Chauvin Juror Pre-Trial Actions Spark Questions About Guilty Verdict Brandon Mitchell, a juror in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd, poses for a picture, in Minneapolis. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP File)
By Jeffrey Rodack | Tuesday, 04 May 2021 09:52 AM
A juror in the Derek Chauvin murder trial may have put the guilty verdict in jeopardy by attending the March on Washington anniversary last summer, legal experts say.
Brandon Mitchell was seen in a social media photo, taken in Washington, D.C., wearing a T-shirt with Martin Luther King's image surrounded by the worlds: "GET YOUR KNEE OFF OUR NECKS" and "BLM" (Black Lives Matter), according to the Star Tribune.
Chauvin was found guilty on April 20 of all charges in the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after Chauvin restrained him by placing a knee on Floyd’s neck.
The incident which led to Floyd’s death was caught on camera and quickly went viral, inspiring a summer of protests and riots across the nation.
The jury, including Mitchell, found Chauvin guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Bail was revoked and the former Minneapolis police officer was remanded to custody until sentencing.
The Washington Times said the Aug. 28, 2020 rally in Washington featured speeches by Floyd's sibling.
The newspaper said what may come back to haunt the prosecution is that Mitchell had answered "no" when asked during jury selection if he had participated in any protests surrounding Floyd's death.
"I'd never been to [Washington] D.C.," Mitchell said Monday of his reasons for attending the event. "The opportunity to go to D.C., the opportunity to be around thousands and thousands of Black people; I just thought it was a good opportunity to be a part of something."
Legal experts say at the very least the juror will have to be questioned in what’s called a Schwartz hearing, WCCO in Minnesota said. Depending on his replies, a mistrial could be declared.
Law professor Rachel Moran from the University of St. Thomas said: "Did the juror speak the truth? Or alternatively, did the juror say something untrue during questioning? But the other thing to keep in mind is did the lawyers do their job in investigating the juror?"
According to the television station, Mitchell filled out a questionnaire before being selected. On it, he said he never attended protests over police brutality in Minnesota or beyond.
He also answered a question on Black Lives Matter, saying, "Black lives just want to be treated as equals and not killed or treated in an aggressive manner simply because they are Black."
"If he had been asked about it and he tried to hide it, that could be an issue,” Moran said. "But at this point, I don’t see anything, any evidence that he tried to hide it."
The defense does have the right to ask Judge Peter Cahill to go back and question Mitchell. Cahill then can decide if the verdict will stand.
According to The Epoch Times, civil rights attorney Brian Dunn said the Mitchell photo is "undeniably suggestive of a possible bias in this juror" but the main question is whether Mitchell "lied about, or failed to provide complete answers on whether he has engaged in public activism, or whether he has any affiliations with BLM that go beyond the mere wearing of the shirt."