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Jury selection paused in Derek Chauvin trial

Jury selection delayed in Derek Chauvin trial
Jury selection delayed in Chauvin trial over murder charge appeal 01:54

Jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd, was paused Monday as prosecutors ask an appeals court to weigh a district court judge's ruling that jury selection may proceed while appeals over charges are still pending. 

Floyd's May 2020 killing drew outrage and a worldwide reckoning on police reform and racial justice. Chauvin, the police officer who was seen in a disturbing video kneeling on the neck of the unarmed Black man for more than nine minutes, is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers involved in the fatal May 2020 arrest will be tried jointly in August. 

The jury selection process had been scheduled to launch Monday morning at the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis, where protesters gathered calling for justice for Floyd. Prospective jurors were sent home for the day after prosecutors filed the request. Chauvin appeared in the courtroom, where limited people were allowed over COVID-19 concerns, wearing a blue suit.

Appearing before Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank argued that jury selection should be stayed until recent appeals over whether to add a charge against Chauvin are resolved. 

Cortez Rice, left, of Minneapolis, sits with others in the middle of Hennepin Avenue on Sunday, March 7, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn., to mourn the death of George Floyd a day before jury selection is set to begin in the trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing Floyd.  Jerry Holt /Star Tribune via AP

"This court would be making decisions about jurors for a trial about which we don't know what the exact charges are going to be yet," Frank said.

On Friday, a Minnesota appeals court handed a win to prosecutors in their bid to re-instate the additional charge against Chauvin: third-degree murder. Chauvin was initially charged with the count, which carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison. But Cahill dropped the count in October, ruling that Minnesota law only permits for the charge against someone who causes a death in an act that endangers multiple people, not in an act directed at one person. 

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Hennepin County Jail

Prosecutors appealed Cahill's decision, saying the ruling was flawed, and Minnesota Court of Appeals on Friday agreed and ordered Cahill to again weigh re-instating the charge. The appeals panel said Cahill is bound to abide by a precedent they set when they upheld a third-degree murder conviction against Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis officer who fatally shot an Australian woman who called 911 in 2017. 

Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson said Monday morning he would ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the appeals court's decision, meaning the issue remains unresolved until that court announces whether it will review the decision.

Cahill said he does not have jurisdiction to address issues surrounding the third-degree murder charge ahead of the possible review by the state's highest court, but he ruled he has jurisdiction to proceed on other aspects of the case. After a recess, Frank said prosecutors had filed a motion with the appeals court to overturn that ruling, leading to the delay. 

Cahill said he planned to proceed until he received formal guidance from the appeals court, and he heard a series of motions Monday afternoon before recessing for the day. Prospective jurors were expected to return to the courthouse Tuesday morning.

Speaking to the media after court adjourned for the day, Floyd's sister Bridgett Floyd thanked supporters, saying, "It means so much to know that George has touched so many lives." 

Bridgett Floyd sat in on the court proceedings Monday in the lone seat designated for a member of the Floyd family, a measure to limit attendance because of COVID-19 concerns. Chauvin's family has also been afforded one seat in the courtroom. 

Bridget Floyd said she missed her brother, whom she knew as "Floyd," and described him as a kind man dedicated to his family. 

"I sat in the courtroom today, and looked at the officer who took my brother's life," Bridgett Floyd said. "I just really wanted that officer to know how much love Floyd had, not only be me and his family, but you guys too, and the people around the country." 

Bridgett Floyd did not comment on the proceedings, but she said the family "is glad the wait is finally over, and the day is here."

"We are praying for justice, and our hope is that justice prevails and we can all use this as an opportunity to be better, and do better for those around us," she said. 

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