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After a $27 million settlement, two jurors were removed from the Chauvin proceedings.

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After a $27 million settlement, two jurors were removed from the Chauvin proceedings.
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After a $27 million settlement, two jurors were removed from the Chauvin proceedings.

After a $27 million settlement, two jurors were removed from the Chauvin proceedings.

 

A judge dismissed two jurors for the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused in the death of George Floyd on Wednesday, citing concerns that their impartiality had been tainted by the city’s announcement of a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family.

At the behest of former officer Derek Chauvin’s counsel, Eric Nelson, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill recalled seven jurors who were seated before the deal was revealed last week. Cahill interrogated each of them about what they knew about the settlement and how it might affect their ability to serve.

The fact that only two jurors were dismissed meant that the settlement’s effect on the jury pool was less than expected, lowering the chances of Cahill approving the defense’s request to postpone the trial. If jury selection is completed by that date, the judge has set March 29 for opening statements.

Cahill asked jurors if they’d heard about the settlement without going into detail, including whether they’d seen “extensive media coverage about developments in a civil suit between the city of Minneapolis and the Floyd family.”

The first fired juror, a white man in his 30s, said he learned of the settlement and felt it would be “difficult to be impartial.”

The second dismissed juror said, “The sticker price obviously shocked me.” The Hispanic man in his twenties said he didn’t know if he could put the news aside.

Five other jurors were retained by Cahill, including a Black man in his 30s who said he heard about the settlement on the radio Friday evening but could decide the case based on the evidence presented in court. He said, “It hasn’t impacted me at all because I don’t know the specifics.”

The timing of the announcement, which came in the middle of jury selection, was described by Nelson as “profoundly disturbing” and “unfair.”

Two more jurors were selected on Wednesday, taking the total number of jurors up to nine. Five men and four women make up the group. Five are white, one is multiracial, and three are African-American, with ages ranging from 20 to 50. A total of fourteen jurors are expected, with two alternates.

A Black man in his 40s who works in management and has lived in the Twin Cities area for about two decades after immigrating to America, and a white woman in her 40s who works as a consultant helping companies work through transitions, are the two new jurors.

The man said that he had a neutral opinion of Chauvin and that he should begin with the assumption of innocence. He stated that he trusts police officers, but that a jury should evaluate the officer’s actions.

The woman acknowledged that police officers do not always treat white and black people equally, but she stated that she has a high level of trust in the officers in her community. She stressed the importance of citizens cooperating with police.

“I’m sure I was taught or learned along the way that you respect cops and do what they ask,” she explained.

A man of unknown race who said he would prefer to believe a police officer’s version of events over that of a citizen and a Black man who expressed negative views about the Minneapolis Police Department were both excused.

He claimed Floyd was another Black man who had been “killed” or “murdered” by police, and that he had seen Minneapolis cops ride through the neighborhood near Floyd’s arrest and antagonize residents after someone had been shot or jailed.

Another white man was dismissed after claiming that he had watched multiple videos of Floyd and Chauvin’s interaction and that it would be difficult for him to presume Chauvin’s innocence.

Floyd, a Black man, was declared dead after Chauvin, a white man, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes on May 25. Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter. Floyd’s death, which was caught on tape by a bystander, sparked weeks of sometimes-violent demonstrations around the country and prompted a national conversation about racial justice.

Nelson’s request to delay or move the trial, as well as another to admit evidence of Floyd’s arrest in Minneapolis in 2019, will be decided by the judge on Friday, according to the judge.

Three other police officers will stand trial in August on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

The judge began court on Wednesday by threatening to close a media center and delete a media pool. Cahill, visibly enraged, identified a pool report that included a reporter attempting to read notepads at the defense and prosecution tables, as well as security in the courtroom where the trial is being held.

Cahill warned that any media that published security information risked being thrown out of the media center. He didn’t name any journalists or news organizations.

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