The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, begins this week, and will kick off in earnest with what’s expected to be a lengthy jury selection process.
Per the Minneapolis Star Tribune, jury selection was supposed to start Monday, March 8th, but it was delayed for at least a day so the court could decide whether or not to add a third-degree murder charge, after an appeals court overruled a lower court’s decision to dismiss it. As CNN reports, the jury selection process could take up to three weeks, and it will likely be one of the most contentious and tense aspects of what’s already expected to be a contentious and tense trial.
When jury selection does begin, the goal, as in all cases, will be to find 16 people (12 jurors and four alternates) who can be impartial and open to both evidence and the law. Of course, that task will be complicated by the fact that Floyd’s death was one of the most publicized instances of police violence, with a bystander capturing Floyd’s death and his pleas for air while Chauvin knelt his neck on video. It began a wave of Black Lives Matter protests, one of the largest civil-rights movements in our country’s history.
Technically, the jury selection process began last December, when prospective jurors were sent a 16-page questionnaire. The questionnaire asked for their thoughts on the protests, policing, and about previous personal interactions with police. They were also asked specifics about their knowledge of the case, including how many times they viewed the video of Floyd’s death, and if they’d ever shared their thoughts about it on social media. Prospective jurors will also face similar questions in court, first from the judge, then the defense and prosecution.
Both the defense and prosecution can dismiss any potential juror if they believe the person can’t be impartial. Some jurors can also be dismissed without cause (known as a “peremptory challenge”), though Chauvin’s lawyers will only be able to do this 15 times, and the prosecution just nine. Peremptory challenges can also face a “Batson challenge,” should one side believe a juror is being eliminated because of their race, ethnicity, or sex.
Following jury selection, opening statements in Chauvin’s trial are expected to begin no later than March 29th. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Live coverage of jury selection, and the rest of the trial, will be available via Court TV.