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MINNEAPOLIS – Jury selection ended for the day Wednesday in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in a case that rocked the country and spurred worldwide protests after George Floyd's death.
The court, for hours, heard from more potential jurors, with both Chauvin's attorney and prosecutors questioning them about their knowledge of the case, the protests and Floyd's death. Jurors faced a battery of questions about whether they could set aside any existing opinions to serve impartially.
The proceedings were disrupted after the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Chauvin, which could result in him facing an additional murder charge in Floyd's death.
Thus far, five jurors have been chosen: four men and one woman. A few seemed eager; others fearful, some expressing safety concerns about serving on such a high-profile and divisive case, especially if their identity became public.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd in May. Prosecutors contend Floyd, 46, was killed by Chauvin's knee, compressed against Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes while he was handcuffed and pinned to the pavement.
Three weeks have been set aside to choose the jury. Opening statements are scheduled for March 29.
A total of five jurors have been chosen to serve thus far. They include four men and a woman. They were each vetted about whether they'd seen the footage of Chauvin restraining Floyd, their perception of police officers and various advocate groups, such as Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives matter.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill is set to discuss a ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court Thursday morning that could open the door for Chauvin to face an additional murder charge.
Lawyers started the day discussing several potential issues ahead of the trial, from descriptions of Floyd's character to the potential for prosecutors to paint officers with the Minneapolis Police Department as being part of a conspiracy to back a fellow officer.
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Jury selection ends for day, will continue Thursday
Jury selection ended for the day Wednesday after hours of peppering potential jurors with questions over their opinions in the case and the issues that caused it to resonate worldwide, from policing to racial injustice.
By the end of the day, two additional jurors were picked, bringing the total to five.
The proceedings are set to continue Thursday at 8 a.m. with the first hour of the day dedicated to discussing potential conflicts in the trial and a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that could open the door for Chauvin to face another murder charge.
Judge Peter Cahill said he would schedule nine potential jurors to appear before the court Thursday.
Minn. Supreme Court denies appeal, could result in Chauvin facing additional murder charge
The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected an appeal by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, which could result in him facing an additional murder charge in the death of George Floyd.
The former cop is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other former officers are charged with aiding and abetting those charges.
Wednesday's ruling means Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill may reinstate a third-degree murder charge. Legal observers say that would give the jury more options as they consider Chauvin's culpability in Floyd's death.
The unusual, expedited decision by the state’s high court enables jury selection to continue with just a small hiccup in the proceedings rather than a delay of weeks or months while the state's high court considered an appeal.
The high court's decision was announced by Cahill during jury selection Wednesday.
On Friday, an appeals court ruled that Cahill should not have thrown out the third-degree murder charge. That delayed the start of jury selection Monday because the defense and prosecution disagreed over how that would affect the trial.
Two jurors chosen Wednesday, an immigrant and man with wedding planned
Two new jurors were chosen Wednesday to serve during the trial, an immigrant from Africa and a man who has a wedding planned May 1.
The two additions mean a total of five jurors have been chosen thus far: four men and a woman.
The first juror chosen Wednesday was a man who told the court he works as a sales manager and said he and his fiancé planned a wedding in Florida with about 30 friends and family. He said serving on the jury would be an inconvenience, but if chosen, he'd make accommodations and "would probably operate under the fact that if I'm on this jury, I will not be able to get married on that date."
After chosen to serve, Judge Peter Cahill told the man to "throw me under the bus with your fiance," leading to laughs in the courtroom and the man replying, "I will."
The man said he supported Black Lives Matter and had an overall negative perception of the Blue Lives Matter movement, which he said he views as a "ripoff" of Black Lives Matter.
The second man chosen Wednesday was an immigrant who came to the U.S. 14 years ago from Africa. The man, who told the court he works in information technology, didn't follow the specifics of the case as it played out in his community.
He said he'd watched clips of the video showing Floyd being detained but didn't have knowledge about what led up to his arrest or how Floyd actually died. The man said he talked with his wife about "how it could have been me, or anyone else," noting he used to live in the area.
He voiced support for both the Black Lives Matter and the Blue Lives Matter movements.
Chauvin's lawyer argues against testimony of police conspiracy
Lawyers started the day Wednesday discussing several potential issues ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial, from descriptions of George Floyd's character to the potential for prosecutors to paint officers with the Minneapolis Police Department as being part of a conspiracy to back a fellow officer.
Judge Peter Cahill ruled prosecutors could use testimony from a witness who observed Chauvin holding Floyd down with his knee. Cahill said the witness, who has about 10 years of martial arts experience, could testify about his expertise, training and the position Chauvin had Floyd in. But, the judge ruled, he couldn't testify about his thoughts on whether the position killed Floyd because that requires a medical opinion.
Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, also asked Cahill to prevent prosecutors from painting fellow officers and the Minneapolis Police Department as part of some "sort of conspiracy of police officers to remain silent and not cooperate with investigations of other police officers."
Prosecutors said the police department had been cooperative with the case and there were no plans to do so but said the issue of potential bias could arise during the trial.
There were also discussions about character witnesses of Floyd. Cahill said he would not allow testimony calling Floyd a "gentle giant" because such statements would open the door to the "propensity for violence or propensity for peacefulness."
Floyd's cousin: 'We'll be able to get through it'
George Floyd's cousin, Shareeduh McGee Tate, sat in the courtroom Tuesday during the all-day jury selection process and left feeling grateful for the amount of effort that is going into vetting prospective jurors.
"I’m just really grateful for being able to sit in and be a part of the process," she said. "I appreciate that there’s a lot of time and effort being taken to be sure the right jurors being seated. It’s a long process but I think it’s worth getting it right the first time."
McGee Tate, who traveled from Houston to be with her family and watch the proceedings, said she'd known Floyd since he was born and were close growing up.
She said the proceedings will "probably get pretty rough for us" when the trial begins in earest, noting they will likely have to see autopsy information and reports from the medical examiner.
"We are a strong body of believers and we have a strong faith and a strong family unit," she said. "I’m confident we'll be able to get through it just like we have up to this point."
Only one family member is allowed in the courtroom each day for both Floyd and Chauvin. Floyd's family says they're operating in a rotation during the proceedings.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Derek Chauvin trial live: Jury selection ends for day after 5 selected