Concern appears to be fading that a massive settlement for George Floyd‘s family will derail the trial of a former police officer accused in his death, with most potential jurors saying they avoided news of the settlement or could set it aside.
Two jurors seated before news of the city’s $27 million settlement broke last week were dismissed Wednesday after being re-questioned by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, but five others were retained.
One of those who was retained, a Black man, told Cahill he heard about the settlement on the radio Friday but that he could put it aside and decide the case only on the evidence that was presented in the courtroom.
“It hasn’t affected me at all because I don’t know the details,” he said.
Two new jurors were seated later in the day, putting the jury back at nine. Five are men and four are women. According to the court, four are white, two are multiracial and three are Black, and their ages range from 20s to 50s.
Fourteen jurors, including two alternates, are needed for former officer Derek Chauvin’s trial on murder and manslaughter charges in Floyd’s death.
Cahill has set March 29 for opening statements if the jury is complete by then. Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson, who requested jurors be recalled for re-questioning because of the settlement, has also asked that the trial be delayed or moved elsewhere. Cahill said he would rule Friday on those motions, but he has previously rejected moving it, saying publicity about Floyd’s death has reached every corner of the state. Cahill also awarded additional juror strikes to each side this week.
The two new jurors include a Black man in his 40s who said he works in management and has lived in the Twin Cities area for about two decades after immigrating to the United States, and a multiracial woman in her 40s who works as a consultant.
The man said he had a neutral view of Chauvin and could start with a presumption of innocence. He said he trusts police, but that it would be fair for a jury to evaluate the officer’s actions.
The woman said she agreed that police don’t always treat white and Black people equally, but that she has a pretty strong faith in police in her community. She said it’s important for people to cooperate with police.
“I’ve probably been taught or learned along the way that you respect police and you do what they ask,” she said.
Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd, a Black man who was declared dead after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes. Floyd’s death, captured on bystander video, set off weeks of sometimes-violent protests across the country and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.
The judge is also expected to rule Friday on Nelson’s request to admit evidence of Floyd’s 2019 arrest in Minneapolis.
Three other former officers face an August trial in Floyd’s death on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.