Brandon Mitchell and 11 of his fellow Minnesotans found fired police officer Derek Chauvinin the murder of George Floyd — and Mitchell says the testimonies of two witnesses in particular sealed his decision.
"I think as a whole jury, I think Dr. Tobin was the biggest, the most influential witness out of everybody. For me personally, Donald Williams was another person," the 31-year-old Mitchell told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King.
MMA fighter Donald Williams was one of the early trial witnesses, having been present when Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck. Williams was praised for his calm demeanor despite defense attorney Eric Nelson's repeat attempts to seemingly elicit an emotional reaction from him.
Mitchell said Williams' testimony in particular "set the tone for the rest of the trial," but it was Dr. Martin J. Tobin's words that resonated the most with the juror. Tobin, a physician and pulmonary specialist, testified on behalf of the prosecution that Floyd died of low oxygen levels as a result of the way he was prone on the street.
And then when Dr. Tobin came, with him speaking so scientifically but also making it understandable for everyone along with the exhibits that he came with, I thought he just broke it down in a manner that was easy for all the jurors to understand," Mitchell said. "And I didn't think there was any way to — for the defense to come back after that."
After a historic televised trial, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after the killing of Floyd in May 2020 was caught on a video that sparked global outrage and aagainst police violence.
Despite the heightened scrutiny, Mitchell said he did not feel pressured to convict Chauvin, but having to watch Floyd's death repeatedly during the trial did have an intense impact on him.
"Coming in each and every day and having to watch somebody die is stressful enough by itself. So anything outside of that was secondary," he said.
"There was a few days where I was like, I don't know how I'm going to make it in this next day."
Read their full conversation below:
"CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King: 31-year-old Brandon Mitchell was known only as juror #52, and he joins us now. Brandon, we're really glad to see you because all of us wanted to know what happened. So I'd like you if you could, please take us inside the room. I think we were surprised that you're 12 strangers, you didn't know each other, you go in the room — what's the process, and how were you able to reach a verdict so quickly? And good morning!
Juror Brandon Mitchell: Yeah. Absolutely. Good morning to you. First, I want to send my condolences to the Floyd family.
Mitchell: But when we walked into the deliberation room, the first thing we did is we voted on whether or not we wanted to have our mask on. We made that kind of an ice breaker to get going. We voted to not have our mask on. We took our masks off. We voted for a foreperson, and from there we went straight into the manslaughter charges and took a preliminary vote before doing a final vote on those charges.
King: What was the preliminary vote?
Mitchell: The preliminary vote was 11 of us were already — we were already on board for guilty for the manslaughter. One person was still unsure. And we just went over it as a team, as a group. Each person kind of went down the line on why they thought it was guilty. We did another vote maybe 40 minutes later after we went through everybody, and everybody was on the same page for the manslaughter. It happened really quickly.
King: Did you do that with each of the charges? Is that what you did, took a vote on each of the charges?
Mitchell: Yeah, absolutely. Each charge we did a preliminary vote to see where we were at, if there was anybody that was not on board yet or was unsure. Then we would go around the room, everybody kind of speak on what they think is necessary to speak on. We went over maybe a little bit of the evidence. And then we'd come back with a final vote whenever we thought it was a suitable time.
King: What was the one person unsure about, Brandon?
Mitchell: I think it was just like, the terminology. So within the instructions, some of the terminology can be a little tricky, because it's legal jargon. And so sometimes some of the words can be interpreted differently among people. It was just they wanted to do their due diligence and make sure that they were coming out with the right verdict that they believed in. So they were hung up on a few words. We went through the definitions that were given to us and kind of broke it down from different perspectives to get everybody on the same page.
King: Was there any particular witness that moved you and moved the jury that you said, okay, we're deeply affected by 'fill in the blank'?
Mitchell: So I think as a whole jury, I think Dr. Tobin was the biggest, the most influential witness out of everybody. For me personally, Donald Williams was another person. Soand Dr. Tobin --
King: That's the fighter, yeah. The mixed martial arts fighter.
Mitchell: Yeah, so him early on, I felt he set the tone for the rest of the trial. And then when Dr. Tobin came, with him speaking so scientifically but also making it understandable for everyone along with the exhibits that he came with, I thought he just broke it down in a manner that was easy for all the jurors to understand. And I didn't think there was any way to — for the defense to come back after that. I was like, to me, the case was — it was done at that point almost.
King: Did you feel pressure because you knew the world was watching? That, you know, we have to reach a guilty verdict here?
Mitchell: Not at all. And I don't think any of us felt like that. I for sure did not. I for sure did not feel like that. The pressure more so came from just being in the room and being under stress. But it wasn't pressure to come to A guilty verdict.
King: What were you all stressed about?
Mitchell: We were just stressed about just the simple fact that every day we had to come in and watch a Black man die. That alone is stressful. Coming in each and every day and having to watch somebody die is stressful enough by itself. So anything outside of that was secondary, just because as a human, it's natural to feel some kind of way as you're watching somebody in agony.
King: Yeah. I can't imagine, Brandon, what it was like to be able to watch that tape day after day after day, the way you all did.
Mitchell: Yeah. It definitely had its impact on me. There was a few days where I was like, I don't know how I'm going to make it in this next day, especially me as a Black man. And a larger black man, I'm about 6'4", 250 pounds. And some of the testimony is like saying how size can be considered like, you know, is it a risk or threat. Whereas me, I'm a gentle giant. Stuff like that, that affects me in a way that — it's weird. I don't know if it affects anybody else the same way.
King: I understand. I understand what you're saying. How did you all feel about Derek Chauvin, the fact that he did not take the stand? Would that have made a difference to you? We'll never know, but do you think it would have made a difference?
Mitchell: It possibly — it possibly could have. We did talk about, you know, the fact that he didn't. Somebody had brought it up, like they wished he would have, they would have liked to have heard from him. But since it wasn't part of the case, it just is what it is. But yeah, I mean, anything brought in or not brought in, it could have possibly affected it either way. Either way I can't say it would have changed the outcome, but it's a possibility for sure.
King: Do you worry about your safety now? This was such a controversial case. We now know your name, we now know what you look like, we now know that you said you're a large man. Do you worry about your safety?
Mitchell: No, not at all. Not at all. I'm a person that kind of thrives in the positives. So I'm not too much concerned about that. Nor do I dwell on —
King: —the what if's—
Mitchell: —on negativity like that. Yeah, the what if's.
King: And he's going to be sentenced June 25. What do you think is the proper sentence for him, for Derek Chauvin? He's facing up to 40 years.
Mitchell: Yeah. I couldn't say what the proper sentencing would be. You know, I think we came up with the right verdict. You know, guilty on all charges. And you know, I'll let the judge do what he does.
King: All right, thank you very much. We really wanted to hear from you today. It's been a fascinating case that we've been watching.
Mitchell: Yes, thank you.