“Use the hand sanitizers as much as you want,” Judge Peter Cahill told potential jurors Tuesday morning.
Today marked day two of week two of jury selection in the Derek Chauvin murder trial and the court has already interviewed three dozen potential jurors, adding zero new members to the jury pool.
Judge Peter Cahill noted during the morning session that eight of the last 11 jurors were dismissed for cause. On Tuesday, eight jurors in a row didn’t make the cut.
“We’re grinding to a halt,” he told the court before the lunch break. The defense has already used 11 of its 15 strikes, while the state used five out of its nine.
“It’s the rare person who says that impartiality is not possible,” conceded Nelson who has the arduous task of trying to find an impartial jury.
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The judge also considered the admissibility of the body cam footage from a 2019 arrest that happened one year prior.
Eric Nelson, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer affirms the jury should hear about George Floyd’s “remarkably similar” 2019 arrest where he “swallowed drugs to avoid having them found by cops and nearly had a stroke.”
Cahill agreed to reconsider whether it will be entered into evidence after rejecting the possibility earlier on. Cahill had previously said it didn’t show a “modus operandi” and even if it did, it didn’t matter – different police officers were involved, and Chauvin had to simply react to the situation in which he found himself, regardless of whether or not Floyd’s emotional state was feigned or genuine, drug-induced or panicked.
On both May 6, 2019, and May 25, 2020, officers approached Floyd in a car and witnessed “furtive behavior” as he refused to show his hands. Body cam footage of the 2019 arrest shows Floyd saying some of the exact same things like “please, man.” He also called for his mother and said that he had been shot before.
He allegedly put drugs in his mouth to avoid getting caught by cops during a traffic stop in Texas. In both instances, officers drew their weapons and Floyd behaved erratically and tearfully. And officers also observed white foam or residue around Floyd’s mouth.
In 2019, however, Floyd wasn’t claustrophobic and eventually got into the police squad car – unlike what took place a year later.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank accused Nelson of seeking to introduce the evidence because he was “desperate” to smear Floyd’s character. Critics would argue, Floyd did a job of doing that for himself.
He apparently moved to Minnesota to start a new life, but was caught once again a year later with drugs in his bloodstream. In May 2020, Minneapolis Medical Examiner Andrew Baker’s autopsy found that cardio-pulmonary arrest was a primary cause of death with 11mg of fentanyl – a potentially lethal amount – found.
Pills recovered from the car in 2019 were found to be methamphetamine and fentanyl.
Floyd was hospitalized following his consumption of opioids in May 2019 when paramedics found that his blood pressure was too high likely due to the drugs.
Cahill told Nelson that the paramedic’s statement from 2019 could be introduced as evidence since it speaks to “What is Mr. Floyd’s medical or bodily response to a large amount of drugs being ingested shortly before.”
“So now on May 25, 2020, if he ingests drugs with that hypertension condition, could that have caused the death?” posed Cahill.
During the pretrial hearing the court heard that a January 2021 search of the squad car into which officers who tried to wrestle Floyd in May 2020 found a chewed up “near-complete tablet” bearing Floyd’s DNA. The search was carried out after the defense reviewed photographs taken of the squad car after Floyd’s death last May.
Judge Cahill said it was “mind-boggling” that an extensive search of the squad car was not done until eight months after Floyd’s death.
Meanwhile, the first seven jurors will be questioned via Zoom on Wednesday to discover whether they are aware of a $27 million wrongful death settlement made on Friday.
Juror 63, a substitute teacher with a new job, describes herself as an outgoing, open person, who loves working with kids. She was at “a standstill” for how she feels because jury duty is a civic duty but thinks about the students and doesn’t want things more wishy-washy for them given the pandemic.
She struggled with leaving the children in her new class and how it will affect them.
“Alright I just need to ask you bluntly,” said Judge Cahill. “Would this be a hardship?”
“I think I’m so torn about that my heart is saying that I more than likely would be … I’m just so conflicted about the whole situation and whatnot…”
Judge Cahill excused her on the basis of hardship.
Juror 64, a male, told the court that he had seen a headline on the recent settlement.
As an employee of a software company contracted by a “major news organization,” he’s exposed to daily headlines. Yet somehow he argued he could be impartial.
He contended he’s never read stories and could be impartial, but he was excused for cause.
This interrogation started with a pre-sidebar. Juror 65 admitted being nervous.
“You hide it well,” said Cahill.
“The mask helps,” she responded.
Judge Cahill asks Juror 65 to silently write down the name of her relative who is a state trooper, something she mentioned in her jury questionnaire.
She was excused.
She said she couldn’t be an impartial juror and didn’t want to be a part of this trial.
She was excused for cause.
Juror 67, a youth pastor, talked about his experience being harassed by cops for skateboarding.
When Nelson asked him about his jury questionnaire regarding answers about racial justice issues, Juror 67 answered that he was in favor of Black Lives Matter, not in favor of “Blue Lives Matter.”
Nelson asked Juror 67 to explain what he meant by calling Floyd’s death “wrong.”
“Someone died, and that was wrong.”
He was struck by the defense and excused from jury duty.
Nelson argued all the pre-trial publicity has “already prejudiced” any prospective juror, and moved to get back a strike used on Juror 69 for this reason.
Nelson asked Cahill to give him back the last peremptory strike he used and to dismiss juror 69 for cause instead. The state opposed the request, and Cahill denied it.
Nelson argued that the last juror knew about the settlement and that made him prejudicial.
Juror 71 was another tainted juror.
“What do you mean it is seared into your memory,” Nelson asked.
“The look on (Derek’s) face is burnt into my memory.”
And then Cahill asked an obvious question, “Is that a negative or positive connotation?”
Juror 71 mentioned having to attend a wedding, expressed concern about being away from young children, and added that being away would create a strain.
He was struck for cause.
A husband of 23 years and father of three was also excused following more questioning on whether he would be more likely to believe a police officer’s testimony than a bystander’s. He guessed that he believed police officers have more credibility than others.
Court resumes tomorrow at 8:45 am. CT.
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