Derek Chauvin Jurors and the Motion to Vacate

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Welp, looks like that’s over, and I was wrong. I was predicting that Derek Chauvin would be found innocent based on what I saw in the trial. However, on April 20, 2021, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges against him. These include:

  • Murder in the Second Degree (also called felony murder)
  • Murder in the Third Degree
  • Manslaughter in the Second Degree.

The Jury’s Decision

It was quite surprising to me personally that on a case this complex, the jury deliberated for only 10-11 hours. This is particularly surprising considering that there were 5 officers on the scene, each with Body-Worn-Camera video, plus an additional camera that was able to see the police car. This is particularly confusing considering how much video evidence there was in this case, as well as the voluminous expert testimony, with long expert reports that went beyond the in-court testimony.

Though 10-11 hours was about the amount of time that was used to deliberate on the other police-officer death scene of State v. Noor (in which Noor was found guilty of Second Degree Manslaughter and Third Degree Murder), there’s a significant difference in the evidence. In that case, the cause of death was quite clear, because the woman was not on drugs and had no preexisting heart problems…

…and because she was shot with a gun after not being placed under arrest.

However, the jury decided that Derek Chauvin was guilty on all counts with those 10-11 hours of deliberation. After that guilty verdict, Minneapolis Minnesota saw no widespread riots in response to the verdict. As I mentioned early on in this series, avoiding lots of riots was a goal of taking a very atypical understanding of this case in public. So, I guess I succeeded in a way.

Therefore, I suppose that it is the end of all that. If you’re wondering how the jury decided, you can access the jury instructions using this link. Just in case that link disappears, I’ve uploaded the document here:

Except that is probably not the end of that. Why not?

The Alternate Juror Speaks

The alternate juror has spoken to the media. And she said some rather wild things. The video is here:

For example, I thought the decision came back quite quickly, and amazingly, the juror (who was in the courtroom for the whole trial, taking notes) said the same thing:

Reporter Question: Where were you when the verdict was being read? What were you doing, and just walk me through that 30 minute period from when we knew the verdict was about to be read, when it was read, and then the 20 minutes after we knew the result of the verdict.

Juror: So, I heard, I was out and about, and I heard they had come up with a verdict, and– I thought it was kind of quick, and so, I was surprised at that. I didn’t think it was going to take to the end of the week or anything, but ten hours was a little surprising to me, because there was so much evidence and testimonies, videos, so I made sure I came home, and sat on my couch and had my roommate come down for support, and we were like “Wow. All three charges. That’s pretty amazing.” So then i just tried to stay in my house and kind of absorb it all, and just kind of stayed with myself for the rest of the day.

What’s strange about that to me is that not only did this alternate juror believe (as I did) that the verdict came back quickly, but she was also quite amazed at the verdict itself.

Additionally, she noted her experience about being a juror in such a high-profile case. For instance, she stated:

Reporter Question: You obviously had to know what was happening down the street here. Did other jurors know? Were you given any warnings? Were you given any security? They mentioned one of the jurors was from Brooklyn Center.

Juror: No security. We didn’t talk about it. He [the judge] said we couldn’t —- didn’t say anything about watching it or not watching it. Obviously, living six blocks away, when I stepped out on my deck over here. I could see the smoke, actually, from the smoke grenades. I could hear the helicopters, till about 1 in the morning flying over my house. I could actually here the flash-bangs? Flashbangs. And I could here the chatter of the people and people trying to park all over the place here, so.

Reporter Question: So even if you were trying to avoid it, you couldn’t really avoid what was happening in some sense?

Juror: Of Brooklyn Center? Right. Because even if I did not see that on the news or know anything about it, I mean, I couldn’t avoid it. It was right in my back yard.

. . .

Reporter Question: Did you know [the protests at Brooklyn Center] was about an officer-involved shooting?

Juror: Yeah.

Let me ask a very basic question. Does that SOUND like what a juror is supposed to face in the midst of a trial? I wonder if the ongoing turmoil had an effect on the jury.

Well, she spoke about that, too:

Juror: So, they didn’t tell us who was going to be the alternate on the jury until the very end. At that point there, I was disappointed that I was an alternate. But prior to that, we had filled out a questionnaire and one of the questions was “Do you want to be on this jury” and I stated “I wasn’t sure — I didn’t know.” Um… I was concerned for my safety to a point, depending on… you know, we hadn’t heard any facts or anything yet, so depending on which way it went, we felt like some people– you can’t please everybody all the time, so I felt like certain groups might feel certain ways. I was a little concerned about that.

Hm…. “certain groups” might feel “certain ways.” I wonder which groups those were. Did any “thin-blue-line” protestors rip apart Minneapolis after the verdict? Nope.

Also, I wonder what was going through this juror’s mind when the verdict was coming out:

Reporter Question: Were you nervous when Judge Cahill sat down and you knew that the verdict was about to be read.

Juror: Before he did read it? Yes. I was. Before he did I was going through in my mind, like, you know, I hope there’s not going to be rioting again, and protest, and this mayhem that happened before. My place of business got broken into, prior. So I was just hoping that wasn’t going to happen again, and was relieved that they came to the verdict that they did. I think it was the right verdict to come to.

Does that SOUND like someone who is an “impartial” juror, or someone who wishes that “rioting,” “protest,” and “mayhem” doesn’t happen again? You don’t have to be a legal expert to notice that this doesn’t sound like someone who is “impartial.”

And for those of you keeping score at home, notice that she was “amazed” that they found him guilty on all three charges, and was “relieved” that she wouldn’t see any more rioting, protest, and mayhem, because they “came to the verdict that they did.”

Alternate Juror Conclusion

Guys… …say what you will about the evidence. Reasonable people can disagree. But whenever jurors can literally hear flashbangs outside their house and helicopters flying overhead at 1:00am, and whenever they were afraid for their safety at the beginning of a trial and were worried about rioting, protest, and mayhem at the time of the verdict, THAT’S A MISTRIAL.

Defense Motion to Vacate

Not only that, but the Defense filed a notice of their intent to file a memorandum asking the judge to vacate the ruling of the jury and give a new trial. I have read the document (which you can read at this link), and some of the allegations are pretty standard-fare — not very exciting or likely to lead to anything. However, two of the issues are quite powerful (especially considering what we learned from the alternate juror). They concern the issue that the trial should not have happened in a place that burned down due to rioting over the incident being tried and which was being threatened to be burned down again at the conclusion of the trial. Or as the motion stated:

The Court abused its discretion when it denied Defendant’s motion for a change of venue, pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 24,03, subd. 1, and 25.02, subd. 3, in violation of Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to a due process and a fair trial. See Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 363 (1966).

The Court abused its discretion when it denied Defendant’s motion for a new trial on the grounds that “publicity during the proceedings threaten[ed] the fairness of the trial[.]” Sheppard, supra. Such publicity included post-testimony, but pre-deliberation, intimidation of the defense’s expert witnesses, from which the jury was not insulated. Not only did such acts escalate the potential for prejudice in these proceedings, they may result in a far-reaching chilling effect on defendants’ ability to procure expert witness—especially in high-profile cases, such as those of Mr. Chauvin’s codefendants—to testify on their behalf. The publicity here was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings. See United States v. Hasting, 461 U.S. 499, 508-09 (1983) (certain errors involve “rights so basic to a fair trial that their infraction can never be treated as a harmless error”).

There was also an interesting motion for a new trial based on the following:

The Court abused its discretion when it failed to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, or in the least, admonish them to avoid all media, which resulted in jury exposure to prejudicial publicity regarding the trial during the proceedings, as well as jury intimidation and potential fear of retribution among jurors, which violated Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to due process and to a fair trial. Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subd. 5.

Essentially, this is the normal argument that the jury should have been sequestered for the entire duration of the trial. But also, note that the defense has made the point that there is potential retribution AMONG JURORS. In other words, some jurors would rat-out on other jurors. Normally this isn’t an issue when nobody knows the people in the process, but in this case… …well, you know.

The summary of these arguments is when it seeks the following order:

An order for a hearing to impeach the verdict, pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subd. 20(6) and Schwartz v. Minneapolis Suburban Bus Co., 104 N.W.2d 301 (Minn. 1960), on the grounds that the jury committed misconduct, felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations, in violation of Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. State v. Larson, 281 N.W.2d 481, 484 (Minn. 1979); State v. Kelley, 517 N.W.2d 905 (Minn. 1994); State v. Bowles, 530 N.W.2d 521 (Minn. 1995)

A Review of the “Intimidation” of the Defense’s Expert Witness

But let’s return to that small allegation of “post-testimony, but pre-deliberation, intimidation of the defense’s expert witnesses.” Oh, come on. What is that? How bad could it be?

Oh…. Wow. That’s pretty bad. We should also note that the story said that the decapitated head was also left on the front porch.

And notice that the date of this story is 6:46AM, Mon April 19, 2021. That’s the day that closing arguments were being delivered in court. That means that the jury, if they woke up and checked their phones on the way to Court, COULD HAVE SEEN THAT BEFORE THEY WENT INTO JURY DELIBERATIONS.

Also, about the “race-based pressure” and “intimidation,” we actually have quite powerful and national figures doing it. Here’s the video everyone has seen:

Maxine Waters: I’m very hopeful, and I hope we get a verdict that say “Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.” And if we don’t, then we cannot go away.

Reporter: And not just manslaughter, right?

Maxine Waters: Oh no, no no. Not manslaughter, this is guilty, for murder! I don’t know whether its in the first degree, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s first degree murder.

Protestor: Congresswoman, what happens if we don’t get what you just told? What should the people do? What should protestors on the street do?

Maxine Waters: I didn’t hear you…

Reporter: What should protestors do?

Maxine Waters: We’ve got to stay on the streets. And we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.

That was said on April 17, 2019 in Brooklyn Center, over the weekend before closing arguments, and as the alternate juror said, she knew in general what was going on. And the judge commented on that in a now famous clip:

Yeah, that’s a big deal.

An Actual Juror Speaks Out

You might have wondered why I didn’t speak on the most famous of the post-verdict revelations in that last section. That’s because the Juror 52, Brandon Mitchell, was not mentioned in the Motion to Vacate. However, he did give an interview shortly before the motion was filed. He also revealed some wild things. Here is his interview with CBS:

As he shared, the first thing they did was vote on whether they should wear their masks. Then they voted on a foreperson. Then they voted on whether to vote guilty on manslaughter. The vote was 11-1 at that point. In other words, not enough to convict on manslaughter. Then, he says that they went down the line on why everybody thought he was guilty, and then they took a second vote, and it was 12 to 0 to convict on manslaughter.

In other words, after 11 or 12 people each gave a 3 1/2 minute speech on why they thought Chauvin was Guilty, the lone juror switched the vote, and Derek Chauvin was convicted of manslaughter in less than an hour.

I will remind you that one of the elements of manslaughter is the cause of death, and the trial testimony on that issue took more than a week. The second element is:

The Defendant caused the death of George Floyd, by culpable negligence, whereby the Defendant created an unreasonable risk and consciously took a chance of causing death or great bodily harm. “Culpable negligence” is intentional conduct that the Defendant may not have intended to be harmful but that an ordinary and reasonably prudent person would recognize as involving a strong probability of injury to others.

Further, there is also the issue of the defense that Chauvin was able to utilize, even if he did cause the death of George Floyd. One of these defenses was “Authorized Use of Force by a Police Officer.” The instructions state:

No crime is committed if a police officer’s actions were justified by the police officer’s use of reasonable force in the line of duty in effecting a lawful arrest or preventing an escape from custody.

The kind and degree of force a police officer may lawfully use in executing his duties is limited by what a reasonable police officer in the same situation would believe to be necessary. Any use of force beyond that is not reasonable. To determine if the actions of the police officer were reasonable, you must look at those facts which a reasonable officer in the same situation would have known at the precise moment the officer acted with force. You must decide whether the officer’s actions were objectively reasonable in light of the totality of the facts and circumstances confronting the officer and without regard to the officer’s own subjective state of mind, intentions, or motivations.

Defendant is not guilty of a crime if he used force as authorized by law.

To prove guilt, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant’s use of force was not authorized by law.

I’ll remind you that the witnesses for the prosecution disagreed on precisely when the use of force was unreasonable. The police chief said it was unreasonable when George Floyd stopped responding. Another one stated it was unreasonable when George Floyd went to the ground. Another one stated that it was unreasonable when Floyd stopped resisting.

The juror stated that all of the juror’s agreed that Chauvin’s actions were unreasonable “at some point.” But what point was that? If it was reasonable up until the point that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death, then that is a valid defense. From the Juror’s words, we learned from the jury considered ALL OF THAT in less than an hour.

Wow. They are efficient. Apparently, a 40 minute round-robin discussion by the jurors voting in favor of the manslaughter charge was enough to settle all those questions. I suppose they are also very fast readers when it comes to going over “those facts which a reasonable officer in the same situation would have known at the precise moment the officer acted with force.”

I wonder if a crowd outside of the courtroom had anything to do with that efficiency.

The Derek Chauvin’ Juror’s Participation in BLM George Floyd Protests

And let’s also not forget some of the other stuff that the Juror was found to be involved in.

In the jury questionnaire, it asked the jurors if they had participated in any protests regarding George Floyd. This juror said he had not participated in any such protest. Then the following picture came to light, where he traveled from Minneapolis to Washington D.C. to march on the anniversary for MLK’s I have a dream speech. He claims that this wasn’t a protest over Floyd, but instead, was just a celebration of King’s message.

Mitchell, who is Black, has defended his presence at the event in Washington, D.C., saying it was not a protest over Floyd’s death but commemorating the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“It was directly related to MLK’s March on Washington from the ’60s,” he told The Star Tribune. “The date of the March on Washington is the date.”

But look at the photograph of his dress on that day in August of 2020:

Juror's 'BLM' T-shirt sparks concerns about Derek Chauvin trial

We should also remember that the jurors were given a questionnaire. You can read it here. That questionnaire asked some very specific questions about participation in protests and demonstrations:

Did you, or someone close to you, participate in any of the demonstrations or marches against police brutality that took place in Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death?  Yes, me  Yes, someone close to me  No.
If you participated, explain how much you were involved.
If you participated, did you carry a sign? What did it say?

Other than what you have already described above, have you, or anyone close to you, participated in protests about police use of force or police brutality?  Yes  No

According to this report, he answered “No” to both of them. Apparently, he says that the August 2020 thing in Washington DC was merely a commemoration of MLK’s speech, and had nothing to do with George Floyd.

Maybe he’s lying. Maybe he’s telling the truth. Maybe he truly is the most insulated juror one could ever ask for, so insulated from the coverage of the trial, that he bought and wore that shirt not knowing that it was related to Derek Chauvin and George Floyd. What do you think?

Does that look like an impartial juror to you? Are you seeing the problem I’m seeing? Let’s remember what the Motion to Vacate said:

The Court abused its discretion when it failed to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, or in the least, admonish them to avoid all media, which resulted in jury exposure to prejudicial publicity regarding the trial during the proceedings, as well as jury intimidation and potential fear of retribution among jurors, which violated Mr. Chauvin’s constitutional rights to due process and to a fair trial.

And so we had loads of people standing outside the Courtroom, ready to communicate that they “mean business” regarding the trial. And potentially, one of them was in the jury room, too. Does that sound like a fair trial? Does that sound like a jury free from coercion?

I wonder what will happen in that motion to vacate. I seriously have no idea what will happen, but I do have an opinion about whether that was a fair trial. It wasn’t. Fair trials do not involve the intimidation of entire communities to get a verdict that you want.

Conclusion

As interesting as these allegations are in the Motion to Vacate, they are nothing compared to the motion that was filed in the Tou Thao case. This motion is so interesting, I believe it deserves its own post. That’s coming up next.

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