MINNEAPOLIS – Jury selection for a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death was halted before it began Monday by the state's effort to add a third-degree murder charge.
As hundreds of protesters rallied outside the courthouse to call for Derek Chauvin's conviction, Judge Peter Cahill said he did not have jurisdiction to rule on whether the third-degree murder charge should be reinstated while the issue is being appealed.
Cahill initially ruled jury selection would begin as scheduled, but after prosecutors asked the Court of Appeals to put the case on hold, the judge sent the potential jurors home for the day and the rest of the day was spent ruling on motions. Cahill later said jury selection would resume Tuesday barring an order from the appellate court.
There was no indication when that court will rule, but a hold could delay Chauvin’s trial for weeks.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to dismiss 16 of the first 50 jurors they reviewed “for cause” based on their answers to a lengthy questionnaire. These dismissals weren’t debated in court, but can happen for a host of reasons, such as views that indicate a juror can’t be impartial.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. The Court of Appeals last week ordered Cahill to consider reinstating a third-degree murder charge that he had dismissed. Legal experts say reinstating the charge would improve the odds of getting a conviction. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, said Monday he would ask the state Supreme Court to review the issue.
For the unintentional second-degree murder charge, prosecutors have to prove Chauvin's conduct was a “substantial causal factor" in Floyd's death, and that Chauvin was committing felony assault at the time. For third-degree murder, they must prove that Chauvin's actions caused Floyd's death, and that his actions were reckless and without regard for human life.
Floyd was declared dead May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against the Black man's neck for about nine minutes, holding his position even after Floyd went limp. Floyd’s death sparked sometimes violent protests in Minneapolis and beyond, and led to a nationwide reckoning on race.