Chauvin Trial Day 10: Judge Cahill Delivers Both Expected and Surprising Rulings
The trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd began with Judge Peter Cahill ruling on a series of motions today with some decisions expected and other decisions surprising and highly complicated.
As expected, Cahill ruled against defense attorney Eric Nelson’s request for a continuance and change of venue for the trial, stating that “I don’t think there’s any place in MN that has not been subjected to an extreme amount of publicity in this case.” More unexpectedly, Cahill ruled that certain portions of the body cam video of Floyd’s 2019 arrest were admissible while others were not, and that Dr. Sarah Vinson, a forensic psychologist the prosecution wanted to testify to the possibility of a panic attack or severe anxiety attack playing a role in Floyd’s actions when approached by Chauvin and his fellow officers on the day of his death.
This is a complicated turn of events for the trial. Over the past two weeks, Cahill has appeared less than convinced that there was any validity to the defense’s motions to include the video. While his decision to allow limited portions of the footage he deems relevant is not nearly what the defense hoped for, it’s still a shift from what he had previously indicated. He ruled that since the cause of death is going to be the primary contested subject of the trial, portions of the video showing Floyd’s physical reactions during a prior arrest were allowed to be presented as evidence, as will photographic evidence of pills he allegedly had in his possession. However, portions of the video depicting his emotional state during the 2019 arrest, which Nelson very much wanted to include to compare it to the day of his death, would not be allowed. Cahill further rules that if the defense in any way introduced evidence on Floyd’s emotional state, the prosecution would then be able to move to bring Dr. Vinson in to testify.
The rest of the day was spent on jury selection, which resulted in the seating of one additional juror, 96, a middle-aged white woman who used to work in customer service but now works with the homeless. Like virtually all of the jurors seated before her, her answers during voir dire seemed to fit a fairly narrow range of centrist opinions and lack of information—the sort of mostly blank template that attorneys for both sides are seeking, but not the kind of juror who are going to make invested watchers from either side of the issue feel at ease.
At the end of the day, all other potential jurors had been dismissed, one struck by the prosecution and the rest dismissed for cause. Judge Cahill adjourned, noting that he intended to seek two more jurors next week, for a total of fifteen, rather than the fourteen that has been expected since jury selection began last week. Technically, the order outlining selection says they can seek up to sixteen, with twelve serving as jurors and the balance as alternates. It is up to Cahill’s discretion which of the seated pool is actually assigned to the jury and which are alternates, so while he hasn’t said anything, it should not be assumed that the first twelve people selected will be the primary jurors for the trial.
Check back this weekend for a summary analysis of the week's proceedings.