The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis cop charged with the death of George Floyd suspended jury selection just hours after it began – to investigate a change in charges.
Derek Chauvin, who was accused of pressing his knee against Mr. Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes before his death on May 25 last year, is currently charged with second degree murder and manslaughter guilty.
The incident sparked protests in Minneapolis where it happened and around the world and led the United States to consider race.
Jury selection was due to begin on Monday, but legal experts said reinstating the lower third degree murder charge would improve the chances of a conviction, and therefore called for the charge to be brought to trial. ‘accused.
Judge Peter Cahill has said he has no jurisdiction to rule on whether the third degree charge should be restored, so prosecutors said they would ask the Court of Appeal to rule on whether the third degree charge should be restored. rule on the matter – meaning the potential jurors have been sent home for the day.
Whatever charges he ultimately faces, Chauvin’s fate will be decided by 12 people chosen after lengthy questioning about their views on the police and the justice system.
Mr Floyd, who was black, was pronounced dead on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, attempted to arrest him.
Chauvin and three other officers were dismissed; the others face trial in August for complicity.
Jury selection is expected to take at least three weeks, as prosecutors and defense attorneys attempt to weed out those who may be prejudiced against them.
Susan Gaertner, a former prosecutor, explained why the process was laborious. “You don’t want jurors who are completely virgins because that would mean they are out of step with the world at all,” she said.
“But what you want are jurors who can put aside the opinions that formed before entering the courtroom and give both parties a fair hearing.”
Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson argued that the pre-trial publicity of the case and the subsequent violent unrest in Minneapolis would make it impossible to find an impartial jury in Hennepin County, Minnesota, where the The case is heard.
But Judge Cahill said last year that moving the trial would likely not solve the problem of a potentially contaminated panel of jurors because “no corner of Minnesota state” has been immune. pre-trial publicity.
Prospective jurors – who must be at least 18, U.S. citizens and county residents – were given questionnaires to determine how much they had heard of the case and if they had formed any opinions.
In addition to biographical and demographic information, jurors were asked about previous contact with the police, whether they had protested against police brutality and whether they believed the justice system was fair.
Mike Brandt, a local defense attorney, said prosecutors would likely seek jurors who have favorable views on the Black Lives Matter movement or may be more outraged by Mr. Floyd’s death, while Chauvin’s attorneys are likely to favor jurors who support the police.
The defense can challenge up to 15 potential jurors without giving a reason; prosecutors can block up to nine for no reason.
Mr Brandt said that even if a juror says they have had a negative interaction with the police or a negative opinion on Black Lives Matter, the key will be to try to find out if they can put aside those past experiences or opinions and be fair.
“We approach all of these issues with a bias. The question is whether you can put that bias aside and be fair about it,” he said.
Jury selection will end after 14 people have been chosen – 12 jurors who will deliberate on the case and two alternates who will not participate in the deliberations unless necessary.
The number of seats in the courtroom has been limited to maintain social distancing due to the COVID-19[female[feminine pandemic, and jury seats have been spaced.
Like others in the courtroom, jurors will be required to wear masks.