By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(MINNEAPOLIS) — A full jury has been seated in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of 46-year-old Black man George Floyd during a May 2020 arrest that ignited protests nationwide.
The panel of 12 jurors and three alternates was finalized on Tuesday morning after defense attorneys, prosecutors and the judge presiding over the case in Minneapolis spent 12 days questioning a pool of potential jurors on everything from their thoughts about racial inequalities of the justice system, the Black Lives Matter movement and whether they had formed any preconceived opinion about Chauvin’s guilt or innocence.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill decided last Friday not to move the trial’s location nor delay the proceedings.
“I think the pre-trial publicity will continue no matter how long we continue it,” he said, adding, “I don’t think there is any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to an extreme amount of publicity in this case.”
Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who are representing Floyd’s family, released a following statement following the jury announcement, saying, “We are pleased that the jury has been seated and the Chauvin trial can proceed. After hearing the facts, we hope and expect the jury to deliver a just verdict.”
They cited the prosecution’s key piece of evidence — a bystander video showing Chauvin with his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as three other officers held the handcuffed 46-year-old Floyd prone on the ground as he cried out, “I can’t breathe.”
“This is not a hard case. George Floyd had more witnesses to his death than any other person ever — white or Black,” their statement said. “We all saw the same thing, the indisputable and unjustified torture and murder by a police officer of a Black man who was handcuffed, restrained and posed no harm. If George Floyd had been white, the facts would be undisputed and justice would be swift. We expect the same for George.”
During the jury selection, two jurors that had been picked for the panel were removed from the case after inadvertently seeing or hearing about news reports that the city of Minneapolis had reached a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family. The two dismissed jurors said the announcement affected their ability to remain impartial and decide the case based solely on the trial evidence.
Cahill also said Friday he did not believe pretrial publicity in the case will cease and ruled that an extra juror be added, upping the number of alternates from two to three.
Cahill noted that of the 326 people selected to be part of the prospective jury pool, more than 60 were individually interviewed in person during the 12-day process.
The opening statements in the trial, which is being televised on Court TV and streamed online, are scheduled for March 29. The evidentiary portion of the trial is expected to last up to four weeks and could include nearly 400 witnesses.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. A third-degree murder charged was reinstated against him during the jury selection process after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Cahill erred when he dismissed the count in October and instructed him to reconsider his decision.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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