Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over pretrial motions before jury selection in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over pretrial motions before jury selection in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

Judge refuses to move ex-cop’s trial over George Floyd’s death

Jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin will stretch into a third week

A judge said Friday he won’t delay or move the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death over concerns that a $27 million settlement for Floyd’s family could taint the jury pool, but he’ll allow limited evidence from a 2019 arrest.

Jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin will stretch into a third week after attorneys seated just one additional juror Friday. The 13th juror picked is a woman who said she’d seen only clips of the video of Floyd’s arrest and needs to learn more about what happened beforehand.

Late Friday, the court said up to 16 jurors would be chosen. An earlier court order in November had said as many as four alternates would be picked, but once Chauvin’s trial was separated from the trial of three other former officers charged in Floyd’s death, the court had said only two alternates would be chosen for this case.

Seven jurors had been picked last week when the Minneapolis City Council announced it had unanimously approved the massive payout to settle a civil rights lawsuit over Floyd’s death. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, subsequently sought to halt or move the trial, saying the settlement timing was deeply disturbing and jeopardized Chauvin’s chance for a fair trial. Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter.

But Cahill, who called the timing “unfortunate,” said he believed a delay would do nothing to stem the problem of pretrial publicity, and that there’s no place in Minnesota untouched by that publicity.

The judge handed the defence a victory by ruling that the jury can hear evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest, but only information possibly pertaining to the cause of his death in 2020. He acknowledged several similarities between the two encounters, including that Floyd swallowed drugs after police confronted him.

The judge previously said the earlier arrest could not be admitted, but he reconsidered after drugs were found in January in a second search of the police SUV that the four officers attempted to put Floyd in last year. The defence argues that Floyd’s drug use contributed to his death.

Cahill said he’d allow medical evidence of Floyd’s physical reactions, such as his dangerously high blood pressure when he was examined by a paramedic in 2019, and a short clip of an officer’s body camera video. He said Floyd’s “emotional behaviour,” such as calling out to his mother, won’t be admitted.

But Cahill said he doesn’t plan to allow the testimony of a forensic psychiatrist for the prosecution. Floyd said he had claustrophobia and resisted getting into the squad car before the fatal encounter last year, and the state wanted Dr. Sarah Vinson to testify that his actions were consistent with a normal person experiencing severe stress, as opposed to faking or resisting arrest.

The judge said he would reconsider allowing her as a rebuttal witness if the defence somehow opens the door, but allowing her to testify could usher in all of the evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest.

“Clearly there is a cause of death issue here, and it is highly contested,” Cahill said, noting that both arrests involved Floyd’s cardiac problems and ingesting drugs.

The county medical examiner classified Floyd’s death as a homicide in an initial summary that said he “had a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by police.” Floyd was declared dead at a hospital 2.5 miles (4 kilometres) from where he was restrained.

The full report said he died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” A summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death.”

The earlier arrest lends more weight to the defence plan to argue that Floyd put his life in danger by swallowing drugs again and that, combined with his health problems, caused his death, said Ted Sampsell-Jones, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

“Jurors are not supposed to be influenced by that sort of thing, but they are human,” Sampsell-Jones said.

Floyd, who was Black, was declared dead May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee on his neck for about nine minutes while he was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death, captured on a widely seen bystander video, set off weeks of sometimes violent protests across the country and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.

The 13 jurors seated through Friday are split by race: Seven are white, four are Black and two are multiracial, according to the court.

It’s unclear which jurors would be alternates. Legal experts said it’s almost always the last people chosen, but the court said that wouldn’t necessarily be the case for Chauvin’s jury. Spokesman Kyle Christopherson said alternates could be chosen “many different ways,” but declined to give details.

“You can see in this case why (Cahill) might want to do something different, like draw numbers from a hat,” said Sampsell-Jones. He said the judge needs all jurors to pay attention and wouldn’t want anyone to learn they are alternates through the media.

The woman picked Friday — a white woman in her 50s — said she’s never seen police officers use more force with Black people or minorities than with white people, and that there’s nothing to fear from police if people co-operate and comply with commands. She stopped short of saying an unco-operative person deserves to be harmed.

“If you’re not listening to what the commands are, obviously something else needs to happen to resolve the situation,” she said of officers’ actions. “I don’t know how far the steps need to go.”

Several potential jurors were dismissed Friday, including a college student who attended protests that called for Chauvin and the other officers to be fired and charged, and one man who said he’d have a hard time believing testimony of Minneapolis police officers, because he believes they might try to cover up something.

Opening statements are March 29 if the jury is complete.

United States

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Binche residents Doug Connors (left) with Ross Duncan and Paul Lewis were thrilled after a mission to rescue a moose stranded on Stuart Lake was successful Friday, April 2. (Photo submitted)
Daring moose rescue on Stuart Lake garners national attention

“I’m just saving an animal,” said Ross Duncan with Paul Lewis and Doug Connors

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Marcel Gagnon will be receiving an honorary degree this year from UNBC. (Photo submitted)
Lheidli T’enneh Nation elder to receive honorary degree from UNBC

Artist and advocate, Marcel Gagnon to be recognized June 25

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

Most Read