Brandon Mitchell, a juror in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt referencing George Floyd at least twice, though he claims not to remember ever putting it on.
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson is using the activist shirt, which Mitchell wore multiple times last year before the trial began, to argue that the trial against Chauvin should be overturned in part because of misconduct by members of the jury. Mitchell was found to have worn a Black Lives Matter shirt with the words “get your knee off our necks,” an apparent reference to Chauvin’s arrest of Floyd in May 2020, after a photo of Mitchell in the shirt surfaced online.
Mitchell wore the Black Lives Matter shirt to an August rally in Washington, D.C., commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. Mitchell said Monday he did not remember wearing the Floyd-inspired shirt and said that the rally he attended in Washington was unrelated to the Floyd case, though Floyd’s family spoke at the rally and it was used to build support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Mitchell also claimed he did not remember ever wearing the shirt.
Mitchell also has a podcast called “The Wholesome Podcast.” In a YouTube video dated October 19, 2020, Mitchell can be seen wearing the shirt again.
During jury selection, Mitchell claimed to have heard little about the Floyd case beyond trial dates and other small details. He answered “no” when asked if he or anyone close to him had participated in any demonstrations against police brutality in Minneapolis since Floyd’s death. He also claimed he had not participated in any demonstrations against police brutality anywhere else.
Legal experts say that the Black Lives Matter shirt Mitchell has now been seen wearing at least twice before Chauvin’s trial opens avenues that Nelson can use to appeal Chauvin’s trial. As The Daily Wire reported:
Jury consultant Alan Tuerkheimer said that Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson could make use of the revelation about Mitchell’s activism and the juror’s potentially contradictory statements in an appeal. Tuerkheimer said that that would likely not be enough to overturn the case, but it could prompt Judge Peter Cahill to bring Mitchell in for questioning to determine if he lied during the jury selection process.
“That could change the outcome of things; if there is anything that makes him seem that he was not forthcoming, it could be an avenue for the judge to reconsider the case,” Tuerkheimer told The Washington Post.
Civil rights attorney Brian Dunn said the photo of Mitchell is is “undeniably suggestive of a possible bias in this juror.” Dunn said, however, that the key to throwing out the trial lies in determining 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.”
Mitchell Hamline School of Law professor Ted Sampsell-Jones said the picture of Mitchell in a Black Lives Matter shirt is “evidence that Chauvin can point to in order to establish that his right to an impartial jury was denied,” according to The Associated Press.
“Speaking frankly, Chauvin did not have a fully impartial jury in the sense we usually give criminal defendants. That wasn’t the fault of the judge or the prosecutors, it was simply a function of the incredible publicity and public pressure” around the trial, he added.
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