Minnesota Supreme Court Denies Appeal in Chauvin Case As 5 Jurors Are Selected

March 11, 2021 Updated: March 11, 2021

The Minnesota Supreme Court late March 10 rejected an attempt by defense lawyers to review whether a third-degree murder charge should be reinstated in the case against their client, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

In an order that contained no explanation, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea denied the appeal of a recent ruling that found Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill erred in not restoring the charge, which had been requested by the state.

Cahill had said the charge lacked probable cause. Chauvin, accused of killing George Floyd in May 2020, still faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Cahill told the court that the third-degree murder charge would be discussed on March 11, local news outlets reported.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a former Democrat representative who is leading the prosecution of Chauvin, said the Supreme Court was right to reject the appeal and that the appeals court made the correct ruling.

“We believe the charge of third-degree murder is fair and appropriate. We look forward to putting it before the jury, along with charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter,” he said in a statement.

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Defense attorney Eric Nelson (L) and defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (R) listen as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over jury selection in Chauvin’s trial, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 9, 2021. (Court TV via AP/Pool)
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Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell addresses Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill as he presides over jury selection in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 9, 2021. (Court TV via AP/Pool)

The start of jury selection was delayed for a day because of the bid to reinstate the murder charge. Three jurors were picked on March 9 and two more were added on March 10.

The jurors include a white man in his 30s from central Minnesota who works in sales and expressed awareness of the Floyd death but said he didn’t know specific details, and an African immigrant in his 30s or 40s who arrived in the United States some 14 years ago, works in IT, and said the only details he knows of the case stem from his viewing the video of Floyd on the ground with Chauvin pinning him next to a police vehicle, KTSP reported.

The other jurors are described as a white chemist with an environmental science degree who said he’d seen a photograph of Chauvin holding Floyd, a minority woman from northern Minnesota who said that she’d seen video footage of what happened and found it saddening, and a white man who works as an auditor and saw video of the incident three times but insisted he would keep an open mind during the trial.

Floyd, 46, was confronted by police officers on May 25, 2020, after being accused by a convenience store clerk of using a counterfeit bill. Floyd resisted arrest and was eventually pinned to the ground by several officers, with Chauvin kneeling on his neck.

The Hennepin County medical examiner classified the death as homicide, or a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers.

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Then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneels on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed man who was pleading that he couldn’t breathe, in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25, 2020. (Darnella Frazier via AP)
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People demonstrate outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 9, 2021. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Significant conditions contributing to the death included Floyd’s underlying conditions such as heart disease and drug use, with fentanyl and methamphetamines detected in his system. A separate autopsy conducted on behalf of Floyd’s family found he died from being deprived of oxygen.

Three other officers involved in the arrest are set to go on trial later this year.

According to the court schedule, jury selection will take no more than three weeks. Each side has opportunities to strike potential jurors for various reasons. Lawyers for Chauvin have 15 challenges; state prosecutors have nine.

Prosecutors used their first strike on the eighth potential juror, who said he feels black lives matter but had misgivings about the Black Lives Matter movement, WCCO reported. He also said he feared for his family’s security if he was chosen as a juror.

Defense lawyers used a strike on a California man who moved to Minnesota several years ago, said he’d been trained in martial arts, and deemed Chauvin’s kneeling on Floyd’s neck an “illegal move.” Prosecutors tried overruling the strike but Cahill allowed it, saying he didn’t appear to have an open mind.

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