, and podcasts, through the Law of Self Defense Membership service. If this kind of content is of interest to you, try out our two-week Membership trial for a mere 99 cents, with a 200% no-question- asked money-back guarantee, here: Law of Self Defense Membership Trial.
[Featured image is a screen capture from video of today’s court proceedings in MN v. Chauvin.]