Rulings, More Jurors, On Tap for Chauvin Trial
Judge Cahill will not be delaying the Derek Chauvin trial, more jurors will be pick selected, and several other major rulings.
Hennepin County Judge Pete Cahill said court would resume Monday to pick two more jurors — for a total of 15, one more than expected. Asked about the apparent discrepancy, a court spokesman cited a November order from Cahill that had said up to 16 jurors — 12 to deliberate and four alternates — would be seated.
Seven jurors had been picked last week when the Minneapolis City Council announced it had unanimously approved the massive payout to settle a civil rights lawsuit over Floyd’s death. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, subsequently sought to halt or move the trial, saying the settlement timing was deeply disturbing and jeopardized Chauvin’s chance for a fair trial. Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter.
But Cahill, who called the timing “unfortunate,” said he believed a delay would do nothing to stem the problem of pretrial publicity, and that there’s no place in Minnesota untouched by that publicity.
The judge handed the defense a victory by ruling that the jury can hear evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest, but only information possibly pertaining to the cause of his death in 2020. He acknowledged several similarities between the two encounters, including that Floyd swallowed drugs after police confronted him.
The judge previously said the earlier arrest could not be admitted, but he reconsidered after drugs were found in January in a second search of the police SUV that the four officers attempted to put Floyd in last year. The defense argues that Floyd’s drug use contributed to his death.
Cahill said he’d allow medical evidence of Floyd’s physical reactions, such as his dangerously high blood pressure when he was examined by a paramedic in 2019, and a short clip of an officer’s body camera video. He said Floyd’s “emotional behavior,” such as calling out to his mother, won’t be admitted.
But Cahill said he doesn’t plan to allow the testimony of a forensic psychiatrist for the prosecution. Floyd said he had claustrophobia and resisted getting into the squad car before the fatal encounter last year, and the state wanted Dr. Sarah Vinson to testify that his actions were consistent with a normal person experiencing severe stress, as opposed to faking or resisting arrest.
The judge said he would reconsider allowing her as a rebuttal witness if the defense somehow opens the door, but allowing her to testify could usher in all of the evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest.