Chauvin Trial Day 9: 3 Jurors Selected; Tensions Come to a Head About Settlement News
Tensions about the public announcement of a $27m settlement between the City of Minneapolis and George Floyd’s family came to a head today in the trial of disgraced former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin for Floyd’s murder. Defense attorney Eric Nelson has filed multiple motions and entered several concerns into the record about the announcement being prejudicial to the jury pool, asking for a continuance, change of venue, full sequestration of the jurors for the entire duration of the trial, and additional peremptory challenges. Although Cahill has already ruled against full sequestration, he did grant the defense 3 additional peremptory challenges and the State one on Wednesday and plans on ruling on both the continuance and the change of venue on Friday morning. It seems unlikely that he would rule in favor of either, as there are now twelve seated on the jury, Cahill plans to issue a ruling in the morning before selection continues to seat the final two alternate jurors. No matter what he decides, this issue seems to be key to an appeal for Chauvin if he is convicted.
In addition, Cahill intends to also issue a ruling on the prosecution’s motion to include expert witness testimony from Dr. Sarah Vinson, a forensic psychiatrist, about Floyd’s possible anxiety or panic attack related reactions to being arrested shortly before his death. During arguments this morning, attorney for the State Jerry Blackwell argued that Vinson’s testimony was necessary to refute any possible claims by the defense that Floyd was pretending to be claustrophobic as an excuse to aggressively resist arrest. Nelson argued that if Dr. Vinson’s testimony on Floyd’s state of mind could be included, then the defense should be allowed to introduce the video of George Floyd’s 2019 arrest to show jurors how he reacted at that time. Although he’s leaned towards denying the video through multiple arguments from Nelson, Cahill seemed more receptive to this argument and indicated that if he ruled to include either the video or Dr. Vinson’s testimony, he would “limit the scope” to specific facts.
During selection, three additional jurors (all women) were seated today: Juror 89, a white nurse with over 25 years of experience who lives in the suburbs; Juror 91, a Black woman, retired from a marketing position with a major corporation who used to live near George Floyd Square many years ago; and Juror 92, a young white woman who works in insurance.
Outside the courtroom, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey held a press conference this morning to discuss public safety, specifically the re-opening of George Floyd Square. Although Frey and his staff tried to avoid discussing the settlement with Floyd’s family with the press, the subject was raised. Back in the courtroom, after the last potential juror was excused for cause due to fears for his safety, Nelson once again entered his concern about the settlement, saying that the press conference today was continuing the problem of potential influence on the jury. When State attorney Steve Schleicher argued against Nelson’s action, Cahill cut him off, visibly frustrated. “Everyone stop talking about it!” he said, taking Schleicher to task for his criticisms. They were, Cahill said, bordering on criticizing “how you’re doing your jobs,” and that such things were not relevant. “[Nelson] has a right to bring this up,” according to Cahill, as the prosecution had a team of 10 lawyers, many of them outside the room, who could file motions while court proceeded, while Nelson was the sole attorney for the defense. It was the most outwardly expressive Cahill has been about his frustrations regarding the settlement, although both Nelson and Schleicher showed some signs of irritability slipping through the cracks during voir dire. No matter what, the continued presence of the settlement looming over the courtroom, is definitely affecting the morale of everyone, even if it actually hasn’t had a significant impact on the selection process itself. Since Cahill is already addressing related motions in the morning on Friday, expect some additional commentary on this issue.