Jury selection in the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd got underway Tuesday — with defense lawyers immediately focusing on viral video of the deadly encounter.
“When you first saw the video, would you be willing to change that opinion if you find other information out later,” defense lawyer Eric Nelson asked the first potential juror, who admitted being troubled by the footage.
“Well, if it is true,” the woman answered.
“We have to be very clear here, okay?” Nelson said. “Would you be willing to reexamine your opinion today if you see other evidence that would allow you to change your mind?”
“Yes,” the woman answered.
The video, which sparked worldwide outrage, stands to be the biggest hurdle for selecting an impartial jury in the case.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill addressed the first panel of potential jurors shortly after 10 a.m. Eastern Time, beginning the highly anticipated proceedings that have garnered worldwide attention.
Chauvin, 44, in the courtroom wearing a light gray suit with a blue shirt and dark tie, faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in Floyd’s May 25 death.
The video of the incident shows Chauvin pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he was handcuffed.
But the footage isn’t the only challenge for the defense, given the high-profile nature of the incident. A second panelist questioned said he had not seen the footage, but was grilled over answers on his jury questionnaire.
“You use the word ‘killed’ to describe the death of George Floyd,” Nelson asked the man. What do you think that that use of that word demonstrates of your opinion about this case?”
“I wouldn’t say that it’s demonstrative of my opinion,” the man answered.
Potential jurors will be questioned individually by the judge, prosecutors, and Chauvin’s lawyers, with 12 to be empaneled along with four alternates — two more than usual.
The trial is proceeding under tight security in and out of the courtroom.
Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday but Cahill delayed the process by one day over an unresolved issue regarding an additional murder charge.
Chauvin had also been charged with third-degree murder, but Cahill tossed that charge in October — prompting prosecutors to appeal to the Court of Appeals.
The appeals panel ruled Friday that Cahill erred in dismissing the charge — but defense lawyers said they are appealing to the Supreme Court, Minnesota’s highest court.
Prosecutors asked the jury selection be halted until that issue is resolved, but Cahill said Monday he would push ahead and begin selecting a jury panel.