(Reuters) – Twelve jurors were seated by Thursday afternoon in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s deadly arrest last year, a process complicated by the city’s announcement of a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family.
The three members seated on Thursday — two white women and a Black woman — joined a group of jurors diverse in race and age, drawn from in and around Minnesota’s largest city since the trial began last week. The court still seeks to select two alternates to join the 12 jurors, who will weigh what is seen as a landmark case concerning how U.S. law enforcement polices Black people.
Chauvin, 44, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter charges arising from Floyd’s death and has said he correctly followed his police training. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
Chauvin, who is white, placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes as Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, begged for his life during an arrest on May 25, 2020.
The first of the three women seated as jurors on Thursday was questioned for an hour by Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, Chauvin’s lead lawyer and a lawyer working for the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office to assess her impartiality during a process known as voir dire.
The woman, as with virtually all potential jurors screened, told the court she had seen some of the video showing the arrest, which prompted protests in many U.S. cities and in other countries against racism and police brutality.
The juror, described in court records as a white woman in her 50s, said she was a registered nurse who lived alone. When asked by Chauvin’s lead lawyer, Eric Nelson, if she thought it was acceptable to sometimes “second-guess” a police officer’s judgment, she said yes.
“They are human,” she said.
The judge has promised all jurors anonymity for the duration of the trial.
Chauvin, dressed in a suit and tie, took extensive notes on a yellow legal pad.
‘MY LIFE MATTERS’
The second woman seated on Thursday, in her 60s, described herself as a doting grandmother who grew up near the site of Floyd’s death and was now retired from a career in marketing.
She said she had seen news of the settlement but did not know much about it. When asked about the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice, she said she strongly approved.
“I am Black and my life matters,” she told the court.
The person who became the 12th juror, a white woman in her 40s, told the court she had learned from news reports that Chauvin was “an aggressive cop with tax problems” and that Floyd had “abused drugs,” but said she could set aside any preconceptions.
On Wednesday, the judge dismissed two members seated during jury selection last week after they said last Friday’s news of the city of Minneapolis paying Floyd’s relatives $27 million to settle their federal wrongful-death lawsuit meant they could no longer be impartial.
Chauvin and three other officers were arresting Floyd on suspicion he had bought cigarettes using a fake $20 bill. The Minneapolis Police Department fired all four officers the next day, and the three other men are due to face trial later this year on aiding-and-abetting charges.
Chauvin’s lawyer has argued that publicity surrounding the high-profile trial is prejudicial for Chauvin, and has asked the judge to reconsider a motion to move the proceedings to another county. Cahill has said he is considering that request and will rule later.
The rest of the jury seated so far includes two other white women, two white men, three Black men and two multiracial women, according to court records.
Cahill has told jurors to avoid the news as best they can and to report back to court on March 29 for opening statements in the trial.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Howard Goller, Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)