Legal experts suspect that a Chauvin trial juror’s recently revealed participation in an event touting Black Lives Matter and supporting George Floyd’s family could lead to the verdict against former police officer Derek Chauvin to be overturned.
Brandon Mitchell sat on the jury that convicted Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Since the jury’s verdict last month, Mitchell has done a string of media appearances intent on helping “push for change.” He has also suggested that jury duty is an avenue for activists to “spark some change.”
A recently resurfaced photo of Mitchell shows him in a Black Lives Matter shirt with a caption that says “get your knee off our necks,” an apparent reference to Chauvin’s arrest of Floyd in May 2020. The photo of Mitchell was posted in August by Mitchell’s uncle. It was taken in Washington, D.C., at a rally commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
During the jury selection process, Mitchell told the court that he had not participated in any demonstrations or marches against police brutality and that while he knew of the case against Chauvin, was not familiar with many specifics and could be impartial in weighing the evidence.
After the photo surfaced, Mitchell said Monday he did not remember wearing the Floyd-inspired shirt and said that the rally he attended in Washington was unrelated. Floyd’s family spoke at the rally and it was used to build support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
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.
Nelson filed an appeal in Chauvin’s case on Tuesday alleging in part that members of the jury “committed misconduct, felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”
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