The court listens as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over pretrial motions prior to opening statements March 29 in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV via AP, Pool)
Countless spectators are tuning in every day to the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd. But the most important audience in the trial, which kicks off its second week Monday, is the jury that will decide Chauvin's fate.
The identities of the 12 jurors and two alternates watching the monthlong trial are unknown, and Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill intends to keep them anonymous until after they reach a verdict.
But the court has released some demographic information about them. Three are in their 20s, three are in their 30s, three are in their 40s, four are in their 50s, one is in her 60s. Five are men and nine are women. Eight are white, two are multiracial and four are Black.
These jurors are hardly blank slates. Before the trial began, all but one of them had already seen at least a portion of the viral video posted to social media that showed Chauvin pinning Floyd's neck down for about nine minutes, as Floyd — who was being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill — begged Chauvin to stop, said he couldn't breathe and eventually lost consciousness. That image of a Black man gasping for breath under the knee of a white police officer rekindled a nationwide racial justice movement last summer.
All potential jurors in the Chauvin trial filled out a 14-page questionnaire about their knowledge of Floyd's death and their opinions of thorny political issues. Then they were carefully vetted during a two-week jury selection process.
They were asked about their views of not only the case — nine of them already had a negative opinion of the defendant — but also about the Black Lives Matter movement, the blue lives matter counter-slogan, opiate addiction, and racism in the criminal justice system. They were asked how they approach conflict, and how they can tell if someone is lying. They were asked whether they wanted to serve in this case.
Their answers provided a glimpse into who each of them are, and the life experiences they carry with them as they watch this trial. Here is what we know about them.
Juror No. 2: white man in his 20s, chemist
The first juror seated on the first day of jury selection considers himself "a pretty logical person," in part because of his scientific training as a chemist. He was surprised to be summoned for this case, and said he felt the "magnitude" of it.
Juror No. 2 claimed to know little about the arrest that led to Floyd's death. He was the only seated juror who said he hadn't seen any of the infamous bystander video. And yet on his questionnaire, he described Floyd being "killed" by Chauvin — a characterization he retracted during questioning by defense attorney Eric Nelson of Halberg Criminal Defense.
He also was asked about a portion of the questionnaire in which he ranked his agreement with a series of statements.
He agreed people of color are treated differently in the criminal justice system, but pointed to sentencing disparities, not policing, as the reason. During questioning, he said he wasn't sure why he'd marked that he "somewhat agreed" with the statement "local police departments try to cover up excessive force rather than correcting it" on the questionnaire. He said he'd revise his answer to say "no opinion."
He said he wanted to serve on the Chauvin case because it was his civic duty, but Nelson pushed back. He noted some people try to give impartial answers so they can get on a jury, "because they have a cause."
Juror No. 2 told him, "My answers were truthful."
Juror No. 9: multiracial woman in her 20s, occupation unknown
Juror No. 9 could barely contain her excitement about being in the courtroom. She said she had voted in November just so she would be eligible for jury duty.
When she learned she might help decide the high-profile Chauvin case, she was "even more excited," because "it's a very important case not just for Hennepin County, but just nationwide."
But she claimed she had no ax to grind. She had a somewhat negative view of Chauvin, she said, because the viral video was "the only thing I've ever seen of this person."
She believes Black people are discriminated against in the criminal justice system, and supports the idea of Black Lives Matter, but thinks it's "turned into a propaganda scheme to get you to buy their stuff." She had a similar view of the pro-police slogan "blue lives matter."
She has an uncle who's a police officer, but said she wouldn't have trouble facing him if she found Chauvin guilty.
"He knows me and knows I wouldn't base it off just one piece of evidence," she said.
She felt that she'd be a good mediator in the jury room, that she could serve as a referee during disputes about how to interpret evidence. When asked how she would assess witnesses' credibility, she said she'd watch their body language and the way they talk, adding, "People can tell you a lot without telling you a lot."
Juror No. 19: white man in his 30s, auditor
Juror No. 19 described himself as an "honest person," and said his experience in client services and managing project deadlines would help him ease conflict during deliberations.
He had a "somewhat negative" view of Chauvin. He wrote in his questionnaire that Chauvin "held a knee on [Floyd's] neck for seven minutes" and that when Floyd grew unresponsive, police "did not resuscitate George while the ambulance arrived."
In court, he said his negative view stemmed from the fact that Floyd died during his arrest, instead of getting his day in court.
Nelson will try to prove that Floyd died of a drug overdose, not from asphyxiation, and he'll provide evidence of Floyd's struggle with opiates. Juror No. 19 had already read that Floyd's autopsy indicated he had drugs in his system when he died, and Steve Schleicher, a partner at the Minneapolis law firm Maslon LLP who is working pro bono for the prosecution, asked whether that might tarnish his opinion of Floyd. He said it would not.
Juror No. 19 indicated he'd read that Floyd had been arrested in the past, but told Schleicher that "what has happened in the past shouldn't be on trial here."
He said he hadn't decided on Chauvin's guilt or innocence. To do that, he said, he'd have to weigh the charges and the facts presented at trial. If there wasn't enough information, he said, he'd find Chauvin not guilty.
Juror No. 27: Black man in his 30s, IT security manager
Juror No. 27 is a manager to a staff of eight people, and said that experience has helped hone his decision-making skills, especially when two workers come to him with different opinions about the best way to approach a task.
He immigrated to the United States 14 years ago, and he used to live near to the neighborhood where Floyd was killed. When he first learned of Floyd's death, he talked to his wife about how "that could have been me." When asked by Nelson what he meant by that, he said, "It could have been anybody. It could have been you."
He had a "somewhat negative" view of Chauvin based on what he saw in the video, but he also expressed curiosity about what it didn't show.
He said he supported the racial justice protests that occurred last summer, "but not the looting." He has a positive view of the Black Lives Matter movement, he said, because "any lives matter, but Black lives matter more because they are marginalized."
He also supported the idea of "blue lives matter," saying, "cops need to feel safe to protect the community." He has had no personal experience with Minneapolis police.
Juror No. 44: white woman in her 50s, health care advocate
This single mother said that when first learned she'd been summoned for this case, her response was "oh my god." She wasn't afraid for her safety, but expects some harassment no matter the outcome, because, she said, people on either side "may not accept whatever verdict comes out — I mean, look at what happened with our election."
She is a C-level executive, and when asked if she has to resolve conflict between two people, she said, "All the time." She focuses on getting both sides of the story, she said.
On the questionnaire, when asked what she knew about the case, she attached two full pages. She said she didn't know anything about the rules for police use of force and detainment procedures, but "a man died, and I'm sure that's not procedure."
She felt sympathy for Floyd and the officers, saying, "everyone's lives were changed by what happened."
Juror No. 44 also said that people of color have been "disenfranchised," and are treated differently by the criminal justice system. To illustrate her point, she described a conversation with a Black co-worker whose son is the same age as her son. The co-worker taught her child that when he's pulled over by police, he has to be sure his hands are on the steering wheel and he has to wait for the police to tell him it's OK to reach for his driver's license. Juror No. 44, who is white, was surprised to learn this from her co-worker, because, she said, "that's not something I ever thought about teaching my son."
Juror No. 52: Black man in his 30s, youth sports coach, banker
Juror No. 52 is a professional in the banking industry, but he said it's his experience as a youth sports coach that taught him the skills he'll need in the courtroom, like assessing whether people are "bending the truth," picking up on patterns and settling disputes.
His opinion of Chauvin was "neutral," because he didn't believe he "set out to murder anyone," but he said he also couldn't understand why the other officers didn't intervene. He admitted he doesn't know anything about police training, and said he'd be eager to learn, because he likes to understand "the thought process behind something."
Juror No. 52, who is Black, said he thinks discrimination is a serious problem. He supports the statement "Black Lives Matter," though he doesn't think local protests have achieved much.
His experience with law enforcement has been a mixed bag. He described witnessing police body-slam and mace someone in downtown Minneapolis — a scene he found disturbing. But he was once pulled over, and he thought police acted professionally. And he works out at the same gym as some police officers, who he described as "great guys."
Juror No. 55: white woman in her 50s, health care field
During a lighter moment in her questioning, this woman said she recently bought a motorcycle to honor her late husband, who was an avid biker.
As a single mother of two who works in the health care field, she has plenty of experience determining what the truth is — a process she described as "a matter of gathering the facts." She said in jury deliberations, she would listen to what her fellow jurors have to say at first, and then eventually form her own opinion. She has never served on a jury before.
She thought Chauvin could have handled Floyd's arrest differently. She never watched the full bystander video, because it "disturbed" her that Chauvin never took his knee off Floyd's neck.
Juror No. 55 lives in a Minneapolis suburb, and had a negative opinion of the protests fueled by Floyd's death, calling them "riots" and noting they came "not too far from where I live." When asked her opinion of Black Lives Matter on the questionnaire, she marked "somewhat unfavorable," but she said in court she wasn't sure why she wrote that, saying, "I believe all lives matter."
When asked her views of police, she recounted witnessing a scene in a local park when she saw a woman yelling at a young white man. Four officers soon showed up, and she felt they were harassing him and overreacted, especially since he was unarmed.
Juror No. 79: Black man in his 40s, manager
When Juror No. 79 resolves a dispute, he said he tries to listen to both sides. His experience as a manager following company policy will help him in the jury deliberation room, he said.
"We'll have to listen to each other," he said, and "follow the law."
He had no opinion of Chauvin and no opinion about who was responsible for Floyd's death. He said "it would help" to hear from Chauvin himself, but understood that he's not required to testify.
Juror No. 79 said he does think there is some discrimination in the criminal justice system. He's seen reporting about mistakes that law enforcement has made, and he's noticed that in those cases, the suspects tend to be Black.
But he said police in his community made him feel safe, especially when home was burglarized and officers responded to the scene right away. That's why he opposes efforts to defund the Minneapolis Police Department: "If they were defunded," he said, "how [would] they help me?"
Schleicher tested how far his support of police would go when considering the facts of the case, especially since Nelson will try to suggest Floyd was resisting arrest.
Juror No. 85: multiracial woman in her 40s, business consultant
Juror No. 85 is a mother of a young child and a business consultant for companies that are reorganizing. She said she tries to make decisions that are "evidence-driven, rather than emotional."
While she said she had a negative opinion of Chauvin, based on him "ignoring the pleas of George and bystanders," she hadn't formed an opinion about the cause of Floyd's death.
She thinks racism is a problem in the criminal justice system, though she has "no data or information to back that up." But she also said police make her feel very safe, and she doesn't have an opinion on efforts to defund the Minneapolis Police Department.
While she empathizes with law enforcement officers, she does think they should be held accountable.
She had a neutral view of both Black Lives Matter and blue lives matter, and had a mixed opinion of the racial justice protests fueled by Floyd's death — she condemned the property destruction, but said the movement was "giving people a voice" and "getting people rallied around some of the issues they face today."
Juror No. 89: white woman in her 50s, nurse
When she learned attorneys had agreed to seat her on the jury, Juror No. 89 let out a heavy sigh. She'd expressed "ambivalence" about serving in the case, noting it had garnered a lot of media coverage. She lives alone, and enjoys her privacy. She said she wouldn't be the type to be interviewed on "Dateline" at the end of the trial.
But her approach to nursing revealed she had some of the qualities that are desirable in a juror, and could carefully reach a decision based on evidence.
Her job could also affect her perception of the case. She would likely view medical evidence differently than other jurors, she said. And if she was off-duty and saw someone in need of emergency aid, she said, she would "jump in to help" — a sentiment echoed by Genevieve Hansen, a witness who testified last week that she was desperate to administer aid to Floyd when she happened upon his arrest, and that police wouldn't allow her to get near him.
Juror No. 89 had a neutral opinion of both Floyd and Chauvin, and said she'd want to know about Chauvin's training so she could assess whether he acted reasonably. She wanted to know why Chauvin had kneeled on Floyd's neck for so long. "Knowing that Mr. Floyd died," she said, made her feel "it was too long." But she also wanted to know if Floyd cooperated with police, and if he was armed.
She "strongly agreed" that Black people don't get equal treatment in the criminal justice system. She thinks it's fair to second-guess police, even when making split-second decisions, and noted that nurses always debrief after a "code blue" cardiac arrest, "to determine what went wrong and what went right."
Juror No. 91: Black woman in her 60s, retired marketer
Juror No. 91 said her experience as a grandmother and her training in psychology could affect how she interprets evidence, especially testimony and different witnesses' perceptions of the truth.
She watched several minutes of the bystander video of Floyd's death when it popped up on her social media feed, but she shut it off halfway through, she said, because, "it just wasn't something that I needed to see."
She said she has a neutral view of the defendant, because there are "two sides of the story," and she didn't yet know all the details.
Her opinion of law enforcement officers is positive, she said, because "they are there to protect the community." One of her relatives is a police officer, and Juror No. 91 said she was proud of that person's service.
Her view of the protests in downtown Minneapolis were mostly negative, because she worried about the property destruction. But she also expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement, writing in her questionnaire, "I am Black and my life matters."
Juror No. 92: white woman in her 40s, insurance client advocate
This juror described herself as "more of an observer," and said that at least at first, she would sit back and listen to her fellow jurors during deliberations.
In her questionnaire, she wrote her opinion of Chauvin was negative, and that the media had painted him as "an aggressive cop with tax problems." She felt that he used excessive force.
But her impression of Floyd was negative as well — she didn't believe he was "completely innocent," and she'd read that "his record wasn't clean" and he "abused drugs at some point."
That was a point Schleicher asked her about, and she said Floyd's addiction might affect her opinion of him.
Police make her feel safe. She's called 911 for a few "minor incidents," and officers arrived quickly, she said. She strongly disagreed with the idea of defunding the Minneapolis Police Department.
She also believes discrimination exists in the criminal justice system, and she has a favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement, but said she personally has not participated in protests.
Juror No. 96: white woman in her 50s, unemployed
As a former customer service representative, Juror No. 96 has dealt with her fair share of conflict. She said that she's good at de-escalation, a handy trait in a deliberation room, and that she has experience applying company policies to a set of facts.
She wrote in her questionnaire that based on the bystander video, she believed Chauvin's "restraint was ultimately responsible for Floyd's demise." When questioned about that in court, she admitted she "assumed it was the cause," but said she could come to a decision based on the evidence, and knew the video "may not show the entirety" of what happened on the day Floyd died.
She agreed that people of color receive disparate treatment in the criminal justice system. He said she has a favorable view of Black Lives Matter, and supports their "right to express themselves, to ask for change."
She also said that police make her feel safe, and that she "respect[s] public servants."
Juror No. 118: white woman in her 20s, social worker
Juror No. 118 described herself as an empath who tries to understand where other people are coming from. That might affect both how she approaches deliberations with her fellow jurors, she said, and how she interprets evidence and testimony.
Her empathy also affected her initial impressions of Floyd, she said, who was depicted in the media as both a family man and a person struggling with drug addiction.
Her view of Chauvin was negative, but she said she could set that aside and focus on the evidence at trial.
She opposes defunding the Minneapolis Police Department, because she feels safe knowing police are in her community. Earlier in her career as a social worker, she would call on law enforcement officers to help her deal with clients "if they were being unruly in a class" or "if they were saying things that were alarming."
Her social work training also inflects her view of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, and has taught her that people of color don't always get the same educational and career opportunities as white people. But she balked at the notion of Black Lives Matter, saying that she didn't think they mattered any more than Latino lives or blue lives.
"I'm trained to respect everyone," she wrote in her questionnaire.
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--Editing by Katherine Rautenberg.