Two of the seven jurors recalled for questioning in the trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin were dismissed Wednesday after telling the court that the media coverage last week regarding the city of Minneapolis’ $27 million civil settlement with George Floyd’s family might affect their ability to be fair and impartial during criminal proceedings.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill first dismissed “Juror #36,” who told the court he had heard about the settlement and that it confirmed negative opinions he already had about Chauvin.
“I think it will be hard to be impartial,” the juror said.
The judge then dismissed “Juror #20,” who told the court he saw a headline about the settlement late last week — but “left it at that” and did not read the article in order to abide by the court’s instructions that jurors ought to avoid media coverage regarding the case.
The juror said he recalled the headline reading, “The City of Minneapolis agreed to pay out the family of George Floyd, I want to say, and to the tune of the 20-million-dollar range.”
“I would say especially that dollar amount was kind of shocking to me, that kind of sent a message that the city of Minneapolis felt that something was wrong. And they wanted to make it right to the tune of that dollar amount,” the juror said, explaining his reaction. “I think in the headline, if it would have said $2,000 versus 20 million, that’s a big change. So I think that that sticker price obviously shocked me and kind of swayed me a little bit.”
“Again, I’m just trying to share with you what I what I know. My gut reaction to that. Again, with the dollar amount being high, and I’ll try to leave it at that,” he said.
Cahill then excused him from the jury in order to exercise “extreme caution,” acknowledging that the court knows that he did not seek out this information but would still dismiss him “on the possibility that you inadvertently saw it and it might affect your ability to be fair and impartial.”
Cahill retained five other jurors who had already been seated.
Seven people were selected for the jury last week before the announcement about the settlement on Friday. An eighth and a ninth juror had been seated before Wednesday, when the initial seven were called back for questioning. Two out of the seven were dropped. The remaining five join the two others sat this week, leaving seven seated jurors.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, had called the timing of the announcement in the middle of jury selection “profoundly disturbing to the defense” and “not fair.” He has also requested a delay in the trial, which Cahill is considering.
The prosecution and defense skirmished on Tuesday over whether evidence of Floyd’s 2019 arrest in Minneapolis should be allowed at trial. The judge previously rejected Chauvin’s attempt to tell the jury about the arrest, which took place a year before the fatal encounter in May 2020 — but heard fresh arguments Tuesday from both sides. He said he would rule on the request Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.