Community members and a coalition of social justice organizations gathered outside of the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday March 8 to demand justice for George Floyd as the first day of jury selection began for Derek Chauvin’s trial.
Seven jurors, five men and two women, have been selected for the panel so far. The jury pool will be narrowed down to a total of twelve jurors and two alternates before the trial begins at the end of the month.
Chauvin faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. On Thursday morning, a Hennepin County judge reinstated an additional charge of third-degree murder against Chauvin that was dropped last fall.
“I’m not confident [justice will be served for Floyd] because the tendency for government officials to specifically hold white male police offers accountable is non-existent,” Thea Munson, a student at Concordia University who was protesting outside the courthouse, said.
“People feel apprehensive about the trial. It’s a big deal and the protests have been worldwide. We’re scared it’s going to be the same old, same old because it’s a white cop. But I’m inspired by the people who are here [protesting] today,” Gina Vanaram, a member of the Civilian Police Accountability Commission, said.
Potential jurors are residents from Hennepin County. They were first sent a 14-page questionnaire to assess their familiarity with the case. The questionnaire includes a wide range of questions from their media habits to whether or not they have watched the video of George Floyd’s murder.
The jurors are then questioned by the judge and attorneys through a process called “voir dire.” This process assesses each person’s ability to judge fairly and the potential biases they may have, according to the American Bar Association.
A juror may be dismissed “for cause” if either attorney thinks they are biased towards the case and the judge approves the dismissal.
Both the prosecution and the defense have a specific number of peremptory causes which allows each attorney to dismiss a juror without stating a cause. The only exception is a juror cannot be dismissed based on race or sex, according to the American Bar Association.
The jury selection process is scheduled to continue for the next two weeks before opening statements for the trial begin on March 29.