Jury selection is underway in the coming trial for the alleged murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and one potential juror was dismissed this week after he reportedly expressed fear that a mob would target his family and home if he sat on the jury.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that six jurors were dismissed on Tuesday after they didn’t pass the smell test while three more were seated. Of those seated, two were white men while one was a woman of color.
Upon questioning potential jurors, though, the magnitude of the case has become apparent. That leads to a serious question: Is there any avenue for justice to be served in this case — whatever justice that might be?
Floyd’s death in May caught the attention of the world and led to months of protesting, rioting, other violence and corporate cancel culture. Public figures condemned Chauvin as guilty before the facts of the case were widely known.
Certainly that video of the officer with his knee over Floyd’s neck for a prolonged and what appeared to be a callous amount of time didn’t help his case in the court of public opinion. But the public doesn’t decide justice in this country. That is the job of the court system — and ultimately jurors.
But what happens in a high-profile case where seemingly everyone has either made up their mind, seen the evidence or is outright terrified of the prospect of angering the public? We’re seeing the answer to that question in the jury selection process.
As Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, joined Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill and state attorney Steven Schleicher in choosing jurors, one of those prospective jurors reportedly expressed a sentiment that you knew was coming: He was afraid of the wrath of a public bent on street justice.
While some jurors were dismissed Tuesday for displaying outright bias against police (or Chauvin specifically) or being generally viewed as impossible to weigh the details of the case impartially, one man simply didn’t want anything to do with what will surely be a media circus.
“While questioned by Nelson, Juror #8 appeared to express more concern about being on the jury for this high-profile case compared to those previously interviewed,” Fox News reported. “On his questionnaire given to the pool of jurors in December, the man explained that his friends moved out of a condominium downtown as civil unrest consumed the streets following Floyd’s death.”
That man had “voiced concern in court that rioters could attack his home — or come after his wife and kids — should his name ever be released during proceedings in the death of George Floyd,” the Fox report added.
The power of the threat of mob violence is already tainting the juror pool, and we have to assume we only know a fraction of that part of the story.
Additionally, it’s worth asking of those who do decide to sit on the jury how many of the 12 jurors and two alternates chosen will be truthful in the selection process and eventually evaluate the facts of the case with an open mind? Will racial and political activists cloak themselves as justice-seeking people? Who knows.
This trial is already setting up to be a fiasco. Prosecutors are still attempting to re-charge Chauvin with third-degree murder in the death of Floyd after the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently struck that charge. Additionally, since Floyd’s final moments went viral, we know that while he is alleged to have been strangled to death, he also had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, according to the Star Tribune.
That drug cocktail can lead to respiratory arrest, which will be for the jury to decide after hearing the evidence and science.
Right now the former cop faces charges of second-degree murder — unintentional — and second-degree manslaughter, according to the Star Tribune. Whether he is convicted or not, his life as he knew it is over due to the high-profile nature of this case, which itself is an issue and a potential barrier to justice being carried out.
No matter how you feel about the optics of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, justice needs to be served blindly — whatever that justice is. If the evidence shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that Chauvin killed Floyd with a motive supporting the charges, then he should be convicted. If the evidence shows otherwise, then we’re talking about the need to release a cop in an anti-cop environment where that cop is public enemy number one.
In that case, justice would demand he be released, which would likely lead to more riots and violence. But this case cannot be influenced by any of that.
No matter how you look at it, or how the jury will rule, the officer deserves the presumption of innocence in court, and whether he will be afforded that remains to be seen. We know that at least one man was so afraid of where the facts of the case might lead him that he had to be let go.
Could jurors on the case eventually find themselves convicting Chauvin, who they might believe to be innocent, in order to please a mob avoid threats to their lives, families and property? We’ll likely never know, once they eventually emerge from deliberating the case.
But this doesn’t look good for Chauvin, and there is the potential that people might voluntarily partake in a miscarriage of justice in order to avoid becoming targets for violence and intimidation by people who view a conviction as a formality which must be done to enact racial justice for causes far from Minnesota and unrelated to Floyd.
This case is much bigger than Chauvin and the other officers facing charges, and bigger than Floyd. The integrity of the entire criminal justice system appears to be on trial here.
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