What It's Like Inside The Courtroom During The Derek Chauvin Trial

Esme Murphy had a chance to sit in on jury selection (3:20). WCCO 4 News At 6 - March 18, 2021

Video Transcript

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: Because of COVID concerns, there is a limited number of people allowed inside the courtroom during the trial. Only two reporters can witness the proceedings in person. The reporters take turns, and today our Esme Murphy had a chance to sit in on the jury selection. She joins us now. How did it go, Esme?

ESME MURPHY: Well, Amelia, I've got to tell you, the first thing that really stands out is how intimate this is. I was one of only 15 people in that courtroom.

The other thing is I've covered hundreds of trials. Never have I found myself sitting in between the defense and prosecution tables. That's where they have the pool reporters. It's an extraordinary line of sight that you have into both sides.

Another thing that really stood out is Derek Chauvin. He was sitting about 10 feet from me, and when he turned around to be part of the huddle to determine which jurors would be chosen, you could-- I could see him. He was literally facing me, and you could tell that he was talking a great deal in those huddles. He is having tremendous input in deciding which jurors are going to stay and which jurors the defense doesn't want. Eric Nelson, his defense attorney, was also talking, but I was really struck by that.

Also, Chauvin is taking copious notes. He has filled an entire legal pad line by line full of notes on this jury-selection process.

Another thing that stands out, the prosecution is repeatedly trying to play down the impact of the city of Minneapolis's $27 million settlement on jury selections, including some statements the mayor of Minneapolis and Minneapolis city attorney made today at a news conference. The judge is not having any of that. He is clearly upset about it, and he let everyone know.

PETER CAHILL: I've asked Minneapolis to stop talking about it. They keep talking about it. We keep talking about it. Everybody just stop talking about it. Let me decide what the ramifications are.

ESME MURPHY: And a word about the security. Obviously I'm not going to give out details, but as one juror put it today, it's very impressive, both inside and out. The juror said she felt very safe and felt that no one could get into that building. I would say that that's definitely a fair assessment.

As for the jurors, you really are struck by how decent these people are. The three women chosen today were the kind of people that you'd like to have as your next-door neighbor. They seem smart. They seem nice. They seem caring. They seem concerned about others.

And another thing about this jury that really stands out, half of this jury, six of them so far, are people of color. They're either Black or mixed race, and that is a very high percentage of diversity on a jury in Hennepin County. You rarely see that. I don't think I've ever seen that in a major case. So that is something that definitely stands out. Obviously two alternatives have to be chosen as well.

It's not clear, though, if these last two jurors will be the alternates. They-- it'll all get mixed in. They won't find out who the alternates are until the end. But seriously, one of the most diverse juries I've ever seen in Hennepin County.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: Yeah. Well, that's what they wanted, right? So it's good to hear.

ESME MURPHY: Absolutely.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: All right, thank you, Esme.

And CBSN Minnesota is your source for live updates during jury selection, and then we'll stream the entire trial once opening statements begin. You can watch free on any device through the CBS News app, or just go to WCCO.com.