The murder trial of Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd resumed Wednesday morning with attorneys and the judge ready to continue jury selection after sorting out pretrial motions.
A woman of color and two white men were picked for the jury Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court, while six others were questioned and dismissed.
While more jury candidates were gathered for questioning Wednesday starting at 9 a.m., the Court of Appeals could intervene at any moment and halt a proceeding that is being livestreamed and televised around the world.
The morning began with a motion by Defense attorney Eric Nelson to bar anticipated key witness Donald Williams from testifying as an expert when it comes to martial arts training. Williams was among the vocal bystanders captured on a Facebook video pleading with Chauvin to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the May 25 killing of Floyd, who died after the white officer knelt on his neck for more than 9 minutes while two other officers pinned the Black man down and a fourth kept watch at the intersection of E. 38th Street and S. Chicago Avenue.
Nelson said that while he understands that while “clearly he was a bystander” and can testify as such, he should not be able to assess whether the move Chauvin placed on Floyd was legitimate.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank said that Williams, who began wrestling at age 13, has trained in mixed martial arts for more than 10 years and has boxed in 20 professional fights.
“Anyone who has seen the (bystander) video knows what we were talking about,” Frank said. “He was so vocal because he knew the seriousness of this. He knew that Mr. Chauvin was killing this man. He knew this was very dangerous.”
District Judge Peter Cahill ruled that Williams is entitled to testify about his martial arts training, as well as the hold he observed, and his belief that it went on too long.
On Tuesday, Special Attorney for the State Steven Schleicher and Nelson asked prospective jurors several questions about their ability to be impartial, their knowledge of the case and feelings about a widely watched witness video showing Floyd’s arrest. They also were quizzed about their impressions about how Minneapolis police treat Black suspects and about the Black Lives Matter social justice movement.
Jury selection will last until 14 jurors have been seated, two of them alternates, unless the Court of Appeals orders him to stop. Opening statements and testimony begin March 29 and could last up to a month.
Prosecutors argued Monday that the entire trial should be suspended since Nelson has asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to intervene. The Court of Appeals decided Friday that Cahill was wrong to reject a February request by prosecutors to reinstate third-degree murder to Chauvin’s case.
The court ordered him to reconsider the request, but Nelson is asking the state Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision, throwing the trial schedule in doubt.
Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office called the Court of Appeals on Monday and filed a motion asking it to postpone the trial, but no guidance was given by the end of Tuesday.
Adding the third-degree murder charge to the case, considered by some as a middle ground of culpability, would give jurors another option to convict Chauvin.
Former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are set to go on trial together Aug. 23 on charges of aiding and abetting and murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
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