A 14th juror was seated Monday for the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, nearly completing the panel ahead of opening statements next week.
The newest juror is a social worker in her 20s who said she has talked with friends about police reform and that she thinks “there are things that should be changed.” But she also described police and their jobs as important, and said she is “always looking at every side of things.”
Three other potential jurors were dismissed earlier in the day.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said Friday that he wanted to select 15 jurors, with 12 to deliberate and three alternates who will deliberate only if needed. But the court also said up to 16 could be chosen.
Floyd, who was Black, was declared dead May 25 after Derek 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.
On Friday, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill declined a defense request to delay or move Chauvin’s trial over concerns that a $27 million settlement for Floyd’s family had tainted the jury pool.
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.
In another significant ruling Friday, the judge handed the defense 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. 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 defense argues that Floyd’s drug use contributed to his death.
Cahill said he would 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 behavior,” such as calling out to his mother, won’t be admitted.
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 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 14 jurors seated through Monday are split by race: Eight are white, four are Black and two are multiracial, according to the court.
It’s unclear which jurors will be the 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.