“We only need the one,” Cahill said, adding: “Twelve or bust.”
The other jurors questioned Monday were struck by Cahill or attorneys in the case, for reasons ranging from their answers to questions about policing to personal issues. Much of the questioning centered on impressions they had about the case, owing in part to the significant pretrial awareness that has suffused the proceedings.
Last week, Cahill dismissed two of the seven jurors who had been seated before Minneapolis officials announced that the city would pay Floyd’s family a record $27 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit. Both jurors told the judge that the decision had compromised their ability to presume Chauvin innocent.
But the court replaced them with other jurors that same day and went on to pick six more — a faster pace than many involved in the case had expected, given the intense media coverage and conflicted emotions in the community about Floyd’s death and policing.
Cahill had set aside three weeks for jury selection — with the option to extend it. And the court summoned a larger than usual pool of prospective jurors — about 326 people, according to numbers Chauvin’s defense team provided in a court filing last week.
So far, the seated jury is more diverse than many expected from Hennepin County, where the population is about 80 percent White. The 14 seated jurors include one Black woman, two multiracial women, two White men, three Black men and six White women.
Some local activists have complained about the racial makeup of the jury — as they have watched the defense strike several potential Black jurors who spoke of the trauma they felt seeing the viral video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the man cried out for breath and for his mother before going motionless.
Most criminal juries in the county were already leaning majority White and became even more White during the pandemic, said Mary Moriarty, a former chief public defender in Hennepin County. “We know that covid-19 has hit the Black community particularly hard. A lot of people lost jobs. A lot of people can’t take time off work because they don’t get paid to go to jury duty,” she said.
Hennepin County jurors receive $20 a day.
The first juror questioned Monday morning, a White woman who works as a nursing assistant, was struck by the defense. She had mentioned going to a protest after Floyd’s death and, during the questioning, expressed a positive view of the Black Lives Matter movement and a negative view of the phrase Blue Lives Matter.
When asked about her viewpoint, the woman, identified as Juror No. 115, said historically, Black people have been oppressed, whereas “police officers are only police officers when they have their uniforms on,” and they can take those off at the end of the day. After questioning her for a short time, Chauvin’s legal team struck her from the jury.
Prosecutors struck the next juror who was questioned, a White man who described himself as a fishing aficionado. The man said his company had changed its policy on jury duty since he filled out the juror questionnaire, which meant he would not be paid his full salary if chosen for the trial. The man also expressed a somewhat unfavorable opinion of Black Lives Matter.
Cahill also excused the next potential juror, a woman who mentioned being nervous and voiced concerns about her proficiency in the English language. In particular, she expressed uncertainty that she would understand all of the technical words used during the trial. Citing the technical language that would be used and the woman’s concerns, Cahill excused her.
Cahill later dismissed a man who said he did not feel neutral on the case, and a woman who mentioned having a child at home with a medical issue.
Another juror was questioned extensively Monday afternoon by Chauvin’s defense, which described the man as having strongly held opinions about the case and police. Cahill excused the juror and said later that the man was struck by the defense. The judge also described that juror as not credible in his answers.
A social worker questioned late Monday morning was the lone person seated Monday.
Juror No. 118, a White woman in her 20s who said she disagreed with the concept of defunding police, expressed a desire to learn more about the training officers receive. She also described being neutral on Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.
Since jury selection began March 9, the court has gone through more than 100 of the 326 summoned jurors — including about 60 who have been questioned in the courtroom. An additional 30 or so were dismissed by a joint motion of cause by the prosecution and the defense, and the rest were excused by the jury office.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, asked the judge last week to delay and move the trial, saying he was “gravely concerned” that news of the Floyd family settlement had tainted the jury pool. But Cahill agreed with prosecutors who had pointed to the steady pace of jury selection as proof that pretrial publicity, including news of the settlement, had not harmed Chauvin’s right to a fair trial.
On Monday afternoon, Cahill excused another juror after the man said he had seen news about the financial settlement and that it swayed his view and meant he could no longer be impartial.
Nelson has argued that jurors won’t be able to put the news out of their minds, even if they swear under oath that they are able to do so, because most already view Chauvin in a negative light.
In a court filing made public Friday, Nelson said two-thirds of the 326 potential jurors summoned in the case said they had a “negative” opinion of his client on a questionnaire the court distributed months before the settlement announcement. He said more than half the jury pool expressed a “neutral” view of Floyd.
Floyd, who was Black, was killed May 25 after being handcuffed and restrained face down on a south Minneapolis street during a police investigation of a counterfeit $20 bill that had been allegedly passed at a local market.
Chauvin, the White police officer filmed with his knee on Floyd’s neck, faces charges of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers charged in the case — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao — are set to be tried separately in August.
Berman reported from Washington.