Amy Forliti and Stephen Groves, Associated Press, March 18, 2021
A prospective juror who once lived in the neighborhood where George Floyd was arrested told the attorney for an ex-officer charged in Floyd’s death that he had a personal reason for wanting to serve on the jury.
“Because me, as a Black man, you see a lot of Black people get killed and no one’s held accountable for it, and you wonder why or what was the decisions,” Juror No. 76 said under questioning during jury selection in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial. “So, with this, maybe I’ll be in the room to know why.”
But the man won’t be in the room. Even though he said he felt he could weigh the evidence fairly, he was struck by the defense. It was an illustration of how difficult it can be for people who say they have personal experience with police misconduct to make it onto juries that hold them accountable.
“We have a Black man who was probably in the best position to judge the case being excluded,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and head of a community activism organization called Wayfinder Foundation.
The man said he experiences daily racism, and he strongly agreed that police are more likely to respond with force on Black people than on white people. Levy Armstrong called the juror’s exclusion a “huge slap in the face” that “just underscores why people believe there is systemic racism at work within these judicial processes.”
Jury selection in Chauvin’s case is nearly complete, with 12 of 14 required jurors selected by Thursday. So far, the racial makeup of the jury is evenly split; six of the jurors are white, four are Black, and two are multiracial, according to the court.
Juror 76 — they are being referred to in court only by number to protect anonymity — said Minneapolis police would “ride through the neighborhood with ‘Another One Bites the Dust’” after a local person was shot or arrested.
Levy Armstrong said such context would be essential to the group of 12 people deciding Chauvin’s fate. Local activists have noted that several selected jurors have relationships with police officers, and wondered: Why can’t a Black man who has had negative experiences with police make it on a jury?
Nelson used one of his peremptory strikes to dismiss the man, after trying and failing to have him struck “for cause” — citing his negative opinion of Minneapolis police and his statements that Floyd was “murdered.”