Lawyers are struggling to find impartial jurors in the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin — who allegedly killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck in May 2020.
One more juror was seated on Thursday — only the sixth person since jury selection began Tuesday — but others said they could not be impartial.
One prospective juror called the scene of Floyd’s death “holy ground” and another said she couldn’t “unsee” viral video of the incident.
“I’ve seen the video, so I can’t unsee it,” the woman, identified as prospective juror 37, told Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill.
“Are you willing,” Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson asked, “or are you able to set what you know about this case now aside and judge this case based upon the evidence in court?”
“Like I mentioned before, there’s video surveillance, so I can’t unsee the video,” she said. “So I’m not able to set that part aside… It’s still going to be traumatizing to me”.
Prospective juror 41 express similar concerns.
“I have formed an opinion,” she told the judge. “I think it would be hard to get rid of that opinion, and I’m really not sure if I could.”
Another prospective juror, a music teacher, said he could approach the case “with a clean slate” — but conceded that he had gone to the scene of Floyd’s death and prayed with his wife, calling the site “holy ground” on social media.
So far three white men, a black man, a Hispanic man, and a woman of mixed race have been seated in the case, but Nelson has used 7 of the 15 challenges he is allowed.
Prosecutors have used 4 of the 9 that they are alloted.
Other prospective jurors have been dismissed by Cahill, and 18 others were dismissed without even being questioned, in many cases over answers they gave on a 16-page jury questionnaire that was sent to them in December.
In one instance on Thursday, prosecutors questioned Nelson’s decision to challenge a prospective juror, noting, in part, that the man is Hispanic.
“The prospective juror identifies as Hispanic,” Steve Schleicher, an attorney working with the state attorney general on the case.
“We believe that the prospective juror stated an unequivocal ability to follow the law, follow the court’s instructions, presume innocence, and did not express any views that were outside of what other seated jurors have expressed, ” Schleicher said.
“I don’t find that this was race-based,” Cahill answered. “This juror was very torn, you could tell… It was difficult for him to get beyond the videotape because he likened it, unlike any other potential juror, to a World War II occupation.”
The video of the incident shows Chauvin, then a cop, with his knee pressed against the back of Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a Minneapolis convenience store.
Floyd’s death sparked global outrage and led to massive protests, rioting, and looting in the Minnesota city and elsewhere.
Three other former officers — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao — are scheduled to stand trial separately on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.