Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over pretrial motions before jury selection in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over pretrial motions before jury selection in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

Judge refuses to move ex-cop’s trial over George Floyd’s death

Jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin will stretch into a third week

A judge said Friday he won’t delay or move the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death over concerns that a $27 million settlement for Floyd’s family could taint the jury pool, but he’ll allow limited evidence from a 2019 arrest.

Jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin will stretch into a third week after attorneys seated just one additional juror Friday. The 13th juror picked is a woman who said she’d seen only clips of the video of Floyd’s arrest and needs to learn more about what happened beforehand.

Late Friday, the court said up to 16 jurors would be chosen. An earlier court order in November had said as many as four alternates would be picked, but once Chauvin’s trial was separated from the trial of three other former officers charged in Floyd’s death, the court had said only two alternates would be chosen for this case.

Seven jurors had been picked last week when the Minneapolis City Council announced it had unanimously approved the massive payout to settle a civil rights lawsuit over Floyd’s death. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, subsequently sought to halt or move the trial, saying the settlement timing was deeply disturbing and jeopardized Chauvin’s chance for a fair trial. Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter.

But Cahill, who called the timing “unfortunate,” said he believed a delay would do nothing to stem the problem of pretrial publicity, and that there’s no place in Minnesota untouched by that publicity.

The judge handed the defence a victory by ruling that the jury can hear evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest, but only information possibly pertaining to the cause of his death in 2020. He acknowledged several similarities between the two encounters, including that Floyd swallowed drugs after police confronted him.

The judge previously said the earlier arrest could not be admitted, but he reconsidered after drugs were found in January in a second search of the police SUV that the four officers attempted to put Floyd in last year. The defence argues that Floyd’s drug use contributed to his death.

Cahill said he’d allow medical evidence of Floyd’s physical reactions, such as his dangerously high blood pressure when he was examined by a paramedic in 2019, and a short clip of an officer’s body camera video. He said Floyd’s “emotional behaviour,” such as calling out to his mother, won’t be admitted.

But Cahill said he doesn’t plan to allow the testimony of a forensic psychiatrist for the prosecution. Floyd said he had claustrophobia and resisted getting into the squad car before the fatal encounter last year, and the state wanted Dr. Sarah Vinson to testify that his actions were consistent with a normal person experiencing severe stress, as opposed to faking or resisting arrest.

The judge said he would reconsider allowing her as a rebuttal witness if the defence somehow opens the door, but allowing her to testify could usher in all of the evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest.

“Clearly there is a cause of death issue here, and it is highly contested,” Cahill said, noting that both arrests involved Floyd’s cardiac problems and ingesting drugs.

The county medical examiner classified Floyd’s death as a homicide in an initial summary that said he “had a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by police.” Floyd was declared dead at a hospital 2.5 miles (4 kilometres) from where he was restrained.

The full report said he died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” A summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death.”

The earlier arrest lends more weight to the defence plan to argue that Floyd put his life in danger by swallowing drugs again and that, combined with his health problems, caused his death, said Ted Sampsell-Jones, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

“Jurors are not supposed to be influenced by that sort of thing, but they are human,” Sampsell-Jones said.

Floyd, who was Black, was declared dead May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee on his neck for about nine minutes while he was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death, captured on a widely seen bystander video, set off weeks of sometimes violent protests across the country and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.

The 13 jurors seated through Friday are split by race: Seven are white, four are Black and two are multiracial, according to the court.

It’s unclear which jurors would be alternates. Legal experts said it’s almost always the last people chosen, but the court said that wouldn’t necessarily be the case for Chauvin’s jury. Spokesman Kyle Christopherson said alternates could be chosen “many different ways,” but declined to give details.

“You can see in this case why (Cahill) might want to do something different, like draw numbers from a hat,” said Sampsell-Jones. He said the judge needs all jurors to pay attention and wouldn’t want anyone to learn they are alternates through the media.

The woman picked Friday — a white woman in her 50s — said she’s never seen police officers use more force with Black people or minorities than with white people, and that there’s nothing to fear from police if people co-operate and comply with commands. She stopped short of saying an unco-operative person deserves to be harmed.

“If you’re not listening to what the commands are, obviously something else needs to happen to resolve the situation,” she said of officers’ actions. “I don’t know how far the steps need to go.”

Several potential jurors were dismissed Friday, including a college student who attended protests that called for Chauvin and the other officers to be fired and charged, and one man who said he’d have a hard time believing testimony of Minneapolis police officers, because he believes they might try to cover up something.

Opening statements are March 29 if the jury is complete.

United States

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Winnie Peters, centre, spoke about the loss of two husbands over the years, both of who were murdered. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls event in Hope on May 5, 2021 included prayers for men who have been killed as well. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)
Red dresses hang in Hope’s Memorial Park in remembrance

Group gathers for National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin checking drivers on BC highways

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

UBC Sports Hall of Famer Carrie (Watson) Watts (far right, front row) helped lead the UBC Thunderbirds to the 2004 national championship, their first since 1974. She served as assistant coach a few years after graduation. (Photo/UBC)
Agassiz-born basketball star inducted into UBC Sports Hall of Fame

Carrie (Watson) Watts helped lead the team to their first championship in decades

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

JANGO the police dog helped track down a suspect on Luckakuck Way in Chilliwack. (RCMP photo)
Alleged thief in Chilliwack can’t fool the nose of JANGO the police dog

An Edmonton man who allegedly broke into a storage container on Luckakuck Way was arrested

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Serious crash in Surrey sends 1 to hospital

Surrey RCMP say one of the drivers fled on foot, but was later found at an area hospital

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read