(Power Line) — At the end of the first day of jury selection, three jurors had been seated. Looking for 16 — 12 and four alternates — the court might complete the process next week. Opening statements would not kick the trial proper off until March 29.
On Monday, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of 16 of the first 50 prospective jurors for cause based on their answers to the 14-page questionnaire fashioned for the case. On Tuesday, it took nine prospective jurors to yield three. My imperfect notes reflect that three were excused as a result of peremptory strikes (one by the prosecution, two by the defense) and three for cause.
Prospective juror number 1 was a woman originally from Mexico who spoke poor English with a heavy Spanish accent. I had a hard time understanding her. I thought her English was so bad I wondered if she could pass a citizenship test. Her husband helped her complete the juror questionnaire.
She rated her English a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. At least she has no problems with self-image. She certainly wanted to serve on the jury. Why? “Because I would like to give my opinion of the unjust death of George Floyd.” That’s how she framed her answer on the questionnaire. I thought that was the quote of the day. However, she will not be serving on the jury as a result of a peremptory strike by the defense.
Two of the prosecution’s pro bono attorneys appeared in court Tuesday: Steve Schleicher of the Maslon LLC and Jerry Blackwell of Blackwell Burke. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank will lead the prosecution of Chauvin for the state at trial. He must have been back in the office tending to the appellate issues raised by the state’s effort to reinstate the third-degree murder charge. Eric Nelson is handling Chauvin’s defense by himself in what looks like a David versus Goliath match-up.
The questionnaire completed by prospective jurors proved instrumental. The form is posted online here. The attorneys have capably used the completed questionnaires to home in on the issues of pretrial publicity, personal security and other possible secondary effects of their verdict.
I was most impressed with Judge Peter Cahill. Although I continue to harbor doubts about the ability of the judicial system to deal with this case, I have no doubt that Judge Cahill will control the courtroom and protect Chauvin’s right to a fair trial insofar as it is in his power to do so.