Criminal Defense Attorney Joe Tamburino Talks Jury Selection In The Derek Chauvin Trial

Jury selection will continue Monday in the Derek Chauvin trial with the judge saying he wants to pick two more jurors (5:58). WCCO Sunday Morning - March 21, 2021

Video Transcript

ESME MURPHY: Jury selection will continue tomorrow in the Derek Chauvin trial, with the judge saying he wants to pick two more jurors. The former Minneapolis police officer is charged in the death of George Floyd. Right now, 13 jurors have been seated, but the judge says he wants another alternate because of all the publicity in the case.

The judge also decided on Friday not to delay the trial or move it out of Minneapolis. He will allow part of a video showing a 2019 encounter between George Floyd and Minneapolis police. Earlier this morning, I spoke with criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino, who is not affiliated with the case. And joining us now, criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino. Thank you so much for coming on.

JOE TAMBURINO: Thank you for having me. Good morning.

ESME MURPHY: Well it was a pretty wild week last week in the trial. What are your thoughts about what's happened so far?

JOE TAMBURINO: Well the bottom line is, I wish everyone would watch this whole process because it is a very fair process. I mean, with everything that happened, the city doing two press conferences, announcing the settlement, all of these potential jurors that had to be removed for cause because they heard about the settlement, yet the process goes on. And we're now at 13 jurors, and it's a really good cross-section of Hennepin County.

ESME MURPHY: You bring up a really good point, because there's been so much noise and so much commotion and publicity. But what's happened in the courtroom-- and I was actually in the courtroom-- is really what you see in a courtroom. You see the judge get angry. You see the tedious jury selection process. You see the jurors who are there nearly always for the right reasons. I don't see any kind of difference because TV cameras are there. Do you?

JOE TAMBURINO: I agree. And the cameras are here to stay. I mean, this is really an educational whole event for everyone because what it shows you is that, at the heart of it, it's to get a fair and impartial jury so that anyone in our society could have a fair trial. And it's been just a wonderful process. The judge gives the attorneys great leeway in questioning, and the jurors have been very honest.

ESME MURPHY: Right. I agree with you. And the jurors are extremely impressive. It's a very diverse group. 6 of the 13 are people of color. That's more diverse than most juries I've seen in Hennepin County.

JOE TAMBURINO: That's correct. The last time any case that went to trial that had any notoriety was the [INAUDIBLE] case two years ago. That had a very diverse jury. That had about half the people of color, just like this case. But it is unique in Hennepin County. And it's good that it's happening.

ESME MURPHY: In terms of the alternate jurors, we've gotten to the point where they're choosing alternates. And the judge has actually said he wants another alternate. They're going to choose 15 jurors. Do the alternates-- they're not necessarily the last ones picked. They don't know that they're alternates, right?

JOE TAMBURINO: That's correct. You want to make sure that everyone on that jury thinks they are a juror. I had jury service about three years ago. I was actually the alternate. But you have to pay attention, and you want everyone on the jury to pay attention.

Most of the time, it's the last one or two jurors picked who are the alternates. But the judge can make any rule. The judge could put all the names in a hat and pick out two. The judge could say, number five and six are the alternates. So usually it's the last couple, but it truly is up to the judge.

ESME MURPHY: And when is that announced? At the end of all the evidence, at the end of closing arguments?

JOE TAMBURINO: Well the judge could do the but that's highly unusual. Normally, the judge will tell the parties what the process will be for picking alternates. So I can't be certain, but I could tell you that the large majority of cases, the judge would have already spoken to the attorneys and said, look, here's how we're going to pick the alternates. So they probably know by now.

ESME MURPHY: But not the alternates themselves.

JOE TAMBURINO: But not the alternates themselves. Only the attorneys will know how that process is.

ESME MURPHY: And when do alternates themselves find out that they're not going to be in deliberations?

JOE TAMBURINO: Well that's just it. They find out right before that jury walks into the deliberation room. So think about it. They go through everything. They go through the questionnaire, they go through juror questions, they sit through the trial, they sit through instructions. And then literally when the judge says, I'm going to release the jury to the deliberation room but I want numbers, x and y or whatever it is to stay behind, that's what happens.

ESME MURPHY: The judge ruled that part of a May 2019 arrest can come in. The defense wanted this arrest to come in. It is, even in the judge's words, almost identical in many ways to the fatal encounter a year later. But doesn't this arrest help the prosecution? Because what it shows is George Floyd resisting arrest. It shows him, this May 2019, shows him eating drugs, and it shows him being treated humanely and decently by Minneapolis police who try to get him help and tell him he's got to go to the hospital for his high blood pressure.

JOE TAMBURINO: Well, what you've hit upon is exactly what this case is about. This case will have two running themes-- cause of death and reasonable use of force. For the prosecution, you're right. They're going to use that May 2019 and argue, that was reasonable force, as compared to what happened here.

From the defense side, they're going to argue, well, wait a minute, 2019 shows you that he used drugs, he knows about the drugs, and that's really the cause of death in this case. He took too many drugs right before his encounter with the police. So you've hit upon it exactly. Those are the two battles that are going to be happening in this case. Is it cause of death or is it reasonable use of force?

ESME MURPHY: Joe Tamburino, as always, thank you so much for your analysis. And we will be talking to you, of course, throughout this trial.

JOE TAMBURINO: Thank you.

ESME MURPHY: Jury selection continues tomorrow morning at 9:00. You can watch it live all day on CBSN Minnesota.