Jury selection delayed in Derek Chauvin murder trial
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer who is charged with murdering George Floyd — a Black man whose death last May sparked a nationwide movement calling for police reform and the end to systemic racism — began Monday, but was quickly paused as an additional charge against Chauvin is being considered.
Jury selection was scheduled to start Monday morning but has been delayed at least until Tuesday, as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill wants the Minnesota Court of Appeals to weigh in on whether a third-degree murder charge can be reinstated on top of Chauvin’s second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
On Friday, the state Court of Appeals ruled that Cahill should reconsider the third-degree murder charge. Before jury selection was halted, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson said he planned on petitioning the Minnesota Supreme Court over the decision.
Cahill initially ruled that the pondering of the additional charge wouldn’t delay jury selection, but soon changed his mind, concluding that he wanted to huddle with the appeals court to see if the trial could continue while the status of the additional charge was still in limbo.
The third-degree murder charge was originally dismissed by Cahill in October.
Once started, the jury selection could last up to three weeks. Chauvin’s defense team can block up to 15 would-be jurors without a stated reason, while prosecutors — led by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) — can block up to nine. Moreover, both sides can move to have a juror tossed “for cause,” in which they explain their reasoning. They can do this an unlimited amount of times. Selection will end when a jury of 12 people and alternates are decided upon.
The earliest opening arguments in the trial could begin is March 29.
Nonetheless, a large number of protesters gathered outside of the Hennepin County courthouse on Monday, demanding justice for Floyd. Minnesota officials have planned for large crowds and potential unrest during the duration of the trial, erecting concrete barriers with barbed wire around the courthouse.
This is the scene outside of the Hennepin County Government Center right now #DerekChauvinTrial pic.twitter.com/pmzbDZnh6u
— Andrew Havranek (@Andrew_Havranek) March 8, 2021
The precautions come after nationwide protests broke out following Floyd’s death.
Graphic cellphone footage showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, even after Floyd was unconscious. Floyd pleaded with Chauvin multiple times, saying that he couldn’t breathe before becoming unresponsive; he was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.
He was 46.
Officials ruled Floyd’s death a homicide, with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report revealing he died from “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
The other former officers who were on the scene — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — all face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Cahill decided in November that the trio would stand trial together, but independent of Chauvin’s prosecution. Their trial is slated to start in August.
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