By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(MINNEAPOLIS) — Jury selection in the murder case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd began on Tuesday despite prosecutors asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to halt the high-profile trial.
After spending the morning questioning jurors, lawyers in the case seated the first member of the panel, a chemist for an environmental testing company who is engaged to be married to a physical therapist. The juror described himself as a “pretty logical person” and conceded that he initially had “trepidations” about serving on the case.
While being questioned under oath by Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, the juror said he has never seen the viral video of Chauvin kneeling on the back of Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
The first pool of potential jurors were brought into the courtroom just after 9 a.m. local time and prosecutors and attorneys for Chauvin each introduced themselves.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said he intends to keep the jury selection process going until the appellate court tells him otherwise.
Chauvin’s lawyers filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court after the appellate court issued a ruling on Friday instructing Cahill to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin after finding that the judge erred in October when he dismissed the count.
The state Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday morning acknowledging it had received the petition from Chauvin’s lawyer and giving prosecutors until 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday to file a response.
Prosecutors from the office of state Attorney General Keith Ellison also filed a motion on Monday asking the appellate court to stay the trial, arguing that Cahill does not have total jurisdiction over the case while a decision over whether to include the third-degree murder charge remains pending.
In opening remarks to the jury pool Tuesday, Cahill said Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, but added “charges might be added or subtracted” as the case goes on.
The attorneys are looking to select 16 jurors for the case, including four alternates.
Before jury selection began, lawyers on both sides of the case dismissed 16 of the first 50 prospective jurors for cause, mostly due to the answers they submitted on a lengthy questionnaire.
Two of the first three jurors questioned on Tuesday, were dismissed. One of the potential jurors let go was a married mother of three and an immigrant from Mexico who works as a nursing assistant. Nelson exercised a peremptory challenge to dismiss the juror due to a language barrier. Nelson had also grilled the woman on her answer to why she would want to serve on the Chauvin jury, in which she wrote, “I would like to give my opinion on the unjust death of Mr. Floyd.”
Another woman dismissed said she had formed an opinion on the guilt or innocence of Chauvin and did not believe it would change regardless of what evidence she heard during the trial.
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