George Floyd death
It was video footage seen across the world – Derek Chauvin with his knee pressed on the neck of
George Floyd for about nine minutes before he died.
Now the former US police officer faces trial on second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.
Three other dismissed officers will stand trial together later this year, but proceedings in
Mr Chauvin’s trial will start on Monday, when jury selection begins.
George Floyd death – Jury Selection
A pool of eligible local citizens has been called to appear by Hennepin County in Minnesota.
From them, a jury of 12 and four alternates will be selected. It could take weeks.
Although it is highly unlikely potential jurors will have no prior knowledge of the case – George Floyd’s death
in May last year in Minneapolis inspired weeks of global protests – they will be questioned to
determine whether they will be able to judge Derek Chauvin fairly.
The prosecution and defence can both ask Judge Peter Cahill to dismiss a potential juror “for cause” if they
perceive bias. The prosecution can also dismiss nine potential jurors – and the defence
team 15 – without giving any reason, although this can be objected to.
Once 16 people have been approved, the jury can be seated. The trial itself will not begin until 29 March.
Each potential juror has already been asked to fill in a 16-page questionnaire about the case.
Why is jury selection so crucial?
In cases involving issues such as racism, the selection process can be seen as hugely important to the outcome of
the trial and how fair it is perceived. A lack of diversity could lead to questions about the legitimacy of the verdict.
The jury pool in Hennepin County was 80% white and 8% black in the financial year to September 2020,
the New York Times reported, a bigger gap than for Minneapolis as a whole (64% to 19%).
The vetting system does try to ensure that a cross-section of society is represented, but at the same time,
both defence and prosecution will be looking for jurors that will bring them a favourable outcome.
In high-stakes trials, they often use special consultants who look at factors such as
the jurors’ backgrounds and even their body language.
Prof Hans says the judge will need to keep a close eye on patterns emerging among
dismissals of potential jurors by the prosecution or defence, as this cannot be done on race grounds.
In general terms, legal experts say white jurors are less likely to convict law enforcement officials,
although it is in unclear how much of this has changed following the worldwide reaction to the Floyd case.
The chosen jurors will be partially sequestered, or isolated, during the trial and fully sequestered once
deliberation starts. They will also remain anonymous until the judge allows their identities to be made public.
It’s not uncommon for US jurors to speak out about their deliberations afterwards, and in some infamous
examples, like the OJ Simpson trial, some have even gone on to write books about their experiences.