Written by Nolan Alisago
The trial of the century has nearly begun, with all the jurors seated and opening arguments for State vs Derek Chauvin scheduled for Monday, March 29th. The eyes of the world fall on Minnesota once again, nearly ten months since the murder of George Floyd and the beginning of the global protest, to see how justice might prevail.
Before the judge presiding over the case denied the defense’s motion to change the venue and delay the trial, Minneapolis and Hennepin county police had already laid out their plan to spend over a million dollars on fences and barricades to protect property and manage expected protests surrounding the trial. Of the estimated million, $645,000 would go towards fortifying the cities police precincts, city hall, and public crevice buildings. Organizers say these preemptive actions demonstrate not only a lack of trust and understanding between organizers and police, but the police’s tendency to value property above human lives. While protest is expected regardless of the ruling of the trial, both the size and temperament of protesters will be largely dependent on if Chauvin is found guilty.
The first part of the trial has finally been completed with fifteen jurors seated after two jurors who were initially seated were excused because the 27 million dollar settlement to George Floyd’s family had affected their ability to be impartial jurors. The pool consists of nine women and six men. In a case so racially charged such as this, the makeup of the jury is incredibly important, especially given the history of high-profile police misconduct cases with minority victims being decided exclusively by white juries. The men are split evenly with three white men and three black men. Six of the women are white, one is black and two are mixed race. According to the Hennepin county census, only 14% of the population is black, so this jury is uncharacteristically over the representation of African Americans. During the voir dire, the portion of time before the trial starts in which the defense, prosecution, and judge examine and select witnesses, the defense’s strategy was to strike down those who had positive views of Black Lives Matter and negative views on the police, while the prosecutions struck down mostly white jurors who supported the police.
The jury will rule on three separate murder charges: second-degree unintentional murder, second-degree manslaughter charges, and third-degree murder, all of which Chauvin has pleaded not guilty. Effectively they are determining whether Chauvin killed without but premeditation, killed through negligence, or killed “By perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind,” according to Minnesota state statutes. Yet to onlookers, the jury is ruling on something much larger. Next week 14 people will begin the process of trying the American justice system and passing a verdict on the effectiveness of mass protest on changing that justice system.