Judge won't move trial in Floyd's death; 13th juror picked

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In this screen grab from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and defendant former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, listen as Hennepin County Judge PeterCahill discusses pre-trial motions, prior to continuing jury selection, Friday, March 19, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS – A judge said Friday he won’t delay or move the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death over concerns that a $27 million settlement for Floyd’s family could taint the jury pool, but he’ll allow limited evidence from a 2019 arrest.

Jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin will stretch into a third week after attorneys seated just one additional juror Friday. The 13th juror picked is a woman who said she’d seen only clips of the video of Floyd’s arrest and needs to learn more about what happened beforehand.

Hennepin County Judge Pete Cahill said court would resume Monday to pick two more jurors -- for a total of 15, one more than expected. Asked about the apparent discrepancy, a court spokesman cited a November order from Cahill that had said up to 16 jurors -- 12 to deliberate and four alternates -- would be seated.

Seven jurors had been picked last week when the Minneapolis City Council announced it had unanimously approved the massive payout to settle a civil rights lawsuit over Floyd’s death. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, subsequently sought to halt or move the trial, saying the settlement timing was deeply disturbing and jeopardized Chauvin’s chance for a fair trial. Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter.

But Cahill, who called the timing “unfortunate,” said he believed a delay would do nothing to stem the problem of pretrial publicity, and that there’s no place in Minnesota untouched by that publicity.

The judge handed the defense a victory by ruling that the jury can hear evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest, but only information possibly pertaining to the cause of his death in 2020. He acknowledged several similarities between the two encounters, including that Floyd swallowed drugs after police confronted him.

The judge previously said the earlier arrest could not be admitted, but he reconsidered after drugs were found in January in a second search of the police SUV that the four officers attempted to put Floyd in last year. The defense argues that Floyd’s drug use contributed to his death.

Cahill said he'd allow medical evidence of Floyd's physical reactions, such as his dangerously high blood pressure when he was examined by a paramedic in 2019, and a short clip of an officer’s body camera video. He said Floyd’s “emotional behavior,” such as calling out to his mother, won’t be admitted.