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Activists demand fair jury selection in Chauvin trial

Protesters expressed concerns about jurors who being dismissed while jurors with ties to police were seated.
Image by Emily Pofahl
Toshira Garraway speaks at the “Demand a Fair Jury Selection” protest in downtown Minneapolis on Monday, March 15.

Dozens of people braved the cold and snow outside of the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday to protest what they saw as unfair jury selection in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.

Two more jurors were seated as the protest carried on, making nine out of 14 needed. Activists argued the process has been riddled with racism and the defense team has unfairly struck potential jurors of color.

Protesters expressed frustration at the currently seated jurors, particularly jurors who have ties to police officers. Juror nine, a mixed-race woman, has an uncle who is a police officer near Brainerd, and juror 19, a white man, has a distant friend who is an officer. Juror 52, a Black man who was seated on Monday, said he goes to the gym with Minneapolis officers who he called “great guys.”

Several speakers said they thought it was important to have “peers of George Floyd” on the jury to have a fair trial; more than half of the current jury is white.

“What we will find out from this trial is if the system or we have any humanity left in us. We’re going to find out if we actually value the life of the lives of human beings,” Jaylani Hussein, director of the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at the rally.

Communities United Against Police Brutality and five other activist groups hosted the event, and protesters marched a short route around the Government Center.

Nadia Shaarawi, a fourth-year University of Minnesota student and organizer with the Students for a Democratic Society, said community vigilance early in the trial placed important pressure on those in the courtroom.

Protestors march through the streets of downtown Minneapolis at the “Demand a Fair Jury Selection” protest on Monday, March 15. (Emily Pofahl)

“We’re out here because the jury selection is going exactly how we expected to,” Shaarawi said. “It’s important to know that we’re watching the jury selection and we know what’s happening.”

Many of the protesters were also concerned with how the defense struck potential jurors of color.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson tried to strike juror one, a Hispanic woman, saying she could not serve on the jury because she had some difficulties understanding English. Judge Peter Cahill denied it, and the defense eventually struck her because she wrote “unjust death of George Floyd” on her questionnaire.

“I just felt that the way that she was treated seemed to be discriminatory, in a sense of the defense acting as if the woman was not sophisticated enough to understand the proceedings,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and activist, at a webinar hosted by the Legal Rights Center Monday evening.

Andrew Gordon, deputy director for community legal services at the Legal Rights Center, said the jury system is flawed in how it approaches fairness. The jury questionnaire asks about experiences “that one may have because of their ethnicity, or because of their race,” which can be grounds for a for-cause dismissal, Gordon said at the webinar.

“So you have a bad experience with law enforcement, largely because you’re Black, and therefore [they’re] going to kick you off of this jury,” Gordon said.

After Friday’s announcement that the city of Minneapolis paid $27 million to the Floyd family in a civil suit settlement, Cahill said he will call seven seated jurors back to be re-questioned about the settlement, and if it changed their ability to presume that Chauvin is innocent.

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Government Center on the first day of the trial, but turnout declined by the second week. As the trial moves forward, activist Kaia Hirt with Good Trouble for Justice said she is worried that fewer people will attend protests in the coming weeks.

“And that’s the fear and the disappointment of BIPOC people because that has been the pattern throughout our country’s history,” Hirt said.

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  • Tom
    Mar 18, 2021 at 7:46 pm

    I agree with most of this. At the very least it’s an intelligent analysis of the situation.

  • rstatesman
    Mar 18, 2021 at 6:09 pm

    “The insurectionalist who help tens of thousands of her fellow Trump supporters break into the Capital.”
    Your numbers are thousands of people off. There is no way you could stuff 10,000 people into the capital. Just because a few protesters broke laws and were crude in behavior, it was only a hand full of idiots. You are generalizing the whole group of protesters.

  • rstatesman
    Mar 18, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    “ The coroner’s report shows George Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose.” Yes, what you state is true, but you can not deny that having a knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for as long as it was being faced down did not make it harder for Floyd to breathe. Chauvin didn’t need to keep his knee as long as he did on Floyd’s neck. One can argue that it may have contributed to his death. Is it murder one or two? No. Should the fact that the Minneapolis police department is held responsible for this neck control policy, yes. One can say Chauvin was following the procedure. The actual question is did he took the knee on the neck of the policy too far?

  • Tom
    Mar 18, 2021 at 11:27 am

    “ It’s called expodiction, the process of the police bringing the suspect to the place where a crime was committed regardless of that suspect living in another state!”

    Lol. Please stop. You literally have no idea what you’re talking about. You sound like a child.

  • CapnRusty
    Mar 18, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    “insurrectionist” “defecate” and “extradition” and “tens of thousands?”

  • Tom
    Mar 18, 2021 at 11:26 am

    You’re an extremely unintelligent person.

    The coroners report shows George Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose. His lungs were twice the normal size and he was conscious in the ambulance afterwards.

    I don’t care what you *think* you saw. Facts are facts.

    Consider taking a writing class to learn to express yourself more intelligently.

  • Christopher Byrd
    Mar 18, 2021 at 8:47 am

    But we as Black folks already know the answer to that question as if we get to make that choice! Another example of the Thomas Wine classic move, Remember Jenny Cudd? The insurectionalist who help tens of thousands of her fellow Trump supporters break into the Capital, urinate and deficate all over the place and smear it all over the walls, try to capture senate members so they could give them a mock trial, then take them outside and execute them by hanging? First she pleads to the judge to allow her to go on vacation to Mexico. When the judge denied that the next move she tried was to get her trial held in Texas instead of Washington D.C.! I may not be a pro at this kind of thing, but the way it works is if you get caught committing a crime, your trial will take place in the state where the crime was committed! The defendant does not get to decide where and what state to stand trial! You commit a crime in one state, flee to another, finally get caught, you are going back to the state where the crime was committed period, end of discussion! You have no say in where you will stand trial. That’s not how it works! It’s called expodiction, the process of the police bringing the suspect to the place where a crime was committed regardless of that suspect living in another state!

  • Christopher Byrd
    Mar 18, 2021 at 8:14 am

    Firstly, nobody is prosecuting former officer Derick Chauvin based on his race or the fact that he was a police officer. It’s about what he did and if you or I, especially myself being an African American had choked a police officer to death, at least I couldn’t expect to even survive being in jail awaiting trial much less getting a fair trial!
    The jury would most be definetly white, Trump supporting and know police officers they greet everyday in their communities! These evil officials know good and full well that this guy is as guilty as sin just for the fact that the crime is on video being committed in open view for the whole universe to see. Chauvin looked into the camera as if to say / That’s right I’m killing this N word and don’t even think of reporting me to my supervisor because all I have to tell my supervisor is this N word attacked me first and that’s all she wrote! You BLM protesters think I’ll be indicted? Yeah right! He “Chauvin was 100% sure he wasn’t going to face any consequences as he knelt on Floyd’s neck! Had I done the same thing, first I’d need to catch a greyhound and skip town immediately because every police division would come for my head! Secondly, I’d be extremely lucky not to be killed on sight when they catch up with me! Finally if and that’s a cosmic sized if I made it to trial, It’s not a stretch to say that they” The D.A.,judge and jury of your so called peers” would not hesitate to reinstate the death penalty especially against a Black man/ suspect in cop language/ who is responsible for the death of a police officer/ race soldier in Black peoples language! If George Floyd was on trial here, we wouldn’t even have this discussion! This is not a personal vendetta to put a white man or a police officer in prison, this is a police officer with a long history of dangerous behavior and how he approaches Black civilians in general. Even when Chauvin worked as a security guard at a night club, the manager who we expect to testify will tell the jury about confrontations she’s had with Chauvin going way too far with patrons at the establishment, predomeantly Black ones and how she constantly talked to him about his mob like behavior! She almost fired him after some Black customers complained about how they were aggressively handled by Chauvin and other white security guards! Floyd was also a security guard at the same club and there were no complaints about him because he wasn’t over the top with doing his job as Chauvin was! Chauvin has a long history of going overboard except this time he really did it and crossed the line! He’s not on trial because he’s white or was a cop, he’s on trial because he’s proven to be a danger to the public!

  • rstatesman
    Mar 17, 2021 at 10:36 pm

    First, quit wasting your time protesting with little signs and do research into the matter. Learn about the Juror’s system. Second, start leaning on the prosecutors to begin using their challenges (not to seat jurors). Maybe you should be protesting at the Attorney General’s office; Keith Ellison is in charge of this matter. Even though Chauvin may be guilty as hell, he is entitled to the same justice system you and I are entitled to. If you feel the justice system is not fair or equal, then get off your whiny asses and take this matter to the legislative branches of government.
    Finally, If you feel that Chauvin is not entitled to the same fair trial as other Americans because he was an officer of the law, even a possible bad one shows you have no respect for the American juror system. It isn’t perfect but it one of the fairish and best in the world. If you feel he isn’t entitled to the same fair system as you are because he is white. You are as racists as he maybe. Racism is not a One-way street.

  • CapnRusty
    Mar 17, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    My question for the authors is: “If a black man is charged with killing a white man, should all the jury members be white?”