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Jury selection on hold in trial over George Floyd's death

Floyd jury on pause

The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused in the death of George Floyd on Monday paused jury selection for at least a day while an appeal proceeds over the possible reinstatement of a third-degree murder charge.

Judge Peter Cahill said he does not have jurisdiction to rule on whether the third-degree murder charge should be reinstated against Derek Chauvin while the issue is being appealed. But he said prosecutors' arguments that the whole case would be impacted was “tenuous.”

Cahill initially ruled that jury selection would begin as scheduled on Monday, but prosecutors said they would ask the Court of Appeals to intervene, which could put the case on hold, so the judge sent the potential jurors home for the day.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Legal experts say reinstating the third-degree murder charge would improve the odds of getting a conviction. Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, said Monday he would ask the state Supreme Court to review a Court of Appeals decision that ordered Cahill to reconsider the charge.

Jury selection is expected to take at least three weeks, as prosecutors and defence attorneys try to weed out people who may be biased against them.

“You don’t want jurors who are completely blank slates, because that would mean they’re not in tune at all with the world,” Susan Gaertner, a former prosecutor, said. “But what you want is jurors who can set aside opinions that have formed prior to walking into the courtroom and give both sides a fair hearing.”

Floyd was declared dead May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against the handcuffed Black man's neck for about nine minutes, holding his position even after Floyd went limp. Floyd’s death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond, and led to a nationwide reckoning on race.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired; the others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse as proceedings began, many carrying signs that read, “Justice for George Floyd” and “Convict Killer Cops.”

One speaker took a microphone and decried the barricades — concrete barriers topped by chain-link fencing, barbed wire and razor wire— set up around the courthouse. He also ridiculed talk of the Chauvin trial as “the trial of the century,” saying all the jury needs to do is “do the right thing.”

Then he led the crowd in chants of “The whole world is watching!”

Inside the courtroom, Chauvin, in a blue suit and black mask, followed the proceedings attentively, making notes on a legal pad.

Nelson earlier argued that pretrial publicity of the case and the subsequent violent unrest in Minneapolis would make it impossible to find an impartial jury in Hennepin County. But Judge Peter Cahill said last year that moving the trial probably wouldn't cure the problem of a potentially tainted jury pool because “no corner of the State of Minnesota” has been shielded from pretrial publicity.

The potential jurors — who must be at least 18, U.S. citizens and residents of Hennepin County — were sent questionnaires to determine how much they have heard about the case and whether they’ve formed any opinions. Besides biographical and demographic information, jurors were asked about prior contacts with police, whether they have protested against police brutality and whether they believe the justice system is fair.



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