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Jury selection in Chauvin trial nears conclusion days after Floyd family’s settlement

Jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, neared conclusion Friday — the same week as Floyd's family reached a $27 million settlement with the city of Minneapolis. NewsHour Special Correspondent Fred De Sam Lazaro joins us with the latest in the proceedings.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jury selection neared conclusion today in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

    But a settlement between the city and Floyd's family has loomed large over the trial.

    "NewsHour" special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro is following the proceedings. And he joins us now.

    Hello, Fred.

    So, the jury selection process has gone faster than many people expected. Tell us a little about how it has gone.

  • Fred De Sam Lazaro:

    Yes, way ahead of themselves, Judy.

    Judge Peter Cahill had allotted three weeks to get this process under way. How do you find people who have not been exposed to publicity from this case, who have not come across this video that went viral of Floyd under the knee of former Officer Chauvin?

    But, as it turns out, at least one of the people said she had never watched the video. Several said that they watched only bits and pieces of it. And of those who said that they had watched the video, all of them said that they were perfectly capable of setting their feelings aside or influences of the video and judging this case based solely on evidence that came out of the court.

    Now, these jurors were subjected to some proxy questions to tease out any potential bias: How do you feel about Black Lives Matter? How do you feel about Blue Lives Matter, that kind of thing?

    At the end of the day, we wind up with a panel that is about evenly split racially. This is a very race-sensitive case, obviously, but in a county that is 74 percent white, we have about an even split between white and nonwhite, the nonwhite being fairly diverse between multiracial origins and immigrant, that is to say, naturalized citizens, vs. American-born Black citizens.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Then, Fred, you had the unexpected development while the trial preparations are under way that the city of Minneapolis announced a $27 million settlement to go to the George Floyd family.

    What effect has that had on the trial?

  • Fred De Sam Lazaro:

    Well, Judy, no party in the courtroom was terribly pleased to hear this.

    There appears that this would imply an admission of guilt by Chauvin's former employer. Now, there is also the fear that jurors could consider justice as having been done in this case and go more leniently on Chauvin.

    Whichever it cuts, Judge Cahill said it cuts. And so he had to recall jurors who had already been selected to make sure that this settlement and the news of the settlement didn't impact their ability to be impartial. He had to dismiss two of these jurors and start back again.

    The judge could not conceal his annoyance at city officials for not waiting at least until a jury had been selected or a verdict had been reached before announcing the settlement.

  • Judge Peter Cahill:

    I have 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.

  • Fred De Sam Lazaro:

    Now, of course, despite his annoyance, he did not go with a request from the defense to delay the trial or to move it to a new venue, figuring that there is almost no corner of Minnesota that hasn't been inundated by publicity surrounding this case.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we have to assume, Fred, that this is consuming an enormous amount of conversation in the Minneapolis community. Tell us, how are the residents there talking about? How are they dealing with it?

  • Fred De Sam Lazaro:

    Tension has been building for a long time, Judy.

    The spot where Floyd was arrested has become George Floyd Square. It is barricaded off, patrolled by community activists. Police have been unable, in many cases, to get in there. The police chief vows to move back and retake the area, open the intersection to traffic. There is resistance to that.

    And, at times, the tensions have boiled over into violent scuffles between police and some community activists across the city. And so there is a great deal of tension. This is a city that is on edge, has been for some time, and will be as we look forward to the trial's start.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the trial still several days away.

    Fred de Sam Lazaro reporting for us from Minneapolis.

    Thank you, Fred.

  • Fred De Sam Lazaro:

    Thank you, Judy.

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