Sitting in a hotel conference room, tables two meters apart, 12 jurors jotted down notes on sheets of paper to indicate their thoughts on a murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis cop who was being prosecuted. death of George Floyd.
When the foreman counted the votes that morning, one of the jurors recalled, 11 of the papers had the letter G – “guilty.” One of the newspapers said “U”, indicating that the judge was in doubt.
The five men and seven women spent the next few hours looking at the evidence presented in one of the most followed trials in a generation. The description is from Brandon Mitchell, the only juror to speak publicly about what the jury’s deliberations looked like last week near Minneapolis.
Mitchell said jurors watched explicit videos of Floyd’s death, discussed testimony from numerous witnesses and experts, and created their own timeline using a whiteboard. By lunchtime, said Mitchell, the judge who said in doubt, a white woman, had already taken a stand: Chauvin was guilty of all charges.
High school basketball coach Mitchell, 31, described the deliberations in an interview he gave on Thursday (29), highlighting what happened on the jury before the jurors do not convict Chauvin of two counts of murder and one of manslaughter.
Mitchell said he was excited when he was selected to sit on the jury and that he was happy to see that the jury was diverse: there were four black judges, including himself, six white and two multiracial. They were around 20 to 60 years old.
“I accepted the pressure,” Mitchell said. “Whatever the verdict – guilty or not – it was important for me, as a black man, to be part of this jury.”
Mitchell said before the trial he believed he would have a hard time making the right decision on the case, but after three weeks of testifying he found the evidence overwhelming.
“I had no doubts,” he said, speaking of his decision to find Chauvin guilty. Jurors discussed the case for about seven hours, over two days, until they reached a verdict on the afternoon of April 20. According to Mitchell, they spent much of the first night of deliberations getting to know each other better, rather than talking about the matter.
Derek Chauvin, the white cop who was filmed in May last year kneeling on the neck of black security guard George Floyd for more than nine minutes, will be sentenced in June and could face decades in prison.
Immediately after closing arguments at the trial, on April 19, jurors met in a hotel conference room where they were staying without contact with the outside world. Mitchell said they handed over their phones and did not retrieve them until after the deliberations. They voted on whether or not to put on a mask during deliberations (and unanimously chose to remove them) and soon after began discussing the evidence and the law.
First, they assessed the charge of second degree manslaughter, the least serious charge Chauvin faced. According to Mitchell, the judge who would later indicate that she had doubts about the homicide said she was not sure of the intentional homicide charge.
Sitting in front of individual U-shaped tables, the jurors took turns presenting their thoughts. They decided to wait until the second day of deliberations to discuss the murder charges, but since their dinner didn’t arrive until a few hours later, they began to discuss other topics, talking about their work and their lives. children.
At 6:45 a.m. the next morning, officers knocked on the doors of each of their hotel rooms to wake them up for breakfast and a second day of deliberations.
Mitchell said that when jurors studied the murder charges, they dwelled at one point on the exact cause of Floyd’s death. Many jurors have said they believe the prosecution’s version of what happened – that Chauvin’s knee caused Floyd’s death – but at least one judge in favor of the sentencing said he couldn’t be sure the cause was Floyd’s knee. Chauvinist.
Even so, Mitchell recalled, the judge said she held the ex-cop responsible for the death because he continued to keep Floyd dominated on the floor, even after he passed out, and at no point did he. provided medical assistance.
After a few hours of discussions on the third degree murder charge, all jurors came out in favor of the conviction, Mitchell said. And after another half hour, everyone also agreed to sentence Chauvin for second degree murder.
Jurors decided to wait until after lunch to fill out the forms that would make their decision official.
“We didn’t want to rush things,” Mitchell explained. “We took the time to absorb it all and say ‘this is what we’re going to do.”
Just before 2 p.m., they alerted the police who had rendered a verdict. Then they were immediately taken from the hotel to the courthouse, where Judge Peter A. Cahill read the verdict.
Mitchell said that for many jurors, including himself, the most convincing testimony was given by pulmonologist Martin J. Tobin, who identified what he said was the exact moment when George Floyd took his last breath.
“He got our attention 100%,” said Mitchell, of Tobin, who testified before the prosecution. “I don’t think any other witness convinced us so much.”
Mitchell said he found the defense arguments weak, lacking revealing testimony that could point to inconsistencies in the prosecution’s arguments.
“I was waiting a while for a climax – a moment like ‘wow! aha! or something like that – but it’s not, ”Mitchell said. “There was nothing that convinced or surprised us. It was a kind of anti-limit. With that, the decision was easy.