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Society

6 Chosen for Chauvin Trial Jury So Far; Murder Charge Added

MINNEAPOLIS — A man who said he has a "very negative" impression of Derek Chauvin nevertheless became the sixth juror selected for the former Minneapolis police officer's trial in George Floyd's death.

The man, who told attorneys he could set that aside and consider the evidence in the case, was the only juror chosen Thursday in a day most notable for the judge restoring a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin.

When jury selection resumes Friday for a fourth day, the panel seated so far will include five men and one woman. Three of those seated are white, one is multiracial, one is Hispanic, and one is Black, according to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill.

Cahill's restoration of the third-degree murder charge came at the start of Thursday's proceedings, handing prosecutors one more option for a conviction if they choose. Chauvin, failed to get appellate courts to block the charge. Cahill had earlier rejected it as not warranted by the circumstances of Floyd's death, but an appellate court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds.

Cahill told potential jurors after the ruling that he still expects opening statements on March 29.

Floyd was declared dead on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against the Black man's neck for about nine minutes. Floyd's death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond, leading to a nationwide reckoning on race.

The sole juror picked Thursday described himself as an outgoing, family-oriented soccer fan for whom the prospect of the trial is "kind of exciting." 

The man said he's also a fan of true crime podcasts and TV shows. He acknowledged under questioning from defense attorney Eric Nelson that he had a "very negative" impression of Chauvin. The man wrote on his questionnaire that he had seen the widely viewed bystander video of Floyd "desperately screaming that he couldn't breathe" even as other officers stood by and bystanders shouted that Chauvin was killing him.

Yet asked whether he could set his opinions aside and stick to the evidence presented in court, he replied: "I'm willing to see all the evidence and everything, hear witnesses."

Several other candidates were dismissed, including a woman who said she "can't unsee the video" of Chauvin pinning Floyd, and a man who said he has doubts about Black Lives Matter and the way the group pursues its goals. 

Nelson pressed the woman hard on her ability to be fair despite her strong opinions. 

Asked how the events of last summer had affected the community, she replied: "Negatively affected because a life was taken. Positively because a movement has come from it and the whole world knows." Asked about the property damage during the unrest, she said, "I felt that was what needed to happen to bring this to the world's attention."

"Looking in your heart and looking in your mind can you assure us you can set all of that aside, all of that, and focus only on the evidence that is presented in this courtroom?" Nelson asked.

"I can assure you, but like you mentioned earlier, the video is going to be a big part of the evidence and there's no changing my mind about that," she replied.

At least three weeks have been set aside to complete a jury of 12 plus two alternates. Potential jurors' identities are being protected and they are not shown on livestreamed video of the proceedings.

Chauvin and three other officers  were fired. The others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges. The defense hasn't said whether Chauvin will testify in his own defense.

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