Decision Could Lead to Reinstatement of Charge Against Former Minneapolis Officer

The Minnesota Supreme Court declined Wednesday to hear the appeal of a former Minneapolis police officer who is trying to block a third-degree murder charge from being reinstated in George Floyd’s death.At issue is whether the conviction of another former police officer in an unrelated case established a precedent for prosecutors to restore a third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin that the trial judge dismissed earlier.The high court’s decision left open the possibility that the judge could add the charge back, lessening the chances that his trial would be delayed over the dispute.Judge Peter Cahill noted the ruling during a break and told the prosecution and defense that they would discuss the issue Thursday morning before jury selection began for the day. He noted that there were still some legal issues left to be decided before the dispute could be resolved.During the second day of jury selection, attorneys probed potential jurors about their attitudes toward police, trying to determine whether they were more inclined to believe testimony from law enforcement over evidence from other witnesses to the fatal confrontation.Two jurors seatedCahill seated two more jurors to go with the three picked Tuesday for Chauvin’s trial, which currently involves second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. It has been a grinding process during which attorneys ask prospective jurors one by one whether they can keep an open mind, what they think of the criminal justice system and racial justice issues, how they resolve conflicts and much more.The first juror picked Wednesday, a man who works in sales management and grew up in a mostly white part of central Minnesota, acknowledged saying on his written questionnaire that he had a “very favorable” opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement and a “somewhat unfavorable” impression of the Blue Lives Matter countermovement in favor of police, yet “somewhat agreed” that police do not get the respect they deserve. He said he agreed that there are bad police officers.”Are there good ones? Yes. So, I don’t think it’s right to completely blame the entire organization,” he told the court under questioning from prosecutor Steve Schleicher.He also said he would be more inclined to believe an officer, all things being equal, over the word of another witness. But he maintained he would be able to set aside any ideas about the inherent honesty of an officer and evaluate witnesses on their own.In this image from video, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell addresses Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill during jury selection, March 10, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd.The second, a man who works in information technology security, marked “strongly agree” on a question about whether he believes police in his community make him feel safe. His community was not specified — jurors are being drawn from all over Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis and many of its suburbs.”In my community, I think when there is suspicious activity, the police will stop by. They will ask a question,” he said. “I think that sense of community is all we want, right? We want to live in a community where we feel safe, regardless of race, color and gender.”Schleicher noted that the man also stated in the questionnaire he strongly disagreed with the concept of “defunding” the police, which has become a political flashpoint locally and across the country in the wake of Floyd’s death.’They have to have money'”While I necessarily might not agree with the police action in some situations, I believe that in order for police to make my community safe, they have to have the money,” he replied.The questionnaire explores potential jurors’ familiarity with the case and their own contacts with police. Their answers have not been made public, and the jurors’ identities are being kept secret. Their racial backgrounds often are not disclosed in open court.Floyd was declared dead on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against the Black man’s neck for about nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond.Chauvin and three other officers were fired. The others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges. The defense has not said whether Chauvin will testify in his own defense.Schleicher used a peremptory challenge Wednesday to remove from the panel a woman who has a nephew who is a sheriff’s deputy in western Minnesota. She said she was dismayed by the violence that followed Floyd’s death.”I personally didn’t see any usefulness to it,” she said. “I didn’t see anything accomplished by it, except, I suppose, bring attention to the frustrations of the people involved. But did I see anything useful coming out of the burning of Lake Street and that sort of thing? I did not.”The first juror chosen for the panel on Wednesday said he had one potential problem — he is scheduled to get married May 1 in Florida but was prepared to change his plans if the trial continues that long.Opening statements are scheduled for no sooner than March 29, and testimony is expected to last about four weeks.”We’ll do our best to get you to your wedding,” Cahill said as he informed the man he was on the jury. “Go ahead and throw me under the bus with your fiancée.” 

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